OTC thoughts; is there really some technology that no one has thought of yet; and other musings

OTC has come around again – it begins Monday – which always presents an opportunity for some navel-gazing about the state of the industry or whatever. I have to admit that I rather miss going to Houston – it has been five years now since my last visit – even though when I first started going there I found it totally disagreeable. Once you discover that there is more to Houston than impersonal hotels and the Galleria, you find a city with good restaurants and museums, easy to reach pro sports stadia and arenas and other things for a visitor. I wouldn’t want to live there in the summer – just consider what they weather is like during OTC when the prevailing wind shifts from the west to the south, but even hotter. Then again there are probably lots of Texans – maybe all of them – who would think living in the UK unbearably drab, wet and sun-starved. Hard to argue with those arguments.

The show itself has gotten just so big. I remember the year that the overflow down to the arena became significant and it was filled with Chinese companies who did not realise that they had been sold space well away from where most of the attendees were. Poor sods. I am also old enough to remember when the biggest events were the hotel parties held by Brown & Root and McDermott with giant ice sculptures as the centrepiece of enormous buffets. And then there were the parties at the Natural History Museum with all of the IMAX movies on a loop, so that you could pause from the eating and drinking to witness the wonders of the natural world or maybe fall asleep from an excess of margaritas.

The worst part was when the show organisers decided that the energy press had outlived its usefulness and pushed them all upstairs away from the main show area. Not a good day. But the best of it was trawling around the show and running into so many friends, colleagues and contacts and being pulled aside by people to have a little bit of info whispered in my ear. Subsea Engineering News was certainly not the biggest nor most important publication by a country mile, but there were lots of folk who found it essential reading. Thanks for the memories.

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The UK’s Oil & Gas Authority has issued its annual technology report and from my perspective it provided less than thrilling reading. There continue to be many small companies involved in tech development and that is great. I am an oil tech junkie, but it seems that what much of the industry really needs now is not new technology, but more application of what is already in the catalogue.

One key point is that the UK continues to retain an over-abundance of agencies involved in technology development. So the announcement of this report was acknowledged not just by OGA, but OGTC and TLB and that does not includes OGIC. It really is jobs for boys.

There is not enough space to review the whole report, but the most interesting item was using AI for the real time processing of seismic data. Now that would be novel. It is is obvious that my focus would be on subsea technology and I really wanted to be wowed by some idea that I had not heard before which I wasn’t.

Some of the subjects are really laughable, because they only exist in someone’s head. So who does not want standardised subsea equipment or lower cost subsea concepts? The only reason such ideas don’t already exist is because operators wouldn’t have them. I remember one well-known subsea guru who got up at a conference and said, ‘ we will have standardised subsea developments when we have standard subsea engineers.’ I got the point and still get it, but that does not mean there could not be more conformity in equipment. Subsea engineers who work for operators have always wanted exactly what they say is required, not something generic. But then some people would be out of a job.

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…and finally: data. Who doesn’t want more data? Well… For years specialist companies have promoted the capturing of more data by putting more sensors on every piece of equipment. I guess this is what one company has called the Subsea Internet of Things (SIoT). The only trouble is that somebody needs to be looking at all of this data and spotting what is of significance and what is just white noise. Are there enough engineers to do this or even to want to do this? Maybe this is what AI can do, but it has to be designed to know what to look for. This might be rather expensive, but then computer programmers have lots of time and would be happy to do this. Just like they were happy to prepare the world for the millennium bug, but no one got bitten by that creature. Hmm.

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