The past few years have been tumultuous for the oil and gas industry.
The increase in renewables and new greener technologies coupled with the pandemic and its unprecedented global impact have brought slower growth.
The world and its demands are changing. The oil and gas industry that has always been resilient, innovative, and forward-thinking now has an excellent opportunity to diversify further and transform itself.
For years, it has been at the forefront of exciting progress within technology created to drive efficiency and competitiveness. Many of these emerging technologies can transform not only the industry itself but other sectors.
1. Medical Science
Oil and gas have been used in the medical field for many years. From heart valves and artificial limbs made from petroleum to much of the cleaning and safety products you see in hospitals. As we move forwards that collaborative working, and knowledge transfer are set to continue.
A recent project in Norway by The International Research Institute of Stavanger, or IRIS, is looking at the technology behind reservoir modelling to see if it can be used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The roots of this came from Pumps and Pipes in Houston, a group established in 2007 to promote collaboration and transfer knowledge between the energy, aerospace, and medical industries.
2. Renewables and Green Energy
With the shift away from fossil fuels and a move towards a decarbonized future, oil and gas companies continue to invest in new technologies to reduce their environmental impact.
In addition, they are capitalising on this move by turning to emerging technologies themselves, such as hydrogen production, wind, solar and battery storage. This is demonstrated with the signing of the North Sea transition deal in May 2021.
When it comes to the development of offshore wind farms, there are significant expertise and skills that have come out of the oil and gas industry from offshore rigs, floating systems, and fixed platforms and, therefore, huge diversification opportunities. Cross-industry services and experience can include cable installation, project management and substation structures.
Geothermal energy is an enormous yet so far underused source of renewable energy. There are many challenges in deep dry rock geothermal drilling due to the depth and heat of the rock. Innovation and experience within oil and gas within drilling advancements such as horizontal drilling has a long history. This could be a future game-changer in terms of safe and economical deep well construction.
“The cutting-edge technological developments in geothermal are devoted to drilling into ever-deeper, hotter, and harder rock… and oil and gas holds the key to cost reduction for all of these concepts.”
Jamie Beard, executive director of the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization (GEO) at The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin)
3. Carbon Capture and Storage
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is an area that the oil and gas industry has been involved in for decades regarding the original technology integral to CCS, in itself a highly technical process. For example, the separation of CO2 from natural gas before the gas is transported through a pipeline.
Oil and gas fields have held resources over the ages. So, these fields are deemed suitable candidates for storing CO2. Repurposing offshore assets and existing infrastructure within the industry where applicable is a key consideration for emerging CCS and hydrogen projects.
4. Smart robotics and automation
Companies within the industry have invested heavily in robotic development and automation to open exploration, enhance processes and improve maintenance. Innovations range from ANYmal, a quadrupled robot designed to work in challenging terrain, to the Eelume designed to ‘live’ underwater and perform subsea inspections and repairs.
Developments like this are transferrable to other industries such as offshore wind farms, often impacted by high costs of unplanned repairs, maintenance, and adverse weather. Indeed, ANYmal made its debut in 2018 on a Dutch wind converter station. Autonomous systems such as MIMRee expect to carry out such inspections without the need for human intervention.
While the future is somewhat uncertain, according to McKinsey’s Global downstream outlook 2035, the oil and gas industry will maintain at least 90% of its 2019 capacity in 2030. Whatever the energy future looks like, it has an important role to play and will undoubtedly be a powerful force. For many, diversification into other industries will be a positive and lucrative strategy.
Watch this space for exciting new collaborations at Wellhead Electrical Supplies.