Long ago humans discovered that harnessing the power of molecules could improve life. Lost in the annals of time is the name of the person responsible for the world’s first exothermic reaction known as fire. Through the power of observation, this early innovator deduced that fire emitted the heat needed to keep their cave warm and pleasant, that fire illuminated their cave’s darkest corners while also ensuring their safety by keeping predators away.

Imagination and creation, born out of curiosity driven by the desire to make one’s surroundings secure and hospitable, led to the early day innovation of rubbing sticks together to spark a fire and using wood as a fuel to keep it burning.

These first discoveries led to the eventual creation of the modern day internal combustion engine in 1859, the same year that Colonel Drake drilled the oil well credited for launching the modern day petroleum industry. While it required multiple millennia for humans to evolve from basic fire starting to advanced engineering, our ability to explore, drill, produce, refine and use petroleum products to enrich our lives has required far less time, 159 years to be exact. In that relatively short span of time, the petroleum industry migrated offshore.

Imagination and creation, born out of necessity to meet the growing global thirst for cheap and accessible fuel resources, led to technology innovations like subsea compression, remote well monitoring, floating LNG and more. Many of these advances have garnered industry accolades and significant awards, like those presented at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston.

OTC announced in March that 17 technologies will receive the 2018 Spotlight on New Technology Award. The winning technologies “showcase the latest and most advanced hardware and software technologies,” according to the press release.

“As OTC celebrates its 50th edition, we reflect on the innovations that have been achieved throughout the past five decades,” Spotlight Award Committee Chair Paul Jones said in the release. “We can never forget that companies like the 2018 Spotlight Award winners are driving the technological advancements necessary to propel our industry for the next 50 years.”

With a global population estimated to be 10 billion by 2050, many of those advances will likely harness the power of carbon-based fuels with the molecules of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen to meet the perpetually growing demand for cheap, accessible energy resources. And as time has demonstrated over multiple millennia, all that is needed is a little imagination, creation and innovation to make the impossible possible.

Jennifer Presley’s As I See It column originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of E&P.