‘Pressing challenges’ on OTC’s agenda

Oil & Gas Engineering discussed some of the key issues with OTC 2016 Chairman Joe Fowler about the offshore oil industry, which is going through a pivotal time.

By Oil & Gas Engineering April 6, 2016

The 2016 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) will bring together the top industry experts and suppliers in Houston at a pivotal time for the offshore oil industry. Issues of capital expenditures, unstable prices and cyber security will be among the topics at the four-day event, May 2-5, at NRG Park in Houston.

Oil & Gas Engineering discussed some of the key issues with OTC 2016 chairman Joe Fowler, and also talked about how this year’s OTC event will address some of these challenges.

Oil & Gas Engineering: It certainly has been a volatile year for the oil and gas industry. What’s your assessment of where we are now? What are the current challenges?

Fowler: Certainly the past year’s downward pricing trend has created numerous challenges, as oil and gas companies aim to preserve profitability while maintaining safety, environmental excellence and regulatory compliance.

At OTC 2016, global experts will offer key insights addressing many of these challenges and opportunities, including:

  • Continued operations: Addressing the current cost of oil, continued operation of aging fields and hardware, improved production, oil reservoir production, cost controls and better applications for renewable energy offshore-all in an effort to better place oil costs in line with current market. 

  • New and emerging markets: The opening of the Mexican market via the Gulf of Mexico has sparked a lot of interest, which is expected to be sustained for the immediate future. 

  • Current environment: Topics that have relevance in today’s offshore atmosphere, including input by key middle-eastern oil giants, and bringing oil costs in better alignment with today’s market. 

  • Protecting our resources: Taking a look at cyber security, tools for process safety and other risk management technologies and techniques. 

  • Looking back to move forward: Foundational areas of the offshore industry are updated as well as areas that are considered to have impacts on future developments.

OGE: How is this year’s OTC positioned to help industry leaders navigate these challenges?

Fowler: At OTC, the industry’s most pressing challenges are addressed by executive-level speakers and technical experts who attendees might not encounter anywhere else. OTC 2016’s 56 technical sessions and 18 topical breakfasts and luncheons will continue the expansive coverage of topics of past conferences. In addition to recurring topics, an emphasis is being made to address current industry conditions, the outlook for the future, cost containment, improved oil recovery techniques, while keeping best safety practices top of mind.

Scheduled on May 6, the second d5 event will bring together world-renowned speakers and emerging leaders in our industry to discuss new ideas for thriving-even when oil prices are depressed. The d5 event was born out of the realization that we are in the midst of a global technology boom that will profoundly change how the offshore energy industry works.

Additionally, this year OTC will also debut several OTC training courses, each hosted by one of our sponsoring societies, designed to increase attendees’ knowledge in key areas. The courses are one and two days in length. All courses will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston the Saturday and Sunday before OTC 2016.

OGE: So much of the show is built around R&D and technology. Why is this still a good time to invest in new systems and solutions?

Fowler: The adversity of lower oil prices has incredible potential to drive technology innovation for our industry. The downturn in the oil and gas market is causing the industry to take a hard look at its bottom line and seek creative new ways to perform efficiently.

There are tremendous opportunities just waiting to be plucked if we can get beyond "This is how we’ve always done it" and broaden our thinking horizons.

OGE: There’s been a lot of emphasis recently on subsea operations. Why is this an important growth market for the industry, and how will this year’s OTC reflect that growth?

Fowler: The industry’s focus on achieving greater efficiency through new technology has led many operators to view subsea operations as an area with huge potential for cost savings. In addition to the innovative subsea technologies displayed on the OTC tradeshow floor, the 2016 technical program will feature several sessions on the latest subsea developments, including:

  • Subsea processing: Technology and projects: Advances in subsea processing technologies will be presented in this session covering boosting, separation and field development. Results from verification, testing and evaluation of these technologies are presented in this session by various authors from the industry.
  • World’s first subsea compression: In the fall of 2015, Statoil started the world’s two first subsea compression stations at the Åsgard and Gullfaks fields. Subsea processing in general and subsea gas compression in particular are important measures to secure production in the field’s tail end and develop new ones by cost efficient solutions with low environmental footprint.

OGE: In an election year, what are the key issues this industry must focus on? How will this year’s show discuss those issues and the best way to influence action in Washington, and globally?

Fowler: The presidential elections try to insert politics into a very complicated subject. So many factors impact the industry, from geopolitics to supply/demand to new technologies and more. OTC’s focus is not on politics but rather on highlighting new technologies that create safer, more efficient ways to explore and produce offshore oil and gas.

OGE: Is there one area about the offshore market that you think gets overlooked? What area of the business should get more attention than it does today?

Fowler: Cyber attacks pose a serious and ongoing threat to the security of our nation’s critical infrastructure. Yet there is a lack of awareness and understanding of the numerous vulnerabilities that exist in energy production and distribution operations today.

In a first-of-its-kind panel discussion at OTC on Thursday morning, thought leaders in cyber security will share diverse perspectives and insights and conduct open discussion about cyber risks, risk mitigation, emerging standards for industrial control systems (ICS) security assurance, and common findings from a sample population of ICS security assessments. The panel will be comprised of experts from leading cyber security research institutions, control system providers, ICS security assessors and startups bringing cutting edge technology to market.

Original content can be found at Oil and Gas Engineering.