By Rick Nicholson, IDC Energy Insights The International Energy Agency’s recently released World Energy Outlook 2012 contained at least one headline grabbing forecast – that the US is projected to become the largest global oil producer by around 2020, overtaking Saudi Arabia, and putting North America on a path to become a net oil exporter around 2030. As stated in the IEA report, developments in upstream technologies are unlocking tight oil and shale gas resources, spurring economic activity, dramatically increasing domestic supply, and changing the role of North America in global energy trade. This increase in production, coupled with the impact of new fuel efficiency measures on the demand side of the equation, will result in the fall of US oil imports to the extent that the US becomes all but self-sufficient in net terms. There has already been a fair amount of analysis on the implications this has for foreign policy (greatly expanded options), the economy (more jobs and a boost for domestic manufacturing) and gasoline prices (little or no impact). However, little has been written about what this implies for IT. Let's take a look at some likely business scenarios resulting from this forecast and the associated IT impacts. A stronger focus on environment, health and safety: it's unlikely that the US government or its citizens will allow oil and gas companies to increase production without adequate safeguards against damage to air, land, water, and society. IT impacts may include: • An increased need for sensing technologies that monitor and measure exploration and production activities and associated emissions of pollutants; and • More sophisticated analytics to predict EH&S incidents before they occur. An increase in security threats: US oil and gas companies may see increased cybersecurity attacks from foreign governments, terrorist organizations, or domestic public resistance groups. This could mean a significant realignment of security investments and capabilities. A larger role for unconventional resources: shale gas and tight oil development means much larger numbers of wells and the need for a “manufacturing” approach that uses real-time tracking and optimization of field resources, equipment, and activities. IT impacts may include increased coverage of wireless broadband communications in rural or remote areas, greater use of mobile devices by field staff, and more sophisticated analytics for planning, scheduling, and logistics. There will be an expansion of energy efficiency from electricity to oil and gas: just because we’ll be producing record amounts of oil and gas doesn’t mean we will tolerate wasting energy. Most energy efficiency programs in the past have focused on electricity. We could see this expand to include oil and gas, especially in the transportation sector. This could mean: • A strong shift to connected vehicles that use telematics and analytics to minimize fuel consumption and GHG emissions; • More sophisticated analytics for coordinating multi-modal transportation; and • Development of personal energy consumption apps that include all fuels for all uses. Will we see any or all of this come to pass? Is there enough venture capital funding going into these areas now? Will software entrepreneurs be lured away from cleantech? I welcome your comments. Rick Nicholson is group vice president for IDC Energy Insights.