Not everyone might be aware that the World Petroleum Council, the driving force behind the usually triennial World Petroleum Congress, is registered as a charity in the UK.

This is something which the Council believes makes it unique among its peers, according to World Petroleum Council Director General Pierce Riemer.

“That is because all the profits from our events go into charitable activities in the country where we operate,” he says.

This started on a small scale in China around 1997 when the Council donated technical equipment and materials from the event.

“In Canada, we started doing it properly. The Canadian government said they would match us dollar-for-dollar because the profits were going to charity. And so, in Canada, we made 5 million Canadian dollars, the Canadian government gave an equivalent amount, and so we set up a millennium fund for graduates in Canada.

“It was a gift. It wasn't a grant… and they didn't have to join the oil and gas industry, but they had to do a business or science-related subject, and we ran that for about 10 years until the money ran out.”

The Council continued with similar efforts after each Congress. In Rio de Janeiro back in 2002, “because we desperately try at all our events to avoid waste, we started a scheme with the exhibition where - when the exhibition was over - all the carpets, anything that could be salvaged from the exhibition that would normally just go into landfill in Rio, went to the favellas; it went to schools”, adds Riemer.

Later, at the Congress in Doha, Qatar, the Council donated its profits as seed capital, which went towards establishing an oil and gas museum there.

The Council has also set up a separate fund, of which a proportion is spent in countries that perhaps couldn’t otherwise organise a Congress.

One project was to support the training of technicians in Pakistan in basic computer, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering skills, where they could get jobs with service companies, oil companies and energy companies.

“We pride ourselves in being neutral, non-political where we're open to all. It's obviously difficult in the oil and gas industry to avoid geopolitics altogether. But everybody is welcome.

“And we often have our own committee meetings where you will have the US, Israel, Iran, and Cuba all in the same room happily together,” he says.

The Council today has some 60 member nations but – especially during Congresses – it proactively encourages others to join. Guyana and Ghana are both on its current hit-list, reveals Riemer.

Organising the 23rd WPC has not been without its challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic put paid to the original December 2020 schedule, and current restrictions have stopped some people from attending this week’s event.

Visa issues can also be a challenge for some, so unfortunately government ministers from Iran aren’t attending this time around, but a delegation from Cuba will be here, says Riemer.

Thomas Dewhurst almost 90 years ago established the Council, and the first Congress was held in London in 1933.

“He wanted to set up an organisation that was non-political, neutral, non-religious that could get people from around the world to come and discuss issues relating to oil and gas," Riemer says.

“I know they didn't have vision and mission statements in the 1930s, but his vision was: He wanted a WPC to promote petroleum for the benefit of mankind," he says, referring to Dewhurst.

In his honour, the Council presents the Dewhurst Award, albeit not at every Congress, and the recipient this year of the prestigious prize will be Daniel Yergin.