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On Baker Institute panel, Phillips 66’s Golodryga makes case for change

For oil and gas companies to be sustainable in every sense of the word, they need to thoroughly embrace change, Phillips 66 Chief Digital and Administrative Officer Zhanna Golodryga said at the recent Energy Summit hosted by Rice University's Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies.

Speaking as part of a panel at the fourth annual event, which was held virtually because of COVID-19, Golodryga said the climate challenge and energy transition are enduring trends that will force change on the industry and could leave behind those companies that don't adjust. But the industry as a whole is ready for it, she said, listing for starters Phillips 66's own portfolio of renewable fuels projects and research and development efforts.

“If anyone can solve the (challenges related to) energy transition, it’s our industry,” Golodryga said. “We have done some amazing things, and we will continue to do that.”

Golodryga was joined virtually by Calpine President and CEO Thad Hill; Robert McNally, Founder and CEO of Rapidian Energy Group, a consultancy; and Mark Finley, Fellow in Energy and Global Oil at Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies. George Fibbe, a partner at the Baker Botts law firm, which co-hosted the event, moderated.

Panelists touched on other trends likely to impact the energy industry, including the upcoming presidential election, which McNally dubbed the most important in the history of the industry, and COVID-19’s impact on demand and the global economy.

“Operating excellence … is our license to operate, and innovation and technology are helping us do it even better,” Golodryga said. “We have more than 140 years of heritage, and we want to be in the business at least 140 more.”

She advised companies that want to be part of the industry's future to likewise nurture a culture of innovation, inform that culture with data and then enable it with technology.

“What will take us to the next level is continuous improvement and a transformative mindset, and that’s where innovation comes in,” Golodryga said. “Data informs those decisions, and technology enables those transformative outcomes.”

She said data, already a major piece of the business puzzle, will in fact grow in importance, and companies need to have the right workforce in place to make sense of it all and achieve smarter, more informed outcomes.

“We’ve always been a company of engineers, in the more traditional sense,” said Golodryga, herself a mechanical engineer. “Going forward, if you can combine the understanding of engineering and that of computer science, computer engineering and, more than anything, data science, that’s powerful.

"One of the key things that is driving the company's transformation is making sure that future generations are attracted to our industry.”