In a time of low energy prices and market volatility, it is more important than ever for energy professionals to develop the tools to stay competitive and efficient.
The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), set for May 2-5 in Houston, provides the perfect opportunity.
The annual event, organized by 14 sponsor societies, including AAPG, offers training courses, technical sessions, networking activities, a research showcase and a nearly 700,000 square-foot exhibition.
In 2015, OTC drew more than 90,000 professionals from more than 120 countries.
AAPG member Buford Pollett, chairperson of OTC’s AAPG Committee and assistant professor at The University of Tulsa, said the current industry environment makes sharing new techniques and best practices more important than ever.
“Due to improvements that the industry has made in productivity, some projects that were barely commercial two years ago at $50 per barrel are commercial now in the 30s,” Pollett said. “They aren’t making a lot of money, but they are making some. It’s survivable.”
Competing in Lean Times
The partner societies work together to bring their topics to the table – and as a result of the current environment, a recurring subject this year will be making companies efficient and competitive during the current low price environment.
For example, the panel session “Coping with local oil prices: perspectives from energy leaders” will feature perspectives from top energy managers who explain how they’re coping with the crisis. The d5 innovation session following OTC is entitled “Thriving on Volatility: Opportunities Challenges, and Solutions.”
Pollett said the OTC Organizing Committee’s balance of seeking papers for specific topics and receiving ideas organically through abstract submissions results in a program that is diverse, relevant and global.
“Oil and gas does predominate, but even those industries that are not carbon-based have room at the table at OTC,” he said, noting that this year’s program includes sessions on mining and offshore wind.
OTC 2016 also dedicates an entire day to Mexico’s energy reform, which has opened new markets to investors and operators in the Gulf Coast Section.
“Even though Mexico has been around for years, the market opening up makes it like a new market,” Pollett said. “It’s a key driver to keep Houston developing projects close to home.”
Pollett said international participation at OTC is one of the biggest changes he has seen since he started volunteering eight years ago.
“On the OTC exhibit floor, you are just as likely to see companies from Russia and southeast Asia as you are from Humble, Texas,” he said. He noted that international participation not only increases participation and exhibition space, it enhances the event’s resilience and technical quality.
“The beauty of the technical program is the opportunity to read abstracts from authors from around the world,” he added.
OTC participants will get a global perspective at AAPG’s recommended session, “Geotechnics for Well Design,” which includes presentations from the United States, Brazil, China, Norway and Ireland.
The session, chaired by Eric Cauquil of Total and Robert Little of Chevron, will present advances in geotechnical approaches for top hole risk assessment, with particular attention to well conductor fatigue analysis, wellbore stability, surface casing design and overburden pore pressure prediction.
Cauquil, offshore site investigation and geohazard expert, said successful frontier exploration activities in deep water depends on geotechnics, which examines shallow sediments located in the first 200 meters below sea level.
“As exploration is moving in always deeper frontier areas, very shallow geology may have an impact on the design of the well and its integrity in terms of HSE and non-productive time, and as we all know, time is money,” he said.
Cauquil noted that 10 percent of the overall oil and gas industry costs for drilling are related to shallow geology and geotechnical problems such as stuck pipe, lost circulation, wellbore instability, and shallow overpressure.
He insisted that properly designed wells not only save money, but also help operators avoid accidents and environmental disasters.
Cauquil said he expects the geotechnics session to be informative and timely, particularly during an industry downturn.
A major focus will be gathering knowledge from different companies, and to review their developments and methodology.
“We want companies to share their experience, provide feedback and propose new ideas and best practices,” he elaborated. “We also want to be sure that all operators have access to the proceedings from the session so they can use this information to make operations better and safer.”
Cauquil said the geotechnics session will help professionals working in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Brazil, West Africa and other deep water areas.
Pollett said OTC sessions provide long-lasting benefits both to event participants and their employers, noting that the personal interaction with presenters greatly enhances their ability to understand concepts and to apply them in their own jobs.
“You can go to a database and do research and find articles, but you’re much more likely to understand, appreciate and utilize technical aspects of a paper if you listen to a person talk about his or her work,” he said. “You know that person, you’ve met them, you’ve talked to them after the speech and you can call and ask questions. You can’t get that searching a database for the paper. I see that over and over again at OTC.”
Another benefit OTC provides is the opportunity to interact with professionals from different disciplines. He described OTC as a “large-scale partner meeting.”
“When you’re in the industry working on a project, you have partner meetings where you bring together engineers, geoscientists and technical people,” he said. “What you’re doing at OTC is seeing projects on a global scale instead of one project at a time. At OTC you have the opportunity to see top-notch projects from around the world. Where else are you going to get this, except at OTC?”
Return on Investment
Cauquil, who conducts well-site investigations worldwide, said he travels less during the industry downturn, but he would not think twice about flying from Paris to Houston the first week of May.
“OTC has the perfect stage for networking and meeting with counterparts from other operators. It’s the biggest event of the year for networking and exchanging information regarding problems and opportunities in our industry,” he said.
Pollett said OTC also provides benefits for those who are not currently employed.
“In these times we need to ask what you can do to increase your skill set, not just O&G but your ability to do other things. You’ve got to make sure you maximize your toolbox,” he said.
In his position at The University of Tulsa, Pollett sees firsthand the effects of low oil prices on students and colleagues.
“I had one student; he and his wife worked for the same company and got cut on the same day. I feel a moral obligation to make sure he and his wife and kids make it through,” he said.
“During bad times, the companies and individuals who make it through will be more productive. But there is a human impact. We need to make the transition easier. This is real, and it’s not going to be easy. Those of us who still have jobs should reach out and do what we can do to help others along so it’s not a situation where they’re frowned upon,” Pollett added.
Regardless of current status, industry professionals can be a part of the OTC network. The event offers both one-day and four-day rates, as well as discounts for students. The OTC Committee continues to seek new volunteers to plan events in the United States and worldwide.
For information about OTC and serving on the committee, visit http://2016.otcnet.org.