Whilst on work experience, Edward Conti (Year 11 student) from Bishop’s Stortford College explored the oil and gas industry and the new technologies that are being used in the sector.
Over the years, the oil and gas (O&G) industry has witnessed significant advancements in technology, leading to transformational changes in exploration, extraction, and production processes. This blog will explore the evolving landscape of technology within the O&G industry, highlighting key innovations and their implications.
Catalysed by the Climate Crisis, O&G facilities have been put under increased pressure to improve efficiency and cut carbon emissions, which along with the transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources is likely to lead to the closure of a significant number of assets across the O&G value chain in the coming decades. To remain competitive, O&G companies are striving to transform their operations, improving the reliability and availability of their assets while reducing costs and carbon emissions.
An Accenture analysis indicates that with a concerted effort from the O&G ecosystem to invest in scalable and profitable solutions, carbon emissions could be reduced from 5 gigatonnes to less than 1 gigatonne per year by 2050. That is the equivalent of the European Union's combined emissions.
Furthermore, innovative technologies like carbon capture, utilisation and storage are being explored to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuel extraction and consumption. This shift towards renewable integration signifies a crucial transformation in the industry’s long-term strategy.
Fracking is a technique used to extract gas from rocks in the ground by drilling horizontal holes in the earth and injecting water into cracks in the rocks to allow the gases to escape. According to scientists, generating electricity from shale gas releases about half the carbon dioxide emissions when compared to coal.
Moreover, recently this technique has undergone technological advances that have made it even more efficient and cheaper. Data show a cost reduction of 15-20% for drilling and well completions compared to recent years, partly because wells can be drilled faster. In fact, one company drilled a 2-mile horizontal well in just 10 days.
The development of faster drilling technology is shown perfectly by this comparison: at the height of drilling in 2014, 300 rigs drilled fewer than 20 million lateral feet in a year. Yet in 2021, fewer than 300 rigs drilled 46 million feet – a remarkable result.
So why are people against it?
There are several concerns about fracking due to its effect on the environment. Water companies have said that drinking water could be contaminated with methane gas and chemicals and fracking also uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, which has a devastating environmental impact. However, it is an ever-improving technique that is becoming more environmentally friendly and efficient, so could be a vital supply of energy in the future.
Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil
There have also been significant improvements in the fractional distillation of crude oil. Computer simulations and modelling techniques enable scientists to optimise column design, considering factors such as temperature, pressure and feedstock characteristics. Improved column internals, such as structured packaging and high-efficiency trays, increase the surface area for mass transfer and reduced pressure drop. These advances lead to a more efficient separation process that is ultimately better for the environment also since it leads to fewer carbon emissions.
Moreover, it is obvious that energy consumption is a critical aspect of the distillation process. Well scientists have managed to create heat exchangers such as preheaters and reboilers, which optimises heat transfer and reduces the energy required for heating and cooling. Finally, waste heat recovery systems capture and reuse heat from the distillation process, further minimising energy consumption and improving overall efficiency.
Transportation of Oil and Gas
The transportation of O&G plays a vital role in meeting the energy demands of the modern world. A complex network of transportation systems is required to ensure a reliable delivery from extraction sites to end consumers. Some of the methods of O&G transfer are mentioned below.
The main way of transporting oil across oceans from areas such as the North Sea and Norway are using tankers. The tankers have an immense capacity, allowing for the transportation of vast amounts of oil and liquified natural gas. are considerable concerns about the environmental impact that these tankers have. For example, oil spills can occur which pose a threat to marine ecosystems. Safety regulations have been introduced to reduce the risk of these oil spillages occurring and advancements in technology help to minimise these events also.
Pipelines are also used to transport O&G inland. These pipelines offer many advantages such as high capacity, long distance reach and cost effectiveness. They also reduce the need for multiple handling and reduce associated risks such as spillages. In areas where pipelines do not reach, rail and truck transport are used, which is very flexible and does not require lots of building to work.
Future-proofing an Evolving Industry
In conclusion, the O&G industry continues to evolve through the adoption of changing technologies to make the world greener and to supply the world with a reliable source of energy. Throughout the industry, technologies are being implemented which optimise efficiency, improve safety measures and sustainability. By embracing these, the O&G industry can navigate the evolving energy landscape and contribute to a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.
Bishop’s Stortford College
Year 11 student