May 8, 2012
Major oil companies are ramping up their engineering research and development as they seek to bolster drilling efficiency.
Oil firms have reorganized their efforts over the past few years as they sought to extract oil, natural gas and other compounds from existing drilling wells throughout the world. Fossil fuel production has not fallen precipitously over the past decade, as some analysts had expected, but the continued steady output has resulted from a coordinated scheme that essentially aims to do more with less.
MIT's Technology Review reports that oil companies are increasingly drilling in remote regions of the world as they endeavor to buttress existing operations. The uptick in exploration has yielded positive results for a number of businesses, ones that have proven adept at incorporating information technology and advanced engineering tools into their formidable research arsenals.
Paul Siegele, the president of Chevron's Energy Technology Company, asserted that breakthroughs in algorithms and IT have benefited the conglomerate's bottom line. He said that such sophisticated techniques are opening up new stores of fossil fuels that executives formerly believed were inaccessible.
"It's pretty sweeping," Siegele noted. "Information technology is enabling us to get more barrels of each asset."
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has quickly become a part of the American lexicon thanks to this emergent energy boom. Advances within the natural gas extraction scheme over the past decade have helped the U.S. substantially boost output of the hydrocarbon. The U.S. now ranks as the world's largest producer of natural gas, a feat that serves as merely one example of how improving technologies are delivering robust results.
Among the systems companies are progressively employing are distributed sensors, high-speed communication devices and data-mining equipment, according to the news provider. Such tools help engineers to more effectively monitor far-flung drilling locations, delivering a deluge of data that scientists can later analyze as they ascertain a program's effectiveness.
Each of the largest oil companies has developed its own system, though they more or less follow a paradigmatic structure. The technologies were first employed roughly 10 years ago, according to Technology Review, and advances in telecommunications equipment has helped spur their use. While organizations have more and more employed such "digital oil field" technologies, they are set to become even more important in the race to augment drilling capacity, experts say.
Chevron executives recently noted that its continued deployment of advanced drilling technologies is already helping drive production. Industry analysts estimate that the shift away from antiquated monitoring devices and toward digital equipment would prompt an 8 percent jump in production and a 6 percent rise in overall well recovery rates. For companies that witnessed falling production capacity for years, such projections are especially encouraging.
Though governments throughout the globe have worked to support the development of sustainable energy technologies, demand for oil is expected to continue to grow over the next 25 years. If oil companies hope to satisfy worldwide demand for the fossil fuel, they must invest trillions of dollars in engineering research, according to the International Energy Agency.
Chevron executives said that the company's focus on implementing the latest digital technologies would only become more pronounced over the next few decades. The company is currently working to establish centers across the world to monitor and synthesize the massive amount of data collected at its 40 largest and most important energy developments. Such centers could save the firm more than $1 billion per year, all the while expanding drilling capacity.
With other oil companies following suit, worldwide oil output could continue its steady ascent over the next few decades.