Energy expert inspires students with guest lectures on future of oil and gas

Pictured L-R: Andrew Vaughan and Dr Bruce Adderley (UKCCSRC)


Energy 2050 was delighted to welcome back distinguished Alumnus Andrew Vaughan to the University on Friday 16 March. Andrew, a Sheffield chemistry graduate, and most recently a Middle East Vice President at Shell, presented two talks to current students focusing on the changing role of fossil-based energy companies in tackling the challenges facing the industry.

A Fellow of the Energy Institute of the UK, Andrew’s first talk focused on the suggestion that producers of oil and gas will have a strong role to play in meeting global energy demand as they transition to the provision of new forms of energy. While there is no doubt in industry that transition is underway, there is uncertainty about which markets and technologies will succeed, and a lack of coherency in world governments’ responses to the challenge.

“As renewable sources of primary energy take a a higher proportion of the global energy supplies, the role of fossil-based energy companies could be diminished or even negated, as oil and gas consumption reduces”. Andrew explained.

“However, global economic trends indicate that consumption and fossil fuels will likely continue for a number of decades, possibly even increasing, as world population grows and standards of living improve.”

Andrew started his career in the nuclear industry designing and operating fuel reprocessing plants in the UK. He moved to the oil and gas industry in 1981 where he worked initially as a petroleum engineer in the UK, both for Shell and independent UK operators. Rejoining Shell in 1992, he held a variety of technical and general management roles in Syria, The Netherlands, Bangladesh, Egypt, Dubai and Kazakhstan before moving to Abu Dhabi in 2013 to take up the role of VP at Shell.

Based on his experience as a senior leader in an oil and gas multinational, including a spell as a recruiter, Andrew also gave a talk to undergraduates, discussing future career prospects within the oil and gas industry. He explained: “There is a perception that the career aspirations of the millennial generation are at odds with the employment criteria of traditional multinational companies.

“This seems to present a recruitment dilemma for both graduates and the companies involved in the bulk of the world’s economy.”

Andrew sought to dispel this perception by presenting points of alignment between the aspirations of graduates and the companies who seek to employ them.

Speaking about his career, he said: “Since the last time I was here at the University 41 years ago, I’ve survived six collapses of the oil price, and I’ve seen a lot of change. But I suspect that today’s chemical engineers will see far more change than I did. Technologies will come and go at a greater pace, as will manufacturing methods and materials.”

As well as answering students’ questions, Andrew explained that multinational energy companies have a deep insight into the functioning of energy markets, and analysis has been conducted, which provides a credible pathway to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement of 2015, while still meeting the growing energy demands of the world.

He added: “I hope I have conveyed a sense of urgency to solving climate change but also a sense that critical thinking needs to be brought to bear on tackling the problem”.

Students from across the faculties of engineering and science had the opportunity to network with colleagues from Energy 2050 and UKCCSRC at the event, with many saying they found the talks “really insightful”, “useful” and “inspirational”.

The event was organised by Energy 2050 and hosted by Dr Bruce Adderley, Executive Manager, UK Carbon Capture Storage and Research Centre (UKCCSRC).

Speaking after the event, Bruce said: “Today has been a great opportunity for students to learn and make use of Andrew’s ability to look into the future, it’s a difficult task and we are incredibly grateful to Andrew for coming to speak to us today about two such important topics. One impacts us as a global society and the other as individuals and Andrew’s insights will undoubtedly help our students as they consider what the future holds for them.”

Details of future events can be found on the Energy 2050 website