Innovation, collaboration can solve offshore challenges, industry leaders say

Oil and gas firms not only need to share technology they develop, but they also must tap into the innovative products available in other industries to produce increasingly difficult-to-find resources in deepwaters around the world, Royal Dutch Shell’s technology chief said Thursday.

Gerald Schotman, executive vice president of innovation and research and development and chief technology officer at Shell, said during a panel discussion at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston that the knowledge is out there, the industry just needs to hoard it.

“The name of the game is collaboration,” Schotman said. “Collaboration needs to go beyond safety and go well beyond the boundaries of our industry.”

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That means tapping into the “creative knowledge which is not necessarily in the oil and gas industry,” he said.

Enter General Electric. While the company’s primary focus isn’t the oil and gas industry, its products and technology have applications in the industry. Among the speakers at the panel was Mark Little, GE’s technology chief.

Little said one example is the composite materials GE uses in building aircraft components. He said that material could be used to build risers that are part of subsea wells. Benefits could include reducing the weight of the risers and increasing their efficiency, he said.

“We see a considerable array of technologies emerging,” Little said. “I have no doubt they will enable the oil and gas industry to go where it needs to go to get the resources people need and to improve reliability.”

Little also talked about the use of high-performance computing in finding oil and gas and advancements in software and analytics.

“At GE, we talk about building the industrial Internet,” he said.

One thing firms don’t need to worry about is a shortage of oil and gas around the world, said David Eyton, head of technology at British oil giant BP. The challenge is getting to the resources, he said.

“We need to enhance the ability to see and find resources in deepwater, imaging being the most important start to this,” he said.

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Eyton also said there needs to be greater reliability in subsea equipment.

“Our subsea equipment needs to work when we want it to work,” he said.

Technology advancements can help with this, and modeling and automation can reduce costs and increase safety, Eyton said.

“We may have to move quickly to take advantage of the advances coming out of the scientific community,” he said.