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06/15/2011

Offshore Technology Update: Opportunities, Safety & Renewable Energy

The Offshore Technology Conference was held recently in Houston, TX. The annual conference is an event focused on the development of offshore resources in the fields of drilling, exploration, production and environmental protection. More than 65,000 people attend the event each year, with 2,000 exhibiting companies representing more than 110 countries.

This is a summary of some of the key issues and trends addressed at this year's conference. More on the conference can be found on the OTC website at www.otcnet.org. Check out summaries of each day at http://otcnet.org/2011/index.php. The daily summaries include technical updates.

The following article is based on summaries published in the Show Dailies.

1. A hot topic at the conference was the impact of the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill on oil and gas drilling in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Issues addressed included risk, drilling safety, energy development and spill response for future oil and gas projects.

2. On the technical side, the conference covered enhanced oil recovery, shale gas developments and marine archaeology. Why marine archaeology? It is of interest because it affects offshore operations. Government regulations and the UNESCO Convention adopted in 2001 is a "largely unknown issue for the offshore energy industry," according to the OTC. Check out the Show Dailies online to read more about updates in these technical areas.

3. Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the Department of the Interior will start to regulate offshore oilfield contractors and service companies, in addition to operators. The agency also plans to work with deepwater regulatory agencies in the rest of the world to develop a consistent set of regulations for deepwater drilling.

4. Renewable energy was a hot topic at this year's conference. Retired geologist George Richardson said during a session that "shale gas is at a crossroads." He said domestic oil is not being developed at the rate most would like, and that shale gas is needed as a "bridge" until other sources are viable. Alternative sources discussed included offshore wind, solar, ocean thermal energy conversion, nuclear and coal gasification.  Of all the sources discussed, panel member Kentucky Pioneer Energy President Mike Musulin said that coal gasification technology holds the greatest potential for "cheap, large-scale power."

5. Post-oil spill, drilling safety is a priority. The wellhead system is a key component of this, according to a speaker at the conference. An important safety parameter: fatigue life. An engineer from Cameron presented findings from recent testing by Cameron and 2H Offshore to determine the sensitivity of subsea wellhead fatigue life to changes in design parameters. They found that fatigue damage varied significantly depending on the time of year when drilling occurred and the type of rig used.

6. Some international development updates:

  • More than half the world's known liquefied natural gas capacity is under construction in Australia.
  • Israel plans to double its electrical production in gas over the next 10 years.
  • The Mexican Supreme Court made a decision in December 2010 to allow incentivized contracts to be offered to private companies to be involved in the upstream oil and gas sector, welcoming domestic and foreign contractors to its hydrocarbon industry.
  • Challenges exist in developing in the hydrocarbon-rich offshore Brazil, but there are plenty of opportunities for international operators, suppliers and service companies, according to Petrobras executives.

Learn more at otcnet.org.


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