If anyone thought the downturn killed the offshore oil and gas industry, the atmosphere at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston definitely provied them wrong.

In the past few years, news of battered budgets, job losses and bankruptcies have made the headlines. But technology seemed to emerge from the storm as a beacon of hope for the industry, leading to improved efficiencies, lower costs and in general better business practices.

In the U.S. Gulf of Mexico alone, production is already at an annual high, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Production hit 1.7 million barrels per day in January, up for the fourth month in a row, and the outlook shows the level could continue rising next year as seven more projects come online. Production rose as several opted to exit the region.

As thousands of people filled the halls of NRG Center and surrounding facilities, there were signs that the industry was weathering the downturn. Government officials such as in Brazil let the industry know that the oil and gas industry is getting back on track, having rolled out regulatory reforms and upcoming licensing rounds to entice investors to develop resources.

  • Companies like Total shared stories of how technologies such as subsea processing and subsea separation have enabled production as others shed light on new technologies that could lead to greater returns and improved efficiencies.Baker Hughes released multiphase fracturing service aimed at saving operators millions offshore. Called Deepfrac, the service uses multiposition sleeves and patented flowback control technology that speeds up parts of the multizone completion operations and stimulation process, the company said. The sleeves used as part of Deepfrac make it possible to place more than 20 stages across a pay zone, instead of the typical five stages;
  • Schlumberger released a new fluid mapping-while-drilling service called SpectraSphere. The oilfield service company described the service as “the industry’s first to deliver downhole fluid composition during drilling with real-time pressure measurements-while-drilling.” The technology aims to reduce risks “associated with fluid analysis and sampling operations while enhancing well placement, maximizing reservoir contact and ultimately boosting future production;” and
  • Siemens unveiled the latest addition to its gas turbine portfolio. The SGT-A35 RB is a 38-megawatt gas turbine for the oil and gas industry. The turbine increases “the power density of the power generating equipment, thus reducing the required space claim,” the company said in a news release.

If news of new technology didn’t add optimism regarding the future of the oil and gas industry, perhaps the work of high school students solving real-world offshore energy challenges will. For the first time, high school students from across the Houston area participated in OTC’s inaugural Energy Challenge. Nearly 40 students competed as part of 10 teams. The group from Madison High School took top honors for their solution to repurpose decommissioned oil rigs as offshore wind farms. Now that should give the industry hope, especially considering the solution sounds like a task worth pursuing sooner than later.

These were just a few of many technologies and innovative ideas highlighted during OTC. When it comes to showcasing what the industry has to offer, OTC never disappoints.

Velda Addison can be reached at vaddison@hartenergy.com.