Commentary: Exciting trends in tech are ultra deep

By Derek Mathieson

Place an oil well safely down through two miles of ocean and a further two miles of earth to the reservoir, accurately complete the producing zones with infrastructure that will withstand some of the most extreme temperatures and pressures on the planet — and with system level functionality guaranteed to work for many years without any maintenance.

Add to that the fundamental economic challenges of rising finding and development costs, production assurance uncertainty and low initial recovery factors.

This is ultra-deep water.

Look no further if you want to find some of the most exciting trends in technology today.

The ultradeep-water frontier is driving step changes in research and innovation, in the infrastructure required to support operations and in the level of integration demanded from the energy sector to reset the limits of what’s possible.

At the fundamental research level, the boundaries of material science are being pushed as we seek out new materials to withstand the extreme conditions of these reservoirs. From this new toolkit, innovative new services are coming to market for well engineers and production technologists to accurately identify and characterize reserves, design and place infrastructure to reliably manage production.

Well technology has already reset the bar on technical limits and the level of innovation in this arena is moving apace.
As operations start to ramp up both here in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world, new demands are being placed on the infrastructure to support activities.

Everything from new facilities for intensive preparation and quality checking of deployed technology, through vessel fleets for stimulation activity to real-time centers where teams of experts monitor and advise every aspect of the well construction process.
In the last few years Baker Hughes has opened a new super-base to support operations in the Gulf, commissioned two new boats and a new fluids characterization laboratory and just this year a major expansion of our artificial lift technology center in Claremore, Okla.

So we have met the first series of technical and operations milestones, ?but the economics are ?demanding a new approach.

Demands are being placed across disciplines within companies and across companies to ?tackle the wider challenges of production and ultimate recovery improvement.

Baker Hughes is in the final stages of commercializing a new family? of technologies that provide simplification of the well construction process, seamless integration? of all well bore systems with remote monitoring and control capabilities? to optimize production.

And just in the last few weeks we announced a strategic alliance with Aker Ssolutions combining for the first time the full range of downhole and subsea capabilities.

The alliance will initially tackle a range of integrated solutions in subsea production optimization but also has its sights on developing a new range of solutions for well intervention, maintenance and workflow for improving recovery.

While there is are already an array of new technologies out there, the best is yet to come.

Derek Mathieson is chief strategy officer at Baker Hughes.