THE universal demand for energy means the oil and gas industry is a truly global one. But that also means events all over the world can affect it - from the economic, such as increasing demand from China; to the political, such as the pinch in supply due to the Arab Spring; to the uncontrollable, such as when hurricane Katrina temporarily cut off oil production in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005.
Even slight fluctuations in supply and demand can change prices drastically, something energy companies have to juggle with environmental pressures, diminishing resources and stringent government regulations. Because of this, "the oil and gas business is one that looks to the long term", with people working on projects that can span 25 to 40 years, says Simon Drysdale, head of BP's human resources in oil and gas.
Oil has long been the world's favoured fuel, but as the need to lower carbon emissions has risen up the international agenda over the last decade, natural gas has become an attractive alternative as it produces 28 per cent less carbon dioxide than oil when burned. Whilst a legally binding carbon reduction treaty has yet to be finalised, there is no doubt that governments and people across the world have become more environmentally conscientious, which has played a part in some companies' decisions to diversify into renewable energy. "We have to be part of the general move to other energy sources both because of climate change and before oil and gas resources really do start to run out," says Robert Wine, BP's spokesperson.