Shale and automation will come to the forefront of the oil industry within the next five years, according to a new study.
A survey conducted by Lloyds Register Energy included participants from Maersk Drilling, Shell, GE Oil and Gas and Enertech.
The Technology Radar survey is one of the largest polls on the issue of technology and innovation in the oil and gas industry.
Respondents’ answers were based around five key research questions which included looking at how technical developments have addressed the challenges facing the sector, and what the drivers and barriers are to innovation.
The key findings of the study included the near term impact – automation – which identified remote and subsea operation and how it copes with challenging environments.
High pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) drilling and multi-stage fracking is also expected to have a major impact and will be fully deployed by 2020, according to the survey findings.
While the technique of fracking to extract shale gas accounts for 39% of all natural gas produced last year in the United States, the process still faces fierce opposition in the UK.
The method is opposed by many environmentalists due to a number of fears including a creating a surplus in waste water.
There is also a worry the low cost of natural gas will reduce demands for carbon-free renewable energy resources such as solar and wind.
A peaceful protest was held recently at South Downs National Park in West Sussex following an application by shale company Celtique Energie to drill a temporary vertical well to test for oil and gas at a nearby site.
The application was rejected by the local authority, which received more than 5,000 letters of opposition.
The director of Lloyd’s Register Energy, John Wishart, said: “This 2014 Lloyd’s Register Energy Technology Radar synthesises the oil and gas sector’s view of which technologies harbour the greatest potential beneficial impact, and when that technology is likely to go mainstream.
“Through in-depth interviews and supported by a survey of more than 250 sector professionals, we have developed a clear and illustrative overview.
“Given the vast range of innovation underway, this study focuses on 25 specific technologies; technologies that help extend the life of current assets, or improve uptime and efficiency, are setting the greatest prioritisation today.
“In the near term, automation and EOR are expected to have the greatest impact on the sector; in the medium term, it is high-pressure, high-temperature drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing; from 2025 and beyond, subsea robotics is seen as most promising.
“This research provides evidence from which we can better understand and explain the trends which we are beginning to see across the oil and gas industry.
“The Technology Radar survey is one of the largest and latest independent polls on the issue of technology and innovation in the oil and gas industry.
“Through this independent survey we are sharing to a global industry the views from industry, and we believe the results will help to guide future energy policy and the development of industry growth plans.
“With rising energy costs, the oil and gas sector will benefit from a clearer understanding of the potential innovation scenarios to meet future energy demands and providing robust energy supply.
“Initiatives that nurture technical innovation can no longer be an afterthought for business or government; they must be central to any organisation’s strategy for sustainable growth and leadership.
“They are central to our growth too. Adapting that sort of thinking into what we do is going to be a very interesting part of how we move forward.
“We are driving the development of new concepts and technologies through collaborative R&D, and our focus is firmly on innovation — to benefit our clients and society’s future.”
More than 70% of those surveyed said they believed the rate of innovation in the sector was increasing, while 58% agreed that future breakthroughs involve ‘bits and bytes’, rather than physical hardware.
In the last two years, 46% of breakthroughs have been driven by International oil Companies and 31% by Exploration & Production Companies.
By Niamh Burns