Oil industry needs new technology to meet long-term demand

November 18, 2014

The industry is going to face more challenges than ever over the next 30 years as it strives to meet global oil and gas demand from ever harder to reach and extract resources, industry bosses say.

Amin Nasser, senior Vice President upstream,
Saudi Aramco. Staff photo.


Major companies including Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, Total and BP all predict oil and gas will remain key primary energy sources, providing up to 75% of global demand into 2030, with gas taking a 25% share.

But, if that demand is to be met, technology and partnerships will play an increasing role, senior executives told the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference (ADIPEC) last week.

Amin Nasser, senior Vice President upstream, Saudi Aramco, said: “The next three decades are crucial. The global increase in population, by mid-century, is at a rate it once took thousands of years. To meet forecast demand growth and offset [global output] decline, our industry will need to add close to 40 million barrels per day of new capacity in the next two decades.”

The issue is not about availability of resources, says Arnaud Breuillac, president, exploration and production, Total. “Gas resources are plentiful. The issue is how to get them to the market,” he told a plenary panel during ADIPEC.

“Our view is that global resources are abundant.” He said there were enough liquids to provide about 90 years of today's production. There was enough gas to supply 140 years of today's production (including tight and shale). “So the fundamental issue is not if the resources are there but if we are capable of developing them sustainably economically enough to meet rising demand,” he said. “The key to opening these resources lies with combining investment in capability in project management, strengthening partnerships, developing people’s capabilities and technical expertise.”

Technology will be key. “The oil and gas industry has always shown its capability to show new solutions and develop new solutions, no matter how deep, sour or tight,” he said. “We have moved from the easy oil to the technical oil. I’m confident we will be efficient at pushing back the boundaries.”

Arnaud Breuillac, president, exploration
and production, Total.


Total has invested in super computing power. Its system, Pangea, has the power equivalent to 27,000 personal computers, to provide faster and more accurate images of the subsurface. Seismic processing for Kaombo took nine days instead of 4.5 months, said Breuillac, which it would have taken the previous system. The company is also field-testing polymer EOR techniques in the UAE, as well as smart water flooding.

BP CEO Bob Dudley echoed Breuillac’s comments. He said: “We know there is enough oil and gas to meet demand through to 2050 and we have an impressive track record at meeting challenges. The last few years have seen fundamental advances in seismic imaging, well drilling techniques and technology to access the resources discovered by advanced seismic. We know so much more about the rock. As a result of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology, the typically 35% recovery rate is becoming as much part of history as peak oil. BP and ADMA-OPCO are getting 70%+ from the carbonate reservoirs in offshore Abu Dhabi.”

EOR is also high on the list for CNPC and Eni. Guo Yueliang, Abu Dhabi country manager for CNPC International, said: “The contribution from EOR [to production levels] will be increasingly important in mature oil fields.” The company is developing a polymer flood which will enable an enhanced and uniform sweep across the field, he said, adding that it was 7-15% better than waterflood and had high temperature resistance.

Antonio Baldassarre, Eni’s managing director and general manager Egypt, said the biggest share of oil production comes from mature fields. “In the next 10-20 years we will still see a major amount of oil from mature fields and EOR is one of the biggest, if not the biggest share of this additional oil production. Maximizing recovery factors in mature fields is critical to meeting demand.

He said in some areas the industry was behind, such as in using sensors. “The ability to have sensors throughout the oilfield has the potential to create a good break-through,” he said, also citing EOR, deepwater and high-pressure technologies as other areas which could be game-changers for the industry.

Nasser says technology makes more technology possible. Saudi Adamco sees key areas as big data and enhanced sensing technology. “Increasing the number of sensors down hole to monitor infield will provide automated reasoning and analysis, based on text and spoken word,” said Nasser.

ADIPEC conference. 

“There have been advances in seismic but I believe we can benefit from technologies like distributed sensing. Leveraging nanotechnology particles which will travel through reservoir to reach hard to get oils.”

A major theme discussed at ADIPEC was the need for oil firms to form partnerships, such as BP’s with ADMA-OPCO, in order to better tackle the global challenges they face, be it shale oil, heavy oil, arctic oil or developing enhanced oil recovery techniques.

Rainer Seele, chairman of the board of executive directors at Wintershall, said: “Partnerships are beneficial, such as ours with BASF (working on EOR technologies). They take time but they are worthwhile. It is my conviction our industry faces many challenges over the next 30 years. New challenges which will be difficult to face alone. Being bold, breaking new ground, sharing experience, will be important.”

Saudi Aramco has been tackling the issue by opening global technology centers, including a computing center in Boston.

Naoki Kuroda is chairman of Inpex Corporation, which has operations in the Middle East, including a stake in ADNOC’s Umm Lulu project. He said: “As we move forward, E&P companies need to cooperate to an even greater extent to meet demand. “The industry needs to develop new technologies. Inpex is working on Japanese technologies for exploration and production, for example EOR. We are undertaking research on CO2 EOR using nanotechnology in partnership with Japanese university.”

“As we look to the next 30 years, our response must be swift and sure,” said Nasser. “Thanks to technology we are on the brink if a new era, unlocking resources a few decades ago were unrecoverable. Horizontal drilling and fracturing have been a game changer.”

The industry is moving to use nanoparticles in its oilfields fields, performing simulations using terabit-size computing power, and new EOR technologies.

“The best days lay head,” he said. “Thirty years ago the internet was still in the future. The first mobile phone hadn't hit the market. There's been such change in oil and gas technologies 1980s.”

But, he added: “Thirty years from now there will be a lot of disruptive technologies in our business. We need to focus on managing these and developing the people too unlock them.”

Read more: 

BP CEO says don't overreact to oil prices

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