Special issue


Gavin Graham

Former CEO, LOTOS Upstream

West Sussex, United Kingdom

After nearly 40 years working in the oil & gas industry – principally with Shell but latterly in an exciting role as CEO of Polish state oil company, LOTOS Upstream – I retired from full-time work at the end of 2018. I hoped to use my experience to help a new generation of geologists and engineers, and so became an Independent Director and took on a number of Non-Exec roles.

But then came Covid! Following the downturn in the industry I found myself with just one Board role and, in the ensuing lockdown, a lot of time on my hands. Like many in this situation I learned new zoom skills, attended virtual conferences on energy transition and, in my Director role, focused on new business models, debt restructuring and survival.

Outside work I decided to face up to the challenge posed by my four daughters, who believed that I had spent much of the last 40 years destroying the planet and should now spend some time putting it back together again. 

We had just bought a 16th century mill house in West Sussex and faced a six-month renovation project. In a determined effort to ‘go green’ we dredged the mill pond, installed a water-sourced heat pump to provide hot water to the house and built a rainwater harvesting system.

We now plan to install solar panels and get the mill up and running again (phase 2) to generate electricity. This at the same time as planting an orchard, creating a wildflower meadow and promoting natural ecosystems in the ancient woodland that separates us from the nearby village. It’s going to be a long-term project but it’s already a lot of fun!

Energy transition is going to require the same innovation and creativity that tamed the harsh environment of the North Sea, but this is the most exciting challenge of not just our but also future generations. No bad idea, my daughters tell me, to begin at home. And as they say: ‘a crisis is a terrible thing to waste’.

Dredging the pond (left) - Installing the heat pump system (right)