After almost five years at the helm of InnovOil, the time has come to pass the torch. But if readers will permit, I do have a few final reflections on what I’ve seen during my time drilling down into some of the most interesting frontiers of oil and gas technology.
Back in 2013, Brent crude averaged US$108.56 per barrel and the industry was surfing a high. Although the effects of the 2008 global recession were being felt, the markets still enjoyed bumper years post-2010 as demand growth picked up. Upstream projects were sanctioned left, right and centre, and production was king. Innovation looked to new frontiers like the Arctic, the digital oilfield and anything which might shore up valuable uptime, while InnovOil was covering breakthroughs in the still-nascent shale sector, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and seismic technologies.
Everyone knows what happened next.
One of the few upsides in covering the industry during a period of such profound upheaval is witnessing the pace and scale of change. With upstream companies no longer able to afford complacency, those improvements in uptime became even more important. Unconventionals producers have doubled down on efficiency gains, lateral lengths and speed; ROVs have become more capable and autonomous; and decommissioning technology is being treated with the same respect as E&P equipment.
Automation – whether mechanical or digital – is now the norm in ways that were considered far too complex or unachievable even just a few years ago. The digital oilfield has almost come of age, and data is now perhaps as valuable a resource as oil itself.
Slowly but surely, the industry is also becoming more aware of technology from other sectors – whether from applications in the military, aerospace or medicine. So-called technology transfer is no longer an academic exercise, but a vital source of opportunity.
Finally, the industry is waking up to the possibilities of decarbonisation. As the oil business becomes the energy business, the R&D power of supermajors and start-ups alike will be crucial to future success. Hopefully this issue, and indeed all those that follow, will highlight some of those new and exciting opportunities in a new and diverse energy landscape.
As several cases in point, this month we take a look at a methane-detecting satellite, a push to find new uses for bitumen in Alberta, and a pioneering new resident ROV design from Oceaneering. Swiss Fire Protection R&D, the source of our dramatic cover, also discusses its impressive fire-fighting foam technology.
I leave InnovOil under the stewardship of my colleague Michael Behr, who I am sure will seek out the next wave of cutting-edge innovations as this transformation continues.
Read on for all this and more. The team and I are pleased to present the June issue of InnovOiI.