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Dr Patrick O’Brien, ITF CEO: Technology in action – opportunity to adopt

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Oilfield Technology,

Now in its fourth year, ITF’s Technology Showcase has become a key fixture in the oil and gas events calendar in Aberdeen. This is an exciting time for technology development as there’s a realisation that demand-led innovation can transform our industry and safely cut costs. We have had a number of excellent speakers at our previous conferences and delegates can expect the same calibre of discussion at this year’s event on March 1, with an added focus on digital technology.

The Showcase brings together the end user operator audience with the innovator community to focus on finding and funding new technologies. Like previous events, we will have a range of speakers from outside of oil and gas as there’s a growing feeling that we need to adopt ideas from other industries to solve some of the most pressing challenges. Data analytics, alongside efficient processes for using results, is one of the main digital drivers to reduce costs and streamline operations. Unlocking and using new information has the potential to improve operational performance, enhance decision-making and create value for oil and gas companies.

Pushing boundaries

ITF works across the whole oil and gas technology space from subsurface to drilling and wells, through to topsides and subsea facilities and we are also exploring the options for asset integrity and low cost well construction. As a global organisation, we are in a unique and powerful position to facilitate dialogue between our operator and supply company members with technology developers around the world. Innovation which meets industry requirements is nurtured and funded through collective working and has the potential to transition from concept to commercialisation.

Many innovation programmes have been started over the last 20 years or so, achieving varying degrees of impact and effectiveness. Obviously, various government-backed initiatives were created to benefit a specific country or region, and in that respect, many technologies have been developed that may otherwise not have seen the light of day or may have taken longer to reach the market.

However, the limitation of a model of many organisations working in similar spaces in different geographical areas is that the benefit for the entire global industry may not be as widespread as desired, with the potential existing for inefficient duplication of effort and an overlap of focus.

There are fresh opportunities for technology developers, as the pursuit to cut costs and increase efficiency is pushing a traditionally risk-averse industry out of its comfort zone. The current industry position of low oil price and greater scrutiny on costs means there is now a much stronger emphasis placed on stimulating, sourcing and delivering technology that has a quicker industry impact and return on investment. Although there is still a clear need for the longer term research and development work that has traditionally brought the technology solutions to market, most projects will currently be faced with the same challenges of delivering solutions quickly, at low cost and in most cases with global rather than specific application.

Historically, the burden on R&D spend was always on operators to develop and implement technology as an enabler for programs they have. Over the last 15 years or so there has been some swing towards supply chain companies being looked upon to lead R&D projects. During this downturn it appears that collaboration on technology for large projects has enabled these projects to go ahead with shared knowledge, risk and costs.

Though there are still tough times ahead for the industry, there is now a determined push to move things forward. We’ve heard operators say that their procurement is not working and it is stifling innovation. We need to do something different. It’s an exciting time for technology development as demand-led innovation can transform our industry and safely cut costs, in the same way as the automation and aerospace industries have in recent years.

It is clear that opportunities for new technology need to be shared more openly on the end-user side so we can increase the speed of technology deployment in the industry. ITF launched as many projects in 2016 as it has done in recent years, and the range of technologies and solutions addressed would seem to indicate the right projects are still of interest to the industry and that any R&D investment can be justified.

(Inter) Face-to-face networking

Our global online Innovation Network is now live and proving to be a valuable tool for ITF and the industry as a whole. Available at, the online community enables oil and gas SMEs to promote technologies and services direct to end users and also keep up to date with the latest technology issues and needs of the industry. It is an integral part of ITF’s strategy to enhance our service offering in facilitating collaborative engagement between technology developers, members and the global industry as a whole.

However, there is still an appetite for face-to-face networking as proved by our Technology Showcase. The Showcase – with the theme of Technology in Action - brings together some of the brightest minds from inside and outside of oil and gas to challenge current thinking and bring fresh focus on progressing new solutions.

The plenary speakers will be sharing insights and debating the challenges of the day with lively Q&A sessions, stimulating discussion around technology needs, investment and support. This year there will also be an Innovation Hall which will be dedicated to supporting the innovator community and showcasing the very best in new thinking, products, solutions and services.

We have always had strong engagement from right across the industry, including operators and major service companies. It’s all about making connections to accelerate action and we have the ability to bring like-minded developers and operators together if we see a potential opportunity. As one of our speakers said last year, “The industry is facing a crisis but it’s a great time for technology deployment. So don’t waste a good crisis!”"

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