DUBAI—Innovations and technological advances could have an unexpected impact on the future of oil and gas prices despite their needs in the industry, according to panelists speaking at the Middle East Technology Conference (METECH 2017) in Dubai in February.

The event, organized by the Euro Petroleum Consultants, highlighted the role of technology in improving efficiency and productivity as oil prices rise. The event also focused on how technological breakthroughs can change the trajectory of oil prices, especially if unconventional oil producers, and high-cost producers in general, manage to slash production costs with cutting edge technology, potentially again leading to an oversupplied market.

“Technology with new ideas can push oil prices lower as this allows high-cost producers to reenter the market and pump more,” said Raheel Shafi, senior consultant at Nexant.

During the last 18 months, the economic climate and oil prices have been the primary focus for much of the industry, but technology has gained prominence.

“We have seen many companies now adjusting and moving forward by committing to new innovative technologies and planning ahead,” said Stefan Chapman, vice president of Euro Petroleum Consultants.

Oil and gas companies in the Middle East are also urged to accelerate their R&D efforts to tackle challenges facing the industry. With most of the easy oil already discovered, making it harder to find and produce hydrocarbons, the industry needs to boost investments in R&D.

Producing future barrels will require tackling complex issues that are technological, environmental and economic. This requires developing new technologies and better EOR methods for carbonate reservoirs, aiming to increase the recovery factor to at least 70%. Increasing EOR rate is a key objective for oil and gas companies’ R&D centers, but the goal could be hampered if oil prices slump.

While some oil and gas companies don’t necessarily want to develop products, they need advanced capabilities and expertise. R&D can help foster these capabilities.

Energy firms in the Middle East, mainly in Saudi Arabia, are working on technologies to help remedy the region’s gas supply shortage amid competition between various industries—including power generation and petrochemicals — for enough gas feedstock to keep plants operating.

Saudi Aramco and Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) have signed an agreement to conduct a feasibility study on developing a fully integrated crude oil-to-chemicals complex in Saudi Arabia. The crude oil-to-chemicals process will involve innovative configurations with proven conversion technologies.

“This will create a fully integrated petrochemical complex which maximizes chemical yield, transforms and recycles byproducts, drives efficiencies of scale and resource optimization and diversifies the petrochemical feedstock mix in the Kingdom,” said Fuad Mohammed Mosa, general manager, global technology management at SABIC.

Mosa also said that oil-to-chemicals offers efficient utilization of “fossil C” by enabling a lower carbon pathway. “The circular economy enables optimum utilization of ’fossil C’ by leveling the environment footprint across multiple lifecycles,” he added.

New technology is needed, but the question is how to accelerate its emergence and deploy it at various oil and gas facilities, either upstream or downstream. But most importantly for oil and gas producers is to define their priorities, both in what to develop and what to buy.