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Conference in Houston Highlights Latest in Offshore Drilling Technology


One of the oil and gas industry's biggest annual events was held recently in Houston (May 1-5). It's the Offshore Technology Conference, which focuses mainly on methods of exploiting energy resources that are under water, whether along coastlines or out in deep-water environments. The search for such resources has intensified as demand for energy has grown and the price of oil has risen dramatically.

As the name of the conference implies, technology is the main topic here. And there are a lot of interesting devices, machines and materials to see.

A representative of PV Fluids described her purpose for attending and wearing a costume. "Hello, I am Aegis and I am here with PV Fluids and I am representing an aeromatic resistance elastomer."

That's a flexible rubber used in tubes. Tubes and pipes are a big part of this industry and improving their efficiency at moving oil and gas is a big focus of research and development.

Aspen Aerogels has a feather-light gel that is 95 percent air and is considered the best insulation material on Earth, but it's very fragile. Using nanotechnology applications, this company now produces this same insulating material in a flexible form that, when used in a pipe, reduces the size and cost considerably.

The Milton Roy Company brought some alternative energy to the hall. One device is a pump that can operate on its own, using either solar or wind power.

Company representative Tom Day says it can save offshore platform operators money by continuously pumping anti-corrosive chemicals into the oil extraction pipes. "You don't need a lot of it, but you need to inject it at a pressure greater than the wellhead pressure and that is what this will do."

Most participants come to the Offshore Technology Conference every year to hear speakers and panel discussions and to read papers on new technology and methods.

Osten Olorunsola, a Shell Oil executive from Nigeria, says there are two main reasons he comes. "One, it's really to see the trend of technology in oil and gas development and one, of course, is also to meet with people and share experiences."

More than 59,000 people came to this year's conference, drawn to a great extent by the chance to meet and talk with each other.

Izeusse Braga is Communications Director for Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras. "The Offshore Technology Conference is for us a very important event. As a matter of fact it is the most important event for the petroleum industry. And for us it is a very important opportunity to meet a lot of people in only one trip. If we had to plan to see, to visit, all of these people in their own countries, probably it would take six months, seven months."

Petrobras has become a worldwide player in the energy business by developing cutting-edge technology, especially in deepwater operations. The Brazilian company is using its technology to compete with U.S. companies in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president of Petrobras America, Renato Bertani, is enthusiastic. "We are ready to drill. We have the rigs for that and we're gonna drill one, probably two wells [in the] second half of this year."

Bertani says floating platforms developed by Petrobras could be especially effective in the hurricane-prone Gulf. "You simply disconnect with two or three days notice, move out of the way, and once the hurricane passes, a week later or ten days later, you come back, reconnect and start producing again."

The promise of these new oil and gas-producing technologies is what gives participants in the Offshore Technology Conference something to celebrate.

Video courtesy: Petrobras

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