Innovations in upstream technology

10/27/2021

Technology drives almost every aspect of the upstream oil and gas industry, from reservoir to point of sale. Securing the energy needs of tomorrow requires constant innovation in the upstream sector, to maximize output from existing fields, find new petroleum resources, and commercialize the world’s large known, unconventional resources. Technological advancements, including those that form integral parts of the fourth industrial revolution, present unprecedented opportunities to the industry for optimizing its upstream operations and realizing previously inconceivable improvements in discovery, recovery, production reliability, and associated economics. Planet imaging, production flow profiling, offshore energy storage solutions, managed pressure drilling, nanotechnology, and electric fracking fleets are just some of a myriad of recent innovations.

The development and eventual integration of such revolutionary technologies, however, faces challenges that need to be overcome through ambitious, focused, and multidisciplinary R&D programs, as well as significant investments.

Innovations in upstream technology - including geosciences, drilling and completions, enhanced recovery, data management, emissions reductions, and business processes - will be discussed at the 23rd World Petroleum Congress taking place in Houston from 5-9 December. Below we look in more depth at the themes that will be addressed.

Maximizing output from existing fields

Mature oil and gas fields are the core assets of oil companies and a leading contributor to the world’s energy supply. To maintain effective development, innovation in Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) and Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technology (e.g. horizontal wells and seismic, chemical EOR technologies and propped fracturing) is of great importance, as is best practice in reservoir management, including during management and facility decommissioning.

Finding new resources

As production from discovered petroleum resources continues to decline naturally, enormous capital is being invested in the hunt for new sources of petroleum supply to meet continued growth in demand, while continuing to transition to a lower carbon future. This hunt increasingly relies on innovative technologies to cost-effectively pursue conventional petroleum resources in new remote basins and ever deeper offshore areas and to unlock the huge latent potential of unconventional resources such as shale oil and gas, tight oil and gas, oil sands and gas hydrates, in an environmentally responsible and socially acceptable way.

The last decade has brought significant discoveries in different exploration areas around the world, and with that the challenge of bringing these online as efficiently as possible. These discoveries have not only impacted global supply and demand, but also the economies of the regions in which they were found. Just a few recent examples include the Santos Basin pre-salt in Brazil, lacrustine shale oil in China, as well as shale in India and Indonesia.

Innovative business models

Innovation on the technological side has provided both the foundation and the incentive for innovation of business process, enabling a more efficient and cost-effective industry. With the drive for sustainability, and in the face of uncertain petroleum prices and fiscal regimes, the industry has focused management of the business on operational efficiency, asset optimization and financial returns, while maintaining an overarching emphasis on safety and environmental performance.

Exploring for and producing oil and gas is a complex task that requires technical expertise, significant financial investment – and a certain willingness to take risks. Therefore, joint ventures have long been common, with companies that are downstream competitors still able to form upstream partnerships. The oil industry is now being affected by structural changes: commodity prices, the rise of shale, digitization, and improved recovery and sustainability. In a complex world, no one can do everything well, and new technologies and solutions are increasingly developed in collaboration with companies inside and outside the energy sector, academia, and governments, collaborating for innovation and competitiveness. Oil and gas value chain mega projects are good example of innovative partnerships, involving a significant number of interfaces between stakeholders with a direct and indirect interest in the delivery and outcomes of the project.

The prestigious 23rd World Petroleum Congress makes its highly anticipated return to the United States for the first time in over 30 years, December 5-9, 2021 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. Drawing participation from international ministers, CEOs, academia, and other expert speakers, the Congress will provide a platform to discuss industry trends, innovative solutions and best practices shaping the future of energy. To find out more, and to register, please visit: https://www.23wpchouston.com/

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