Shell seeks industry solutions to well challenges

Shell is top ranked among operators for delivering new patents for the oil and gas industry, but according to executive VP Matthias Bichsel, it is more important that solutions are driven by the industry than by individual companies.

John Waggoner
Drilling Technology Editor

HOUSTON -- Shell is top ranked among operators for delivering new patents for the oil and gas industry, but according to executive VP Matthias Bichsel, it is more important that solutions are driven by the industry than by individual companies.

"Technology is not about being proprietary," he said from the sidelines of the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC). "Ultimately we want reliable equipment."

Bichsel said that joint industry projects with academia and joint ventures are ways for the oil and gas industry to surmount the cost of developing new technologies. This is particularly true on the well side where costs are greatest. While Shell has the ability to develop and own proprietary technology, Bichsel said there was little advantage to doing so in many cases. He said the focus on proprietary technologies would include those that help differentiate the company from its competitors in areas such as seismic imaging.

"We are not going to manufacture equipment and even if we did it would be reverse engineered for someone else to replicate it," he said.

Innovative materials will be essential as the world's oil and gas industry moves into extreme high pressure/high temperature (XHP/HT) environments, especially in frontier areas such as the Gulf of Mexico's lower tertiary, Bichsel said.

"The industry is being forced into a shift back to material sciences because of high pressure drilling and a number of discoveries that are particularly high temperature (275° C)," Bichsel said. "There is a whole new world of technology there."

Examples he cited were new polymers, coatings, seals and nanotechnology able to withstand the rigors of the XHP/HT environment.

05/04/2009

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