After more than a century of meeting the energy demands of a growing global economy, the oil and gas industry now wrestles with a way forward in a new era.

Rather than go it alone, the industry is looking for solutions on how to accelerate its transformation into the best version of itself.

It is about “transforming the core business of innovation to make it more profitable, to make it lower carbon, and at the same time, transforming the business in the energy transition", said Julie Sweet, Chief Executive of Accenture, during Monday’s US Industry Insights Luncheon at the 23rd World Petroleum Congress in Houston.

Throughout the transition, however, there will still be a need for oil and gas for the foreseeable future.

“There will be oil in 2050, 2075, and further out. I know a lot of people want to transition away from it very quickly,” Bob Dudley, Chairman for the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative, told lunch attendees.

“But, when you think about an electric car, 20% of it comes from oil in the form of plastics. It will be around, just not maybe in the same volume."

He said the energy demand and the oil and gas industry will certainly be there, but “it will be the low-cost producers and the cleanest producers that will be the only ones allowed to survive".

As in nature, the industry’s ability to survive hinges on its ability to adapt to environmental changes – through innovation and adoption of technologies.

Sweet said the need to innovate and the need to collaborate are very different skills, noting that while the oil and gas industry is a tech industry, companies within the sector have collaborated with each other.

However, “the nature of the transformation that we have to do in terms of digital and using technology does require different leadership skills, it requires a different culture", she said.

"It's an important question about leadership. And when you change it, the first thing you have to do is know what you want from your leaders,” she said.

“I think clarity on what is needed from leaders at this time is really important.”

“As you think about the challenges that all of you are facing and in how you use technology to get better margins to make a lower carbon future for hydrocarbons, it requires working very differently in that regard,” she said.

“The leadership and the new ways of working are where I think there are a lot of lessons.”

According to Dudley, the digital transformation that has swept through the oil and gas industry in the last year proves that the industry can change.

“It's not an industry that's known as the fastest in decision making and making quick steps, said Dudley.

“But, look what's happened with exploration. Its ability to take big data and visualise what's happened in the subsurface where nobody's ever been. Getting those changes into an organization is a cultural thing.”