With gas and oil making consistent appearances on opposite ends of the market spectrum, the need to contain production costs while finding and applying new cost-effective strategies is more important than ever. To find and maintain profitable gains, gas and oil executives must look to the future and adapt to become a truly technology driven industry. The long term play of researching and utilizing new technology for up and coming sectors such as energy exploration and production is well underway and promises a better, brighter, more profitable future for gas and oil.

Gas and oil companies are no strangers to vital technological advancements. As an industry, they were the first to take advantage of 3-D seismic, linear program modeling of refineries, and advanced process control for operations in the first digital age of the 1980s and 90s. The latest technological advancements, in what most characterize as the second digital age, can reduce costs, raise productivity and performance, and serve to find new opportunities to grow if the correct measures are taken to do so.

For example, more efficient and less expensive 3D seismic is available not only for exploration, but also can be used to increase the addition of new reserves as well as production in existing fields. Directional drilling and continuing refinements to horizontal drilling, especially horizontal drilling with multiple fracing, can extend drilling areas from one singular platform and may reduce the number of platforms once required. Developing satellite fields near existing fields with this advancement will also cut drilling costs severely, a definite positive for the industry today.

Digital meter reading and sensors have also been under improvement and are now able to aid in digital notification in order to fix a problem before it occurs. Even transportation of gas as LNG (liquified natural gas) costs have been reduced thanks to improved technology and scale economics with the use of larger transportation vessels, new tank designs, and more efficient use of space. Private consumers are also seeing the benefit of advancements in their own homes and places of business. According to the Oil & Gas Journal, when it comes to private consumers, increasingly efficient natural gas boilers are able to use more than 50% of more-useful energy out of the same volume of natural gas than before. Perhaps one of the most exciting and proactive of the advancements we will see in the near future is based in the field of chemical and bioengineering. Washington State University reports an improved innovation by their research team led by Jean-Sabin McEwen, assistant professor, and Su Ha, associate professor, of the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. In an article by Tina Hilding in ScienceDaily, Ha states the research involves an important catalytic reaction that can be used by gas and oil industries which could “efficiently and effectively convert methane from shale or gas fields to electric power or useful products,” and have a large positive impact on energy savings and the reduction of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Methane, which requires an immense amount of energy to break down due to the strong bond between carbon and hydrogen on a molecular level, is generated in large amounts during operation and it is often burned due to the high expense needed to safely neutralize some effects of the gas with a nickel-based catalyst. Researchers at WSU have found that a very low concentration of nickel carbide, created when a small amount of carbon is added to the nickel-based catalyst, can weaken the methane molecule’s hydrogen carbon bond and allows it to break at much lower temperatures.

This breakthrough is still being tested but the future of this discovery, in addition to many more already in effect, will bring the oil and gas industry a much needed cost effective, proactive and safe way to move forward into the rapidly evolving age of technological advancement.