OTC half a century on — plus ça change?

The conference papers for the first Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in 1969 included topics such as automation, dynamic positioning systems and “A Method for Rehabilitation of Offshore Platforms.”

Fast forward 50 years, and the session topics are more technically advanced, but still highlight the same issues and areas for development: “Robotic Technology Enabling Future Offshore Operations,” “Digitalisation Deployed” and “Offshore Decommissioning or Life Extension.”

Given the underlying issues haven’t changed significantly, and the growing emphasis on planning for the future — the opening session’s titled “The next 50 years of offshore developments” and the UK industry’s focussed on the slightly shorter-term ‘Vision 2035’ programme — what is it the sector needs to address to continue growing?

Alternative strategies

OTC is an all-inclusive energy conference covering all forms of offshore energy generation. Over recent years, the UK has significantly developed alternative energy generation — offshore windfarms and tidal generators — but these have largely been in isolation from the existing oil and gas industry.

Plus, while UKCS operators have made some moves to engage in combining alternative energy sources with offshore platforms (such as Equinor’s concept to use floating windfarms to power its platforms) there needs to be much greater engagement and interaction between oil and gas and alternative energy industries to learn from each other and achieve greater development.

Confer and collaborate

One of the primary benefits of attending OTC is that it gives operators and technology-focussed supply companies an ideal platform where they can meet, discuss ideas and find ways to collaborate.

True collaboration comes from the right blend of ideas, financial support and risk management, and OTC helps facilitate exactly these types of discussions.

Over the years, the event has increased both in terms of international participation and the range of markets and businesses attending. This means there are ever-growing opportunities for the wider engagement needed to develop the oil and gas industry collaboratively.

As such, it’s important OTC attendees continue to come to Houston’s NRG Park with an open mind and a readiness to work together to make the most of the considerable opportunities out there.

Technical and people-focussed solutions

Technology and digitalisation are, understandably, the primary focus of OTC; however, irrespective of all the technical advancements, the constant reminder of skills shortages across the sector highlights the ongoing need for skilled people in specific roles to so the industry can continue to evolve.

Crucially, OTC brings together a range of people from varying backgrounds to promote engagement not just in developing technical solutions but in sharing learning, development and personnel-related matters.

The next 50 years?

Given the advances in technology over the last five decades, there’s every chance OTC may well see in its 100th year.

There is no doubt too that while the principles of safe, efficient and cost-effective operations will remain constant, the focus of the industry will shift again in that time with further growth of renewables; developments in decommissioning; and improved deepwater and small pools management: all areas of focus at this year’s event.

In short, ours is an industry built by pioneers; grown by those who pushed beyond what others thought was technically possible. And to secure its future, it’s vital those working in the industry today continue that legacy and adapt and develop alongside the technology.

This article appeared in issue 20 of Oil and Gas Vision magazine.

Rod Hutchison

Aberdeen-based partner Rod Hutchison specialises in corporate law, particularly within the oil and gas sector. His work includes drafting and negotiating commercial contracts, advising individuals, corporate bodies and institutions on mergers and acquisitions, and advising on intellectual property matters.

Posted, 01 May 2019 by Rod Hutchison
Categories: Corporate | Oil and gas

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