Gearing up for The New Wave at OTC 2015

Originally founded in 1969, the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) is one of the most important energy conferences held in the United States.  Scheduled to occur in Houston, Texas from May 4th through 7th, the OTC is well-known throughout the offshore industry as an important source for technical knowledge and networking opportunities.  Since its inception, the OTC has grown to international status.  This year, attendance is estimated to top 90,000 industry professionals from over 120 countries.  The conference creates an unparalleled opportunity for members of the offshore industry to exchange information and ideas about scientific advancement, technical knowledge, and environmental issues.

Showcasing the Latest Technologies

The offshore industry is an area that is full of burgeoning technology, with some of the most efficient and exciting examples being showcased in the OTC.  The conference presents the Spotlight on New Technology Awards for the most innovative products and processes, with 17 new technologies scheduled to receive awards this year.  Businesses large and small are singled out for their groundbreaking technological advances.  For 2015, some of the winning systems include an all-electric intelligent well system, a new multiphase compressor, a total vibration monitor, and many others.

A Host of Special Events

Over the years, the OTC has developed a reputation for hosting a wide variety of special events and activities, and this year is no exception.  Keeping an eye on the future of the industry, the conference will feature a program for young professionals in the offshore field entitled The Next Wave.  This program will explore the new frontiers being drawn in the field by technological innovation, encompassing the opportunities and challenges posed by the current and future business landscape.  Other programs will feature R&D showcases for universities that are exploring the latest offshore technologies.  Events specifically focused on networking will occur as well, some of which include special seminars on gender diversity and opportunities in various international markets.  These are just a few of the many networking and educational opportunities scheduled to take place during the conference.

Cutting Edge Equipment and Professional Contacts

The OTC provides a number of unique features which position it as one of the most important conferences of its kind.  Its technical programs are represented by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry.  The most ground-breaking innovations in the industry are available for view, along with the leaders and suppliers who make them happen.  In addition, the Houston location of the OTC represents one of the most productive energy centers in the world.  The combination of first-class technologies, thought leaders, and location represents a one-of-a-kind opportunity for offshore clients of all different types.

Southwest Will Be There

Representatives from Southwest Process Control will be at the conference with our partners at Hy-Lok.  We will be representing the most efficient and accurate fluid system control products available on the market today.  Please stop by and visit us at the Hy-Lok USA Booth #5001, and learn how our products can help your application run with the greatest efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Advanced Technology & Alternative Energy Highlighted at Upcoming ACT Expo

In May, conference and expo season is in full bloom.  In addition to the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) taking place in Houston, the Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo is happening from May 4th through 7th in Dallas, Texas.  The ACT EXPO represents the largest clean fleet show in North America.  All different weight classes and alternative fuel types are represented here, including renewable fuels, electric, hybrid, hydrogen, natural, and propane gases.  This expo provides fleet managers a one-stop shop to make the best decisions about which alternative fuels will work best for them.  A truly diverse array of suppliers allows for some of the most extraordinary educational and networking opportunities available in the industry.

The Industry’s Top Leaders

The ACT EXPO will feature talks from some of the industry’s most important leaders.  For instance, the Women in ACT Summit will highlight the role female leaders are playing in creating the next generation of clean energy and transportation.  A broad range of civic and political leaders will address the topic, including representatives from State and Federal organizations such as the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Federal Highway Administration.  Senior representatives from top private companies will speak as well, including executives from Ford Motor Company, Volvo, Walmart, Ryder, and Penske.

Maintaining Efficiency and Profitability during Volatile Times

Workshops at the ACT EXPO will cover some of the most provocative and important topics addressing the alternative energy industry today.  A forum will be provided to explore advanced technologies that are helping to improve fuel economy for trucking applications, including Class-8 tractor trailers.  A general session will be held with T. Boone Pickens and Gary Thomas addressing the cyclical nature of the energy market and the long-term implications of the volatility it is experiencing today.  Other forums will include explorations into advanced vehicle technologies and how clean fuels will play a vital role in the energy industry’s future.

Following Up on a Banner Year

Last year’s expo was a huge success.  Over 4,000 attendees from six continents experienced the event, which included 250 industry speakers, 75 vehicles for display and test drives/rides, and over 300 news articles in various media outlets.  Dozens of new products and technologies made their debuts at the event as well.  This year promises to be even bigger, with over 200 exhibitors scheduled for the main Expo Hall, a full complement of off-site technical tours, and a full service ACT EXPO mobile app available with fully updated information.

Southwest Process Controls: Advanced Products for Clean Energy

At Southwest, we are proud to offer the highest quality fluid system control products.  We are partnering with Hy-Lok USA to bring a full line of instrumentation products that are vital to the clean energy industry.  Get an Expo Hall Pass and come visit us at  Hy-Lok Booth #119 to learn more about how our products fit into this exciting field.

