Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Future of Oil and Gas: Pumping Innovation in the Oil and Gas Industry

27.04.2015

Worldwide, total oil demand keeps growing. Low prices are fueling the trend.To remain competitive, companies need to reduce production costs. Siemens is supporting their efforts with innovations for the electrification, automation and digitalization of the complete production chain – from oil pump to gas pump.

In the space of just a few months, between late 2014 and early 2015, oil prices fell by roughly fifty percent. This happened because more oil reached the market, and partly because demand growth had weakened.


One day fully automated oil and gas fields could become a reality - Siemens is working on the necessary technologies at its development center in Trondheim, Norway

It was not the first time oil prices took a hit. They have always been volatile, but even more so during the past decade, explains Lisa Davis, the member of the Siemens Managing Board who is responsible for Siemens’ Oil & Gas businesses.

Oil’s low price is both a challenge and an opportunity for the industry. Well run oil and gas (O&G) companies that are strong today are likely to emerge even stronger after prices rebound. While the availability of oil fields and associated equipment is always paramount for them, during a slump they have every reason to also focus on cost effective production. Often this means bringing in new technologies and changing processes.

Ingenuity and Sophistication

Lowering production costs is not just an imminent need of the industry. It is also a long-term trend. Most of the “easy oil” has already been extracted – oil that can be produced cheaply because it is onshore, close to the surface, and conveniently spilling out of the ground under high pressure. Other sources, often considered to be “unconventional oil and gas,” require a lot more ingenuity and sophistication to tap.

These include, for example, oil and gas deposits that are deep underground, offshore, or locked in shale or in oil sands. On the whole, it is becoming harder to produce hydrocarbons. But there is also good news: this needn’t make O&G more expensive. We just need to get better at extracting them.

As in the past, technological innovations, as well as more cost-effective processes, will make up for these increased difficulties. What is considered unconventional oil and gas today is likely to become tomorrow’s conventional O&G. In this connection, the following trends are already taking shape:

- Existing fields will run longer and their yield will be increased by injecting water or CO2, which boost the pressure of the reserve.

- Fracking is likely to spread beyond North America.

- Production of heavy oil, e.g. from oil sands, will become more environmentally friendly and less energy-intensive.

- The global market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) is expected to grow robustly. More of the gas that is being flared, and thus wasted, today will be processed and add to market capacity tomorrow.

- One day, we will even see automated oil fields at the bottom of the sea, working maintenance-free over decades, at depths of several thousand meters.

At the same time alternatives to O&G are becoming increasingly viable. Electric cars may become more commonplace. And renewable sources, such as wind power, are becoming more economical and could crowd out fossil fuels. According to British Petroleum (BP), four fifths of demand growth is currently attributed to emerging economies. But even their growing appetite for energy may subside at some point.

With less easy oil available and alternatives to oil becoming more viable, the way forward is clear: O&G companies need to reduce production costs. Some are leading the way by bringing more automation to oil fields and by using data in smarter ways. Simply put, in the future more valves will be opened and closed by machines than by people. And it will more often be machines that decide when to open or close valves, not humans. Flying workers to remote offshore locations in helicopters may one day be the exception rather than the rule.

Automated equipment produces data – data that can be mined, aggregated into Big Data and transformed into Smart Data. Analyzing and understanding such production data helps to optimize processes. Here, visualization can be a key tool. Today, 3D visualization software makes it possible for users to immerse themselves in a virtual model of a facility. Indepth training sessions prepare technicians for future challenges.

This is already saving customers real money. For instance, the crew of an offshore platform in Africa was able to begin its training – virtually – while the facility was still under construction. Training sessions in the virtual model reduced the time needed to prepare workers for their tasks, thus helping to put the oil platform into operation more than two months earlier than planned.

Another area that offers opportunities to decrease costs is the replacement of mechanical drives with electrical drives. Today, a turbine often drives pumps and other machines directly, rather than a generator that then produces electricity. Powering equipment electrically instead, allows for energy savings – which in turn helps bring down production costs. So-called aeroderivative turbines can be particularly useful in this area.

Boosting mature fields

So do we need to brace for years of low oil prices? No one knows. But there is one lesson the O&G industry has learned from history. While the price of oil can swing wildly, demand growth can remain surprisingly stable. Over the long term, we have seen price peaks above 140 USD and troughs below 20 USD; but yearly demand growth was between one and two percent over the long run. And more importantly, roughly five percent of existing capacity has to be replaced every year, because of depleting O&G fields. To make up for this, new fields need to be developed and the output of existing fields needs to be boosted, for example through injection of gas.

Automation and digitalization are expected to keep O&G competitive as a form of energy over the course of the next few decades. Whether we like it or not, every year mankind is likely to burn a bit more O&G than the year before. In terms of absolute numbers our demand is growing. In relative terms the importance of O&G may decline over time, as other sources of energy become more important.

That will probably hold true until, one day in the future, it will be permanently more economical to leave the remaining oil in the earth’s crust rather than extracting it. This gradual transition will bring great business opportunities for those who have the courage to innovate and try out new ways to produce and use O&G. “When you look at the growing demand and at the sources of energy we have, it quickly becomes clear that oil and gas will remain crucial for the next few decades at least,“ says Lisa Davis. “We will also need renewables. For the time being we need everything we have. And that includes oil and gas.”

Andreas Kleinschmidt | Siemens - Pictures of the Future
Further information:
http://www.siemens.com
https://www.siemens.com/innovation/en/home/pictures-of-the-future/energy-and-efficiency/the-future-of-oil-and-gas-trends.html

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Biologically inspired skin improves robots' sensory abilities (Video)
11.10.2019 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)

nachricht New electrolyte stops rapid performance decline of next-generation lithium battery
11.10.2019 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: An ultrafast glimpse of the photochemistry of the atmosphere

Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.

The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...

Im Focus: Shaping nanoparticles for improved quantum information technology

Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.

Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...

Im Focus: Novel Material for Shipbuilding

A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.

The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...

Im Focus: Controlling superconducting regions within an exotic metal

Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...

Im Focus: How Do the Strongest Magnets in the Universe Form?

How do some neutron stars become the strongest magnets in the Universe? A German-British team of astrophysicists has found a possible answer to the question of how these so-called magnetars form. Researchers from Heidelberg, Garching, and Oxford used large computer simulations to demonstrate how the merger of two stars creates strong magnetic fields. If such stars explode in supernovae, magnetars could result.

How Do the Strongest Magnets in the Universe Form?

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

NEXUS 2020: Relationships Between Architecture and Mathematics

02.10.2019 | Event News

Optical Technologies: International Symposium „Future Optics“ in Hannover

19.09.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New material captures carbon dioxide

15.10.2019 | Materials Sciences

Drugs for better long-term treatment of poorly controlled asthma discovered

15.10.2019 | Interdisciplinary Research

Family of crop viruses revealed at high resolution for the first time

15.10.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>