Industry's Next Big Thing May Be Small Tweaks


"Presenters at the Houston CERAWeek convention said that small tweaks applied to known areas or current practices are likely to make the biggest impact in years to come."

In the hunt for industry's Next Big Thing, representatives of three global majors reminded one of the biggest energy conferences Tuesday that everything new may actually be old again.

Executives of Statoil, Chevron and Lukoil, presenting at CERAWeek in Houston, an industry gathering hosted by consulting firm IHS CERA, said the Next Big Thing may be not necessarily be a brand-new technology or play, but small tweaks applied to known areas or to current practices that may make the biggest impacts in years to come.

"Huge percentages of U.S. fields came from revisions and additions," Bill Maloney, executive vice president of Statoil North America, told the 31st annual gathering.

Maloney said last year Statoil's average production was 1.9 million barrels per day of equivalent oil (Mboe/d), with 350,000 boe/d of it coming from enhanced oil recovery in Norway. "We can get a lot more out of our fields," he said. By "taking fresh eyes to old places and putting them to work, new things happen."

Like Martin Luther King, Russian-based giant energy company LUKOIL had a dream:It wanted to be an international operator, Andrey Kuzyaev said.

In the early 1990s, LUKOIL was one of the largest Russian oil companies. Today it produces 220K b/d outside Russia, and by 20152017 it will increase its production more than 2.5 times and produce 500-600K b/d outside Russia, Kuzyaev, president of LUKOIL Overseas Holding Ltd and vice president of LUKOIL, said during his presentation.

"In the next 10 years we'll have invested more than $40 billion (B) in international projects," Kuzyaev said. This "will help us increase the profitability of our projects, and growth of EBITDA will be about $8B." But that didn't just happen, he said: "It's clear all those impressive figures are related to new projects we have in our portfolio."

To Chevron Corporation's Vice President of Business Development Jay Pryor, companies should start with what do what they do best and make changes until they've got it down perfect.

"First we have to use techniques we know, the technology we know," Pryor said. "When you get into times that are risky, what we do today is key; we have some pilots for enhanced oil recovery and foam and other things that probably wouldn't be going on if the oil price wasn't so high." Such experimentation can pay off in leaner times to make some fields and plays economic that might not be so otherwise.

The boom-time research has paid off nicely, said Pryor.

"The amount of time to reprocess seismic, and look at an image, is probably a third as fast as when I started out," he said.

Also, partnerships are important to manage risk profiles of new plays, he said. With literally trillions of dollars set to be invested in industry in the next few decades, partners "make us more competitive as an industry," he said.

Starr Spencer, Platts

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