WPC: Protesters interrupt speech by BP Amoco's John Browne

Two political protestors got inside the World Petroleum Congress (WPC), briefly interrupting a keynote speech by Sir John Browne, group chief executive of BP Amoco PLC, at the morning plenary session Tuesday. While stressing the importance of environmental responsibility, Browne said the oil and gas industry is in a renaissance, ready to grow as a result of the technology and restructuring that occurred in recent years.


Sam Fletcher
OGJ Online

CALGARY�Two political protestors got inside the World Petroleum Congress (WPC), briefly interrupting a keynote speech by Sir John Browne, group chief executive of BP Amoco PLC, at the morning plenary session Tuesday. The interruption occurred as Browne was addressing the impact of environmental concerns on the industry.

"I'm convinced that impact will be profound over time and that we won't and shouldn't ignore or dismiss the real concerns about the impact of human activity on the natural environment," he said.

At that moment, two well-dressed young people�a man and a woman�in the center of the sixth row leaped to their feet and turned to display a banner reading "BP Amoco Out of Tibet" to the crowded auditorium. The pair began chanting, "BP Amoco out of Tibet, BP Amoco out of PetroChina."

Most of the surprised audience burst into laughter, triggering a nervous stammer in the pair's chanting. But as the male protestor turned back to Browne to shout questions about BP Amoco's operations in China, several members of the audience began shouting, "Sit down."

A WPC official and an uniformed policeman moved quickly to confront the pair, who had resumed chanting. The activists offered no resistance as they were escorted from the auditorium. But as the woman tried to resume her chant, others in the audience called out, "Boring!"

Immediately after the incident, a WPC spokesman told OGJ Online that the activists probably were not arrested, because of local authorities' policy to avoid unnecessary confrontation with protestors.

It was later determined that the protesters were released after being held for a short while by the police. Their WPC identification cards were confiscated.

Browne's reaction
Browne, who had stood quietly during the interruption, drew applause when he told the audience, "Maybe I should just pick up where I left off." Later in his speech, he provoked laughter when he noted that BP Amoco recently "made a significant investment in China, as you have just heard."

At a press conference following the plenary session, Browne said the protestors' "intervention" was both "factually inaccurate and not appropriate."

BP Amoco has no direct investment in Tibet, although it owns a 2.2% interest in PetroChina which operates more than 90 gasoline outlets in that area, he said. With such a small interest, BP Amoco has no influence on PetroChina's policies, Browne said.

The protest was inappropriate, he said, because the WPC "is a private meeting, not a public meeting." Delegates�including, apparently, the two protestors who carried appropriate credentials�pay a hefty fee to attend.

Browne said BP Amoco officials have met with a variety of groups in other sessions "formally and informally" to discuss issues.

Renaissance industry
In his speech, Browne said the oil and gas industry is in a "renaissance," ready to grow as a result of the technology and restructuring that occurred in recent years. He touched on many of the same issues he earlier outlined in a keynote speech at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston (OGJ Online, May 3, 2000).

In the press conference, Browne said he expects natural gas deposits on Alaska's North Slope will be developed for market in the Lower 48 states "within the decade."

He also said BP Amoco for the past 7 years has planned its projects based on a mid-level oil price scenario of $14-16/bbl. But he said the company also expects to be profitable at lower prices of $10-12/bbl.

As a result, Browne said, daily fluctuations in oil prices have no real bearing on the company's planning.

In both the plenary session and the press conference, Jeroen van der Veer, group managing director of Royal Dutch/Shell, said his company also uses an oil price of $14/bbl as a "screening" device for evaluating potential projects.

Van der Veer also has an upbeat outlook for the industry's future. But he said a primary priority for the industry must be to "regain public trust."

Also in the plenary session, Prince Faisal bin Turki bin Adbul-Aziz al-Saud, adviser to Saudi Arabia's petroleum ministry, said that country will need an estimated $44 billion in 1998 dollars to develop the kingdom's gas reserves over the next 25 years. Saudi plans call for an increase in gas production of 505 MMcfd by 2009.

Saudi Arabia is looking to international companies to explore for and develop its nonassociated gas reserves.

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