13 May 2015
Oil and Gas

Despite the economic downturn, this year’s OTC conference was another one for the record books, as attendance was up and more global than ever (1). As expected, all the latest and greatest O&G technology was on display, including an actual full-size submarine (2). Much of this year’s buzz centered on talks from experts outside the oil and gas industry who discussed the myriad ways in which disruptive new technologies can and will facilitate serious game-changing scenarios for O&G companies willing to change old habits (3). Collaboration was also a new phenomenon this year as key players in the OTC space discussed unique ways in which they are partnering to find innovative solutions to last-standing industry challenges, particularly in the face of global increased competition (4). However, one panel focused on how North America contributed to its own 55% drop in prices since last July, as the shale revolution positioned the U.S. as the top oil and gas producer in the world, and the increase in supply, coupled with tepid demand, has sent prices plummeting (5).

On the research front, a new landmark evaluation of thirteen alternative deepwater floating platforms provided deep insights on riser systems with dry tree and direct-vertical access. This is the first study of its kind and promises to yield actionable data for those in the deepwater arena (6). Speaking of the subsea world, exciting new technological developments are keeping spirits up. According to Iain Farley, group global business development director for Expro, a U.K.-based engineering and manufacturing company, “There has been some deferral in some of the deepwater projects. But we are most probably in a peak of tendering for future subsea world (7).”

Exploring other worlds is one of the disruptive concepts that were floated around in a technical panel titled “Space Technologies for the Offshore Deepwater Industry,” in which various NASA employees and others espoused the idea of tech transfer between the two industries, as both focus on extremely hazardous environments, have remote operations, require very specific training, and grapple with the potential for catastrophes that can impact human lives and the environment. (8). However, production cost considerations were clearly top of mind as companies disclosed how these austere times are causing companies to find where they can save capital within the supply chain. “I think there’s a lot of complicated products out there, there’s a lot of different types of products out there and there’s a lot of companies which have a product that is, for example, for one winch but there are four or five different variants of it. What we’ve done is we’ve gone to market with a simplistic approach and tried to keep costs uniform across the range,” said Barry Marshall of 1st Integrated Safety Critical Solutions. “I think that’s one thing the downturn has given us – it’s opened doors for us. It’s allowed us to engage with the supply chain. I think we need to come back to the simplistic offering. When you look at the North Sea – how many platforms are out there? And when you look at the platforms, what do they all do? They all do pretty much the same thing. And how many of them look the same? They don’t. They’re over-engineered. I think that’s one thing the downturn has given us is – it’s opened doors for us. It’s allowed us to engage with the supply chain.” (9)

Fortunately, the cost-cutting hasn’t been at the expense of safety, according to Ross A. Glynn, sales and marketing manager with 3M’s Oil and Gas Solutions Division. “Without exception, companies are not sacrificing the safety of employees to save money.” (10)