By Stephany Romanow
HOUSTON -- On the final day of the 2013 Offshore Technology
Conference, an elite panel discussed value creation through
technology for the energy industry. Technology group leaders from BP,
General Electric, Baker Hughes and Shell shared their
companys visions on innovative technologies and how the
energy industry will create value from advanced
By definition, innovation is the creating and applying of
new technologies and methods that add to business productivity
through metrics such as safety performance and increased reliability of equipment and facilities. All impact the
bottom-line of individual facilities and the company as a
The new challenges for the oil & gas (O&G) industry
include deepwater, Arctic waters and shale/unconventional gas
plays. Each situation has unique conditions and environments;
so, no single approach can be applied.
Yet, energy companies continue to struggle to balance the
risk vs. the agenda for research & development (R&D)
programs. Likewise, the investment for innovative technologies
is rising. In any R&D program, it is most difficult to
predict when a breakthrough will unfold. The conservative
energy industry strives to mitigate, if not avoid, risk.
If you could define R&D innovation as an equation, it
Investment for R&D = (FC/GI) x (GI/AL) x
FC = Financial contribution, GI = Good ideas, AI = Universe of
ideas and TC = Total investment
Dr. Gerald Schotman, executive vice president of innovation
and R&D chief technology officer at Shell,
said the pace and scale of innovation continues to change at
ever increasing rates. Better high-performance computing is
needed to analyze massive data sets and to model systems for
the energy industry.
David Eyton, group head of research and technology for BP,
emphasized that efforts should be directed to increase the
efficiency of operations. O&G is under pressure from
alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and renewables.
To improve operations, better sensors, automation, and
data-handling systems will be necessary to improve efficiency
an, likewise, reduce operating costs.
Reliability efforts can be
heightened by applying new materials that can withstand the
harsh environment of the energy industry. High pressures and
high temperatures test the service life of metals. BP is
pursuing resilient materials to hydrogen embrittlement.
BPs Project 20K is a multi-prong program
focused on developing tools and materials for pressures
exceeding 15,000 psi and temperatures of 350oF. A 20K program
underway is the development of hydrogen-resistant steel, which
would resist hydrogen embrittlement using nanotechnology.
Mark Little, chief technology officer of General
Electric, reinforced the need for technology transfer
from other industries to O&G applications. In particular,
new component construction processes are needed to
construct equipment while retaining the specialty properties of
the construction materials. Little
commented that using advanced software and Internet will unlock
more opportunities to manage mammoth data sets.
Such efforts can be applied to monitoring the operation of
critical equipment and diagnosis problems before failure
occurs. Likewise, information technology can be used to leverage
plant assets and take advantage of business conditions.