If OPEC’s May 25 meeting proved one thing, it was that the cartel may have won the battle, but US tight oil is winning the war.
Prices may have slipped as hopes of deeper cuts fizzled, but the real stories are not in the minutes of meetings in Vienna, but in the balance sheets and rig counts of North America.
US shale explorers have sought to hedge against further price shocks, and their rig count has more than doubled in the past year, to 703 as of the beginning of May, according to services firm Baker Hughes. Since the count of active rigs in the US reached a low in the middle of 2016, shale producers have added an average of seven units per week, the strongest recovery in 30 years.
With prices hovering around US$50 per barrel, drilling budgets for US tight oil producers have risen 10 times faster than the rest of the world. According to a recent report from Barclays, North American shale drillers are intending to lift 2017 outlays by 32%, to US$84 billion, compared with just 3% for international projects.
This perhaps explains the recent resurgence in news on tight oil-related technologies. In addition to recognition at OTC this year – Weatherford’s RFID-based AutoFrac system, for example, which won a Spotlight on New Technology award –reports on interesting techniques such as microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) and other production-boosting methods are becoming more frequent.
Conventional producers are also looking to capitalise on the gains made in unconventional markets. Our cover this month features Baker Hughes’ DEEPFRAC system, a ball-activated multistage frac sleeve aimed at enhancing deepwater completions.
In this edition, we also take a look at some of the key technologies which have enabled breakthrough project executions. This includes the story behind Trelleborg and SubC Partners’ DBM replacement on a live riser, Enpro’s FAM subsea architecture which helped take one operator to first oil in 12 months, and a new game-changing seismic acquisition method being rolled out by BP.
Back on land, Total speaks exclusively with InnovOil about the results of its ARGOS project, which has produced the world’s first autonomous inspection robot for oil and gas. After a three-year contest, the winners will now work with the super-major on a real-world pilot for the first-of-its-kind innovation.
We also go behind the scenes at Statoil Technology Invest, the NOC’s venture capital unit, to find out how it chooses investment targets and what technologies hold the most promise.
All this, as well as hydrate-busting pipeline coatings, autonomous electric ships, marginal field development and more.
We are pleased to present the June issue of InnovOil.