BP’s newly-released BP Technology Outlook predicts that advanced enhanced oil recovery technology could increase recoverable volumes of light oil by 30 percent, and advances in technology could reduce industry extraction costs by approximately 25 percent (in real terms) by 2050.
The report predicts that simply applying today’s best technologies to discover oil and gas resources could significantly increase proved reserves from 2.9 trillion barrels of oil equivalent to 4.8 trillion barrels – nearly double the 2.5 trillion barrels required to meet projected cumulative global demand through to 2050.
However, technology advances will not only extend supply from existing oil and gas resource types, but can also open access to resources in geographies previously considered inaccessible, such as ultradeep water or the Arctic. As well as the question of whether these resources are needed as part of a future mix, the fundamental challenge the industry faces in addressing these resources is to produce them safely and reliably. Developments in remote sensing, automated operations and data analytics are not only making operations more efficient, but also increasing operational reliability and enhancing safety, especially in higher-risk tasks and locations.
The report highlights the growing influence that digital technologies are having on the energy industry. “Digital technologies - such as advanced sensors, data analytics, robotics and automation, enabled by supercomputing - have the most widespread potential to drive change and make energy supply and consumption safer, more reliable, more efficient and more cost-effective” said David Eyton, BP Group Head of Technology. “These technologies are already transforming the oil and gas industry, and the longer term possibilities are frankly difficult to imagine.”
Intelligent wells, providing updates on well condition from top to bottom, are now becoming a reality, a development that reduces both non-productive time and cost. Together with the rapid development of data analytics and management techniques, the industry can find oil and gas resources faster and more effectively and operate refineries and manufacturing plants more efficiently. Digital technologies also provide a route to faster and better decision-making, says BP.
Areas of active technology development that aim to deliver on these expectations include:
• Automation and mechanization – automating high-cost, repetitive oil and gas activities. Drilling automation is an opportunity area that is attracting significant research and development attention.
• Data-driven analytics – leveraging the big data revolution to develop solutions that draw key insights from high-volume data streams, such as detecting when a piece of equipment is going to fail or identifying sweet spots in unconventional oil and gas plays.
• Robotics and unmanned systems – adapting technologies developed in the defense and manufacturing sectors to oil and gas operating environments. Applications include deploying robots to inspect difficult-to-access elements such as offshore risers, and piloting unmanned aerial systems into areas that are dangerous for human intervention.
• Optimization – applying sophisticated modelling and simulation tools to increase production regularity and run equipment and facilities closer to their designed capacities.
A common thread running through these areas is the increasingly critical and enabling role of digital technologies. Evidence analyzed by IHS Energy in the past decade confirms that digital technologies applied in practice can improve oilfield performance on several fronts, including:
• Increasing oil and gas production by 2–8 percent.
• Reducing facility capital costs by 1–3 percent.
• Lowering operating costs by 5–25 percent.
The 80-page Technology Outlook brings together previously internal BP analysis and the work of other noted business and academic experts, setting out technology and policy choices governments and industry can make around energy resources, oil and gas supply, power generation, transport and options for reducing carbon emissions.
The full report is available here.