Undercurrents - Not it: The race to avoid being first

OE Staff

April 1, 2015

At almost every oil and gas industry conference there will undoubtedly be a panel discussion where someone will make a wry remark about how unwilling operators are to be the first. No, not the first to produce oil or gas, but to adopt new technology. The oil and gas industry is the one industry where the goal is to be second.

There’s no true incentive to be the first, because no one wants to be the company that took a chance and failed. And, when it comes to avoiding the next Macondo, that is an attitude that is understandable, yet somewhat defeatist. The oil and gas industry does many great things, and deploys some of the best technologies of any industry, including new innovations. But, there should be more done to encourage innovation and adoption of new technology.

At next month’s Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, NASA has been invited to showcase how its space technology – buoyancy, robotics, even artificial intelligence – could be applied to deepwater operations. OE has covered the partnership between Deloitte and NASA (OE: March 2014) that aims to highlight not only applicability but similarities between the two industries. This year also marks the first-ever “d5” series at OTC, which will showcase disruptive technologies.

While there is a common attitude that the oil and gas industry moves at an appropriate pace in terms of technological advances, there are occasions where failure to be the first to try out a new technology could mean millions of dollars wasted.

One of those times came for US operator Stone Energy. The company needed innovation. The Pompano field features a subsea template with a through-flowline tree system. One well had been out of production for about 10 years. Stone Energy was faced with either replacing the entire kit, or finding a solution that would allow flexibility for either risered or riserless intervention, and they eventually found it by working in collaboration with specialists to create that solution.

Smaller companies might face large obstacles in the current downturn, but one bright spot is that these leaner companies are able to take chances that some of the larger companies either cannot or will not. All the industry needs is an attitude change.