Where will the next big idea come from? A number of oil and gas giants are looking to the stars.
Not literally, but independent and national oil companies, including ExxonMobil and Aramco, are convinced that valuable synergies can be gained by working closely with other industries facing similar challenges.
At least two major efforts are under way to bring the aerospace and exploration and production (E&P) industries together to exchange notes on how they address complex and emerging deepwater challenges, such as lighter and stronger materials, automation vs. mechanization, detailed subsurface imaging, remote telemetry, high-pressure/high-temperature, and risk management.
Solutions for more reliable offshore operations can also be adapted for land-based operations, especially those taking place in remote, unexplored environments or harsh climates.
One less traditional topic being explored is cybersecurity. Data are a core asset to any operator and guarded carefully; however, recent world events indicate that it is difficult to know how much security is enough.
The most prominent of the industry collaboration programs, with at least a half dozen in place in the Houston area, is Pumps and Pipes (www.pumpsandpipes.com). Started in 2007, the annual program brings together academics, medical professionals, and oil and gas technology experts to share their achievements.
Each year’s event has a central theme building on the last. In addition to showcasing the latest innovative ideas, speakers outline the biggest challenges they face.
The central idea is that a solution to a challenge is not left sitting in someone else’s toolbox, but for an open sharing of experiences and getting a fresh set of eyes on a problem. There will be a topical breakfast devoted to the Pumps and Pipes program at the Offshore Technology Conference in May. The conference will also feature a related technical session, titled “Space Technologies for the Offshore Deepwater Industry” (www.otcnet.org).
Aramco is leading a similar effort with participation from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the “Deep Space, Deep Ocean” forum in The Woodlands, Texas, in April. The space agency is assisting with content development and plans to participate in the forum.
Known for its technological achievements, NASA’s effort is a move to adapt solutions designed for space travel to fit challenges in exploring for oil and gas in deep water and other remote areas.
The 2-day event will feature keynote speakers from academia and the aerospace and E&P industries. Aramco is offering the event to anyone with a special interest in technology innovation toward solving upstream and downstream industry operational challenges. For more information about registration, sponsorship, and exhibitor opportunities, visit
No one has an easy answer, but with similar collaborative efforts popping up around the world, the stage is set for a deeper understanding of the commonalities and key drivers behind these industries.
William Furlow is the senior manager of business development at SPE.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.