OTC: Keynotes from industry execs open 50th Offshore Technology Conference


HOUSTON -- The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) kicked off Monday, May 6, at NRG Park, Houston, with a keynote session by four industry executives who discussed how companies are preparing for the future of offshore E&P with the introduction of machine learning, digitalization, and automation. The speakers included:

Arnaud Breuillac, president, E&P, Total, started the keynote address by stressing the importance of lowering carbon emissions through a three-pronged approach that includes:

  1. Focusing on low break-even oil plays (Middle East).
  2. Using more natural gas along the value-chain (e.g. replace coal with natural gas).
  3. Generate more low-carbon electricity.

Mr. Breuillac said carbon reduction will be complicated by the continued expansion of the middle class in many of the world’s developing countries that will necessitate greater energy generation from non-traditional sources to meet the Paris accord. Despite the increased demand, Mr. Breuillac predicted that oil demand growth will cease by 2040.   

Next, Roger Jenkins, president and CEO, Murphy Oil Corp. took the podium and said the offshore industry weathered the downturn by increasing efficiencies and lowering cost structures. Mr. Jenkins said the key to future growth will be keyed by automated pipe handling that will continue to more rig personnel away from the make and break connection. He also said that technologies that improve directional drilling accuracy will also play a role, including real-time fiber optics, embedded further into the wellbore and on-bottom seismic will enable drillers to improve geosteering and stay-in-the-zone capabilities.

Doug Pferdehirt, CEO, TechnipFMC, said that improvements in subsea techniques and practices have cut costs and improved efficiencies by transitioning subsea installations and processes from long to short cycle, saving time and getting first oil to market faster. He also commended the offshore industry for persevering historically and during the downturn by developing:

  1. A sense of purpose.
  2. Taking the necessary amount of risk when appropriate.
  3. Transformative innovation and realignment to achieve the greatest value proposition.

Malcolm Frank, V.P., Cognizant, drove home that the fourth industrial revolution is well underway, and that “bots” are already deeply engrained in our consumer technology culture and enhancing our everyday experiences. “AI is the greatest story of our time” is the key theme of Mr. Frank’s book What to Do When Machines Do Everything. AR-based training is being used in the National Football League and key players are making great strides using the simulated situation instruction. Walmart has purchased 17,000 of these headsets for training its employees on how to determine the “next best course of action” Mr. Frank stated AR-based training has 75% retention rates compared to just 10% retention rates associated with actual experience scenarios. Frank concluded by suggesting that AI should be your new colleague. Going forward, “humans will make judgements, while machines will determine the next best action,” Frank concluded.

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