OTC panel says technology challenges require broader input

Oil and gas companies must look beyond themselves when it comes to research and development, panelists in an Offshore Technology Conference technical session agreed Wednesday. Operators said they look to service companies, universities, national labs, and innovative technology entrepreneurs for solutions to problems.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, May 2 -- Oil and gas companies must look beyond themselves when it comes to research and development, panelists in an Offshore Technology Conference technical session agreed Wednesday.

Wolfgang Schollnberger, BP PLC vice-president of technology and OTC 2001 chair, said, "When it comes to sources of technology, we are not shy."

R&D budgets are often the first to be cut when oil and gas prices fall, yet the industry relies heavily on innovations to help it cut costs and tap difficult-to-reach resources.

Robert Hemming, Chevron Corp. general manager of strategic research, said technology is a contact sport in which people try out their ideas on each other.

"New ideas will come when we start to bring together great ideas from outside our companies," Hemming said. "We need to take the best from wherever we can find the best."

Pete Sigwardt, Texaco Inc. technology manager, said oil companies should share their knowledge with each other about technology resources available in universities and national labs.

"We believe in networking toward the best solution," Sigwardt said.

Ricardo Beltrao, Petrobras upstream R&D general manager, said, "The present trend in Brazil is to look to others. We used to do everything internally."

Panelists agreed that operators need the technology provided by service companies, although they disagreed on intellectual property ownership rights.

Schollnberger said BP is willing to let the service company retain ownership of technology and to market that technology.

"Let's not haggle about the value of intellectual property that each party has brought in," Schollnberger said, adding the speed of implementing the technology is more important than holding up a project by arguing about ownership rights.

Peter Sullivan, Shell Oil Co. director of E&P technology application and research, disagreed, saying the service companies have a different business model than do the oil companies, and that can result in conflicts.

"We have seen many technologies stranded because the technology did not align with the service company," Sullivan said, adding, "The only way to keep control of technology is to keep some ownership. We are willing to dance with all players."

Schollnberger jokingly responded, "I see certain people coming to us because they won't come to Shell anymore because you want to own it."

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