OTC opens with awards for safety and technology leaders (photos)

HOUSTON — An international gathering of engineers, geoscientists and executives watched Sunday night as a landmark BP technology and a leader in offshore safety were awarded at the annual OTC dinner in Houston.

The banquet covering half the field at NRG Stadium kicked off the Offshore Technology Conference, a massive week-long energy event. More than 90,000 delegates are expected to assemble to hear lectures on technological breakthroughs and show off a myriad of models of deep-water rigs, subsea equipment and new advances in the offshore industry.

“Looking forward, our industry is strong and it is global,” OTC Chairman Ed Stokes said at the evening gala. The industry, he added, continues to meet big technological challenges to “bring energy to more than 7 billion people on this planet.”

Photos: OTC through history

Stokes added that OTC, which began in Houston 45 years ago, has spread its reach in recent years to Brazil and China, where the event has drawn crowds as large as 25,000. Organizers expected that about 1,000 conference goers turned up at the sold-out annual dinner Sunday.

Before the dinner began, attendees mingled and got a taste of the international flavor of the conference, in the music, food, wines and in the models wearing traditional dress from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Red and white flowers fell in loops from gold-colored vases under beams of blue light swinging across the field. Comic Chris Bliss juggled tennis balls madly to the Beatles’ rhythms.

Offshore safety leader

OTC organizers gave a distinguished achievement awards to Carl Arne Carlson, director of offshore classification for consulting firm DVN GL, who began writing safety guidelines for mobile offshore units in the 1980s. Those safety rules, which covered jack up rigs and submersible platforms, have been adopted as industry standards over the last three decades.

“I feel humble and grateful to be here today. No one can make significant achievements alone,” Carlson said when he received the award. “My qualification is curiosity.”

Carlson has lived in Houston since 1998.

BP’s landmark technology

BP won the second achievement award for the deployment of its first low-salinity enhanced oil recovery technology at its Claire Ridge project, about 200 miles north of the United Kingdom’s mainland.

Its expansion project in the North Sea field, where BP has already produced 100 million barrels of oil equivalent, is expected to start up in 2016 and pump 100,000 barrels per day.

OTC: Offshore industry expo rides wave of deep-water production

The big change: BP will inject low-salinated water into its wells to extract more oil from the field, instead of regular sea water, which the industry thought for decades was the only kind of water that could be used to harvest hydrocarbons from deep-water fields. BP said the new injection method would become the default technique at its conventional offshore fields.

“The ‘low-sal’ story is about an observation that led to a fundamental application,” said James Dupree, BP’s chief operating officer for resource, development and technology. “Since the beginning of our industry, we’ve water-flooded oil fields, and it’s not intuitive to inject low-salinity water. It took years of research to understand that it could unlock more oil.”

Susan Cunningham, a senior Vice President for Noble Energy, received OTC’s Heritage Award for her 30-year career as a geologist and her contributions to technical expertise in the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa and other regions.