Efficiency in Oil Production

As the price of crude oil continues to drop, the uncertainty about when it will recover only seems to increase.  Experts continue to look for signs of what the future holds; however, at the moment, they only seem to remain stuck guessing at where prices will eventually bottom out.  While this uncertainty continues, one thing remains clear: lower oil prices mean that operational efficiency in the oil and gas industry is more important than ever.  In our previous article, Oil Production Efficiencywe explored the evolution of drilling and its influence on efficient oil and natural gas extraction.  We will continue in this vein by examining other methods of operational efficiency, especially during production.  Maintaining efficient production methods ultimately helps improve profitability, which is especially important while oil prices remain low.

Certain studies cited by the Bain Group have indicated that over 10% of production capacity can be improved by making operations more efficient.  Additional challenges need to be addressed as well.  Regulations in the field are becoming increasingly complex; at the same time, regulators continue to become more and more proactive.  The boom in oil production is spurring the expectations of shareholders to rise as well.  Production must meet the highest levels of compliance while operating at maximum levels of profitability.  The key to satisfying these multiple demands lies in a combination of using the best available technology with the most efficient production practices.

The shale oil reserves that are the core of America’s current resurgence of oil and gas are considered unconventional resources, and as such pose unique operational challenges.  While new methods of extracting oil and gas have re-invigorated the industry, capture costs for these methods are much higher than for traditional oil wells.  Oil companies need to employ the most reliable components and technologies, all the while ensuring that their operations are being held to the most stringent industrial and government standards.

One method of maintaining the highest standards of efficiency lies in getting the most out of each drilled well.  The conventional wisdom of extracting oil has often relied on drilling new wells as soon as assets degrade, but are still not totally depleted.  This method is not only a waste of existing resources, but often results in areas becoming over drilled.  There are many difficulties that arise from over drilling oil shales, including well interference.  Well locations that are too close together end up essentially stealing oil from each other.  This practice not only decreases production, but in some cases makes wells entirely non-viable commercially.

Maximizing efficiency for each well helps operators get the most for their money while minimizing environmental impacts.  There are a number of factors which can assist in this endeavor.  Oil companies can commit to using the best components, including fittings, valves, gauges, and temperature control products.  Using best-in-class products will elevate performance levels while helping companies fulfill the highest industrial and governmental standards.

Oil and gas extraction has also been the focus of all types of efficiency-enhancing technology.  A number of advanced innovations have been achieved as of late.  For example, new energy efficient technologies include combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat to power (WHP).  CHP and WHP help reduce energy costs, improve reliability, and increase efficiency by harnessing spent heat for power production.  Petroleum refining, pipeline compressing, natural gas distillation, and oil recovery operations use a great deal of energy.  Innovative technologies such as CHP and WHP can harness energy which is otherwise wasted to produce power with no additional combustion or CO₂ emissions.  Solutions such as these help oil and gas producers save money and decrease their carbon footprint all at the same time.

Other technologies that are being developed to promote sustainable business practices while making operations as efficient as possible include crack detection.  Unexpected spills can be prevented before leaks occur by employing predictive maintenance devices.  Real-time data can be collected from wells without the need of direct visual inspection.  These devices keep extraction occurring at optimal levels while ensuring costly and environmentally damaging cracks are detected before leaking occurs.

Efficiency in oil and gas production is achieved at all different levels, from the careful selection of drilling sites to the most advanced equipment and latest technologies.  It is essential for operators to be functioning at the highest levels of efficiency possible, especially given the unpredictable nature of oil prices at present.  By partnering with the best quality suppliers and employing the most efficient production methods, oil and gas operators can maximize their profits even while petroleum prices remain low.

Oil R&D — New Innovations

Bio fuel dropPreviously, we discussed the importance of research and development (R&D) for petroleum–both for the future of the energy industry and to ensure growth and prosperity for the earth’s growing population.  R&D in the oil industry is often performed onsite in working rigs, but sometimes significant innovations can be achieved without ever leaving the laboratory.  Researchers working for the University of Minnesota have discovered that sometimes the most important instrument for discovering better methods of petroleum processing is simply a computer.

It is possible, however, that “simply” is the wrong word.  The computer these researchers used is one of the world’s largest supercomputers. Its use in the laboratory was able to vastly compress the amount of time and research that would normally be required for this type of endeavor.  The project centered on materials known as zeolites.  Zeolites are used by petrochemical refineries for a number of important purposes, including sorting, trapping, and filtering certain chemical compounds.  They also help to upgrade and produce fuel feedstock from petroleum-based resources by catalyzing chemical reactions.  Finding which zeolites work best is essential to the process of improving petrochemical processes and making them more efficient.  Existing zeolites number around 200, with hundreds of thousands of possible zeolite variations.

