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2013 Offshore Technology Conference Showcases Tech's Role in E&P


The annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) met this week in Houston, TX, where roughly 90,000 attendees have visited roughly 2,500 exhibitors (among them Smith & Associates) and had the opportunity to attend just over 300 technical paper presentations, keynote addresses, and panel sessions. The focus of OTC, which is the foremost event for offshore resources, is the state-of-the-art technology for offshore drilling, exploration, production and environmental protection. 

Being at OTC again this year, we've had the fortune to meet with many new and familiar faces and companies from over 110 countries who have come (again) to Houston. Through the hallways, at booths and especially at the presentations, we have all been sharing ideas, technologies, and strategic approaches to solving many of the exploration and production (E&P) challenges and the growing, global energy demand challenges.

E&P supported by new tech

As the May 7th issue of OTC 2013 correctly highlighted, "Technology Drives Exploration Focus." While BP's sold-out, topical breakfast presentation on 5/6/13 underscored the company's increasing investment in exploration and upstream operations, an important message for E&P as well as the semiconductor and electronics industry rests in the emphasis on the rapidly growing demand for increased data capture and analysis for successful E&P operations.

Data collection is not a new event for E&P, but what new technologies are affording E&P is the ability to increase the amount of testing and data capture events. Also, as Lamar McKay, BP's upstream chief executive, was quoted by OTC, "By testing at least 10 new material conventional and unconventional opportunities every decade, we want to be able to add at least two more new significant producing areas over the next 10 years, each with multibillion barrel potential."

Advances in technologies have afforded new testing and data collection methods, including especially downhole. Furthermore, handling and interpreting massive amounts of seismic data, has also been facilitated through new firmware and software that provides more rich and quicker reports on these big data sets.

Big solutions from tech

Being able to assemble 4-dimensional (4-D) data visualizations of seismic data has truly propelled E&P success, both in more successful sites and in "enhanced oil recovery efforts," as McKay pointed out. McKay expanded on the discussion of 4-D installations underscoring the multiple positive gains from new tech solutions:

Th[e] technology takes a time-lapsed seismic shoot over the same area, so it is possible to see fluid changes over time. The permanaent array of seismic receivers on the seabed makes it both easier and cheaper to execute multiple shoots.

Accelerating production, maximizing downhole time, and improving recovery in increasingly difficult and challenging sites is not just a business goal for E&P, it is a strategy being realized by leading companies through the strategic implementation of increasingly sophisticated and feature-rich, ruggedized technologies. These tech advances are both onboard components that are highly ruggedized and able to withstand the intense demands of downhole situations without requiring costly maintenance and downtime, as well as increasingly powerful and sophisticated data collection networks that then send the big data sets to be analyzed and compiled into increasingly interactive and revealing models for the scientific teams.

Big tech also brings new support challenges

Alongside of the significant gains that technology is bringing to E&P, come internal challenges and a steep learning curve in supporting these devices. As Todd Burke recently discussed in his blog on M2M and the O&G space:

With the growth of M2M has come an increase in onboard components as well as in field equipment and a growth of devices that were not traditionally part of the E&P toolkit. While that is certainly true for many industries, and has been much more of an opportunity than a challenge, there is the need for servicing and providing field repairs for these electronic devices, especially for the non-downhole tools, which may not have the same degree of ruggedized tolerances and lifespans.

Here on the floor at OTC, we see this very much being the case. There is incredible enthusiasm for the rapidly evolving tech solutions supporting the O&G industry. The opportunities that can be realized, and those yet to be considered, are truly exciting and palpable at OTC this year. Increasingly, the electronics industry is growing in importance for industrial markets like E&P tools, yet with this rapid growth and adoption come important challenges and the need for turnkey providers who can help companies used to navigating treacherous waters, also navigate the complexities of the global electronics marketplace. Smith is proud to continue to serve our O&G customers with turnkey services and highly customized solutions to meet their E&P tech needs. It's been an exciting and information-packed week at OTC.

Mark Bollinger
Written on Thursday, 09 May 2013 13:47 by Mark Bollinger

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