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Conoco: Education and Innovation Equal Global Economic Opportunities and Competitive Advantage

Submitted by: Conoco Inc.

Categories: Human Rights

Posted: Mar 21, 2002 – 11:00 PM EST


Mar. 21 /CSRwire/ - Development of human and intellectual resources will determine success in today’s global economy, said Tom Knudson, Conoco’s senior vice president of human resources, information technology and corporate communications, at last week’s AMIDEAST policymaker’s summit in Marrakech, Morocco.

"Without respect to location, higher education will equip national workforces to meet the demands of globalization and sustainability, through continuous learning, creativity and innovative thinking," he said during a keynote presentation to more than 150 attendees, representing both the private and public sectors.

"A dynamic learning environment cultivates the ability to view the world with ‘new eyes,’ and recognize innovative opportunities for creating value, competitive advantage and long-term sustainability."

For business, the ability to innovate is increasingly important, Knudson explained, as more and more often, a company’s "license to operate" depends on its overall sustainability performance, which, to be successful, requires as much focus be given to environmental and social influences, as profitability.

To demonstrate how changing corporate paradigms can translate into competencies that create competitive advantage, Knudson shared specific business cases where Conoco turned innovative ideas into sustainable, value-creating enterprise. It was this kind of thinking, said Knudson, that provided the catalyst for Conoco Syria DEZ Gas Project, a groundbreaking project between Conoco and the country’s national oil company, Syrian Petroleum Company. A team of Conoco business developers recognized potential economic value in combining the development of associated flared gas from oil production fields in northeast Syria, with natural gas reserves going undeveloped in the same region, he said.

Seeing a new way to move remote energy resources to the marketplace provided Conoco with an even greater global business opportunity, Knudson said.

"Nearly 80 percent of the world’s known natural gas reserves are considered ‘stranded,’ meaning they are too far from a commercial market to be economically developed and transported by conventional pipeline," Knudson said. "Finding a way to develop these huge, untapped reserves on a commercial scale would create major new supplies of clean, affordable energy to meet growing worldwide demand, while contributing to a region’s economic growth and standard of living."

Breakthrough "gas-to-liquids" technology, a proprietary process being developed by Conoco and only a handful of other companies, offers a solution by converting natural gas into easily transportable liquid petroleum products, such as diesel fuel, kerosene and naphtha, said Knudson. He indicated the company’s next major step toward commercializing its technology was completing construction of a $75 million demonstration plant in Ponca City, Okla., which is scheduled for completion in late 2002.

Finding ways to capitalize on Conoco’s carbon upgrading competency offers another example of how "out-of-the-box," innovative thinking opens doors closed to others, Knudson stated. "Over the years, many companies have tried and failed to develop technology to produce petroleum-based carbon fibers from low-value feedstocks," he said. "Perseverance and innovation helped Conoco succeed where others failed, and the company has developed technology to produce a unique, petroleum-based carbon fiber with widespread market applications in multiple industries." Integrating innovation, driven by education and sustainable growth, he continued, has created a new, high-potential source of value for the company.

To fully develop its organizational capacity for intellectual capital, explained Knudson, Conoco promotes a work culture that cultivates innovation and continuous learning. "We’ve created an environment where people are encouraged to take prudent risks, challenge traditional methods, and continually view their world with 'new eyes' to obtain different perspectives," he said.

"To harness the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of our people, in 1996 we created Conoco University, a corporate university that offers an array of education programs and development initiatives specifically designed to expand the individual capacity of our employees," continued Knudson. Conoco’s long-term growth is largely based on the sum of the professional and personal growth of each employee, he explained, so Conoco University takes a "signature approach" to employee and organizational development, designing unique, tailored approaches to learning and development that are sustainable over time and tied to action, not only during the learning exercise, but within the workplace.

Collaboration between key stakeholders in higher education is needed to revamp current approaches to create a system that is structured for the long-term future and capable of addressing the fluid needs of a globalized, knowledge-based society, he stated.

"We must recognize the inherent value of our ‘human capital,’ and endeavor to educate and learn with a greater purpose in mind," Knudson concluded. "Our ability to innovate and stimulate minds through education will help to create a truly globalized society, where, ideally, an interconnected world sharing a common platform and purpose can shape a better, more sustainable world, with opportunity for all, both now and into the future."

Conoco (NYSE:COC) is a major, integrated energy company active in more than 40 countries.

For more information, please contact:

Wendy Olson Conoco
Phone: (281) 293-1066


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