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Technology’s role in recovery and transformation

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Oilfield Technology,

The oil and gas industry needs innovation to survive and thrive. Inevitably, during a downturn technology budgets are cut and some projects stall. But it would be short-sighted to underestimate the crucial role technology will play in the recovery and revitalisation of the North Sea basin.

We are now seeing more targeted investment as operators look for rapid deployment. Looking to other sectors is an efficient way of speeding up development and testing times.

At the Technology Showcase in Aberdeen on 1 March, Dr Geoff McGrath, Chief Innovation Officer at McLaren Applied Technologies and the KPMG McLaren Alliance will give a keynote on ‘innovation from outside our industry’, sharing lessons from F1, particularly around performance improvements.

Delegates will also hear from Josh Valman, CEO of RPD International, who started a bedroom enterprise as a teenager and is now one of the country’s leading young entrepreneurs, provoking a move away from traditional technology development methods.

The managing director of Chevron Upstream Europe, Greta Lydecker is joining the panel session along with Gunther Newcombe of OGA. Delegates will also hear from OGTC, Petrofac and Strathclyde Oil & Gas Institute, completing a plenary session representing many facets of our diverse industry.

Manufacturing and new materials

3D printing has the potential to disrupt and transform traditional manufacturing practices, creating the new ‘smart factory’ but the oil and gas industry is yet to adopt it in the way that other industries such as aerospace and automotive have. This session is going to demonstrate new techniques that can revolutionise the way we produce components and parts.

The construction industry is now using 3D printing with concrete and Dick Elsy, the CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult is going to speak about the opportunities we have. Lloyds Register will talk about the potential to use 3D printing for offshore spares, which could be a huge cost saving game-changer. Total and BP will also speak about their latest advanced materials developments, where they are making great strides.

Aerospace has transformed production from metal to lighter weight composites and this is where oil and gas is now heading. As we go deeper beyond 3000 m and we are getting to the limits of what steel can do, lightweight composites can be the enabler for these ultra-deepwater riser projects. Magma will present on a composite pipeline riser system that is easy to install and reusable, so can address the small pools issue, where the riser and pipeline system is moved onto the next small field.

The major operators are taking notice. Chevron had a world first with its contract with Airborne for Thermoplastic Composite Pipe (TCP) technology which they are using for high pressure flexible jumpers in the Alder project – a technology that received initial ITF joint industry project funding at the development stage.

Condition and monitoring technologies

Emerging robotic and autonomous technologies are radically changing the way we monitor the condition of oil and gas equipment. Subsea 7’s AIV (autonomous inspection vehicle) developed with SeaByte is now operating at depths of 3,000 m for up to 24 hours for autonomous inspection and potential intervention. It was initially developed as an ITF joint industry project with backing from two major operators and Shell subsequently invested in its development.

At the Technology Showcase, Innovate UK is hosting a stand featuring a number of breakthrough solutions that were the result of their Energy Game-changer funding competition. One of these from OC Robotics is a novel snake-arm robot that could be used for robotic inspection of offshore oil and gas pressure vessels.

The digital/data challenge

The industry is overwhelmed by data. In practice, many operators are still using traditional Excel type technology and not taking full advantage of the data that they have available to them. We can learn a lot from data driven businesses such as Uber and Amazon that have adopted open source systems.

Some operators are now however reaping the benefits of investing in data driven solutions to drive efficiencies. Woodside for example has invested heavily in digital and data on process plants to avoid shutdown. Chevron has seen a significant financial saving in operations as result of its integrated data centre, which provides more linkage between offshore and onshore operations.

Neil Logan, Chief Executive, Incremental Group is going to speak about digital disruption in the North Sea and how this has played out in other industries, taking casualties along the way as companies producing certain technologies become redundant. He believes our industry has the opportunity to seek out digital transformation rather than disruption.

Data also has a major role to play in exploration activity around seismic data. Millions of terabytes of data are taken from seismic analysis and sometimes you simply can’t identify the opportunity. New software solutions can help to narrow this down. The North Sea still offers unexplored areas and West of Shetland has great potential. We can’t rule out the plausibility of a field akin to the Johan Sverdrup mega discovery in Norway if we seek out the new seismic data technologies that can help us more accurately predict where the large volumes may be. Recent West of Shetland finds by Hurricane Energy such as the Lancaster discovery and Halifax prospect are evidence of this potential.

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