With the number of possibilities available, finding the best zeolite match can be difficult.  Synthesizing a zeolite in a lab setting has previously been considered nearly impossible.  It could take many months to create zeolites, and the analysis of all the known and predicted structures of this material could take decades.  However, analyzing these types of scenarios is one of the great strengths of advanced technology.  Researchers developed a complex screening process on the supercomputer which allowed them to view thousands of zeolite computer simulations.  This process required some of the most advanced computer applications available.  Evaluating the most effective zeolites demanded high performance computing, along with the most efficient algorithms and accurate descriptions.  The supercomputer, called Mira, had close to 800,000 processors.  Utilizing the full range of this computer yielded some very important findings.  Zeolites were discovered that could help solve significant oil processing problems.  One of these findings identified materials that helped upgrade petroleum compounds into lubricant and diesel products with higher value. Oil Production

Using the latest in processing technology, researchers were able to accomplish amazing results.  They identified the best zeolite patterns for numerous specific applications, compressing many years of research done on a single-processor computer to just one day using the supercomputer.  These new zeolites perform an important task.  They exhibit frameworks that improve the dewaxing process, which puts into effect the transformation of linear long-chain molecules into slightly branched hydrocarbon molecules.  These branched molecules, known as alkanes, affect the viscosity and pour point of petroleum products.  This provides for dramatically improved petroleum products, increasing efficiency and value.

Finding the best catalysts and sorbents during the process of creating petroleum has long been a difficult problem.  R&D of this kind is helping to overcome these difficulties with high tech alternatives.  While the future of oil prices remains uncertain, the quality and efficiency of oil is being vastly improved by sophisticated technology and innovative research.


Oil R&D – A Key to Future Energy Supplies

gas pipelineWhile the price of oil continues to fluctuate and cause a great deal of speculation about its effect on the economy, one thing remains certain.  The demands for energy over the long term are only going to grow.  As of the current day, the world’s population stands at over 7 billion, with estimates by the United States Census Bureau and the United Nations predicting 8 billion by 2030, 9 billion by 2040, and possibly 11 billion by 2050.  In order to maintain economic growth in our growing worldwide populations, adequate and affordable energy must be available.  The best way to keep energy supplies at acceptable levels is by an increase in research and development (R&D).

Organizations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) predict that as populations and economies continue to grow, so will the global demand for energy.  While leaders in all related disciplines agree that relying on better diversified sources for energy is a laudable goal, fossil fuels will remain the world’s primary energy source—at least for the foreseeable future.  Using current trends as a model, the IEA predicts that more than 80% of the world’s short- and mid-term energy supplies will come from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal.  Increased R&D in these areas is vital to accessing the world’s deposits of these energy sources.

Technological innovation is paramount to accessing oil and other fuels.  Many oil and gas reservoirs exist in harsh environments, while others require advanced techniques and new approaches to access.  Many different disciplines need to be employed in order to create the most efficient production methods.  These include biosciences and chemistry, as well as mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering.  The level of R&D necessary to ensure that future populations have adequate levels of energy will require the collaboration of many different agencies.  Members of the energy industry, academia, and government programs will need to work together to meet the complex technical demands in accessing fossil fuels, both at home and abroad.

Oil fieldWhat’s the most compelling reason to invest in R&D for the energy industry?  The fact that it works.  One of the most significant sources of unconventional hydrocarbon is oil shale, and the vast majority of the world’s oil shale resides in the United States.  In 2004, Chevron and Los Alamos National Laboratory worked together to study the recovery of hydrocarbons from oil shale in Colorado.  Companies like Shell Corporation had also been researching this area for many years.  The information garnered from these and similar studies were instrumental in redeveloping areas such as the Permian Basin in Texas.  Hydraulic Fracturing, combined with underground horizontal drilling, allowed drillers to extract oil from areas that had previously been inaccessible.  The result was one of the biggest oil booms in recent memory.  Not only did this put the Permian Basin back into the limelight of US oil production, but it also helped America earn the status of the world’s number one oil producer.

While the achievements in the Permian Basin are impressive, there is still much work that remains to be done.  R&D is not only required to find new sources of fuel, but also to create the most efficient drilling methods possible while keeping environmental impacts to a minimum.  It is essential that academic, government, and industrial scientists pool their resources in order to face these ongoing challenges.  By pursuing energy R&D research, these sources can help ensure that current and future generations will have access to the energy they require, ensuring economic growth and better quality of life all around the world.