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Erikka Askeland: How ‘oil and gas’ became a poisonous brand

There has been a raft of oil and gas company rebrands in recent years, thanks to Extinction Rebellion and COP26
There has been a raft of oil and gas company rebrands in recent years, thanks to Extinction Rebellion and COP26

As yet another firm drops “oil and gas” from its name, so another nail – probably made of carbon – is driven into the coffin of “brand fossil fuel”.

No matter that, as a nation, we are still heavily reliant on hydrocarbons for heating and transportation – not to mention its role in the making of a vast range of products from asprin to upholstery. Not even that there are tens of thousands of people whose jobs depend in the industry, particularly in the north-east. Oil and gas is toxic not just for the environment but for companies too.

EC-OG – now known as Verlume – and its Halo technology.

A company, EC-OG – whose name was already a refinement of its original moniker, East Coast Oil and Gas – has now made a clean break from any association with dirty oil and is now known as Verlume.

Don’t be rude

It is difficult finding company names that A) aren’t used by someone else, B) aren’t rude words in other languages or C) are available for all social media handles and website domains and that are “googleable”, which means a search returns your company and not something generic or irrelevant.

So it’s even better that the idea behind the new name is also meaningful, with “ver” sounding like the French word for green and “lume” meaning light. It’s ideal for a company that has been focused since its inception on developing low carbon subsea power units and is a darling of Aberdeen’s emerging clean tech startup scene.

From it’s beginnings in 2013, Verlume’s technology has been developed to help oil and gas companies decarbonise their offshore oil rigs, platforms and various vessels – an essential step if North Sea firms are ever going to truly make the “transition” to low carbon more than just lip service.

Has it come to this?

That the initials “OG” is no longer acceptable in a company name just goes to show how bad it has got for poor, disparaged oil and gas.

There has been a raft of oil and gas company rebrands in recent years, hastened by the way in which Extinction Rebellion and COP26 have hit home the realisation that if we don’t decarbonise we will fry. Or drown. Or starve – or some grisly combination of all of these.

See the case of the Oil and Gas Technology Centre. When it was awarded £180 million in public funds in 2016 it was a fine name, even if a little unimaginative. It just goes to show how far we have come when first, the organisation insisted its name would continue to be initialised to OGTC as part of a “soft rebrand”, only to drop it altogether in favour of a much more hip and with it (albeit still unimaginative) name, Net Zero Technology Centre.

The Oil and Gas Technology Centre on Queens Road was officially opened in 2017. Picture by Chris Sumner

Rumours are too that even the sector’s own trade body, Oil and Gas UK, is considering a brand “transition”.

It it not just about perceptions or some sort of woke virtue signalling.

It’s actually a very pragmatic decision mostly based on cold hard cash.

Most of the companies that have dropped the OG and have replaced it with “energy” or found a different name altogether are also doing what it now says on their tins and are focusing their efforts on lower carbon activities.

This is because customers and investors alike want to know their money is being spent in ways that ensure we not only have an energy system we can live with we also have a planet we can live on.

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