As the world turns to cleaner forms of energy, companies in the oilfield services sector (OFS) are emerging as what analysts are calling “enablers of the transition.”
“The OFS companies are uniquely positioned because of their technology prowess, their reservoir knowledge and their ability to perform at scale,” said James West, senior managing director of oilfield services for Evercore ISI. “Reservoir knowledge is especially important in geothermal and carbon capture utilization and storage.”
Speaking during Evercore’s Global Energy Outlook on March 23, talk among the firm’s analysts briefly turned to the clean energy transition and how some service companies are embracing the change by adjusting their business models to the evolving energy landscape.
The energy transition is inevitable, the Evercore analysts say.
“Oil service companies are enablers of the transition,” West said.
Long known for its expertise in subsea technologies and delivery of integrated EPCI projects, TechnipFMC Plc, which completed its spinoff into two companies earlier this year to form Technip Energies, is gaining ground in offshore wind. The company earlier this month entered an agreement with Magnora ASA to jointly pursue opportunities for floating offshore wind projects.
Its Deep Purple initiative, unveiled in February, is also moving forward. The pilot project uses offshore wind energy to produce hydrogen—which can be stored subsea for use later—from seawater.
Known in the oil and gas world for capabilities that range from artificial lift to well control, manufacturing powerhouse NOV Inc. entered offshore renewables with the addition of Dutch engineering firm GustoMSC to its marine and construction business unit.
“NOV may become a wind powerhouse,” West said.
It recently landed a contract from China Merchants Heavy Industry to design and provide equipment for a wind turbine installation jackup vessel with a smaller carbon footprint.
Evercore also pointed out Schlumberger New Energy, launched last year by oilfield services firm, is “uniquely positioned for emerging energy transition opportunities.” In particular, he noted its carbon capture utilization and storage knowledge, geoenergy solutions and lithium extraction from brines.
Through a venture with NeoLith Energy, Schlumberger has plans to develop a lithium extraction pilot plant in Nevada. NeoLith’s innovative extraction process cuts production time for high-purity, battery-grade lithium material down to weeks from months, Schlumberger said when it announced the project March 18.
“The OFS companies produce completion fluids, which are primarily brine,” West said. “In their brine reserves, there is lithium which can be extracted.”
In a note last week, West called lithium “critical to the energy transition,” noting demand is forecast to reach 1 million tons by the end of the decade from about 300,000 tons today. Driving the growth of lithium, which mainly comes from brines, is growth of electric vehicles which use lithium-ion batteries.
Baker Hughes Co. and Halliburton were also highlighted for their inroads into clean energy. Baker Hughes is poised to add value leaning on its LNG and hydrogen experience, while also building its position in carbon capture technologies. The company recently acquired Compact Carbon Capture.
Halliburton Labs is also taking a leading role in advancing clean energy technology, opening its doors to others working toward the common goal. It recently welcomed three inaugural companies to the clean tech accelerator program.
Not all OFS companies are able to shift from oil and gas to non-fossil fuel sectors, according to West, but these “bellwether companies are in the early stage of doing so.”
“They provide the picks and shovels used to exploit oil and natural gas,” West said. “Many of these same picks and shovels can be used in carbon management, oil extraction, hydrogen liquefaction, installation of offshore renewable assets, and the production of parts and equipment for these assets.”
The shift comes as focus remains on reducing emissions amid ESG concerns.
While use of renewables is expected to increase, adding to the competitiveness of various energy sources, energy companies will still need a balanced portfolio—including wind, solar and hydrogen—to meet climate targets, according to West.
“Carbon will be priced … and electrification of nearly everything will dominate the narrative,” he added. However, “this is not something to fear. In all scenarios, the use of oil and natural gas will continue probably for another century or more.”
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