OEEC: Changing the offshore market through innovations

The tenth edition of Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference (OEEC) in Amsterdam RAI on Wednesday hosted an interactive panel session which focused on the most impactful innovations in offshore energy industry.

Presented to its visitors under the name “Ten years of innovation, what’s next”, the technical session tried to capture the challenging processes of these innovations in the current market and predict future technological innovations so they can be applied in a rapid changing offshore energy market place.

The session was moderated by Robert Plat, Principal Consultant Offshore, Royal IHC, and Guido van den Bos, Director Business Development Europe, Africa & Middle East at National Oilwell Varco.

Three speakers shared their thoughts on the session’s theme, including Edward Heerema, President at Allseas, Jan van der Tempel, CEO at Ampelmann, and Pieter Swart, Subsea Pipeline and Materials Principal at Shell.


Changing the offshore 


Heerema was the first speaker to take the podium and look back at his company’s innovations over the ten-year period. He also mentioned several examples of innovations that changed the offshore industry including the development of deepwater technology, pipelaying and DP (dynamic positioning).

“Another thing that we saw in the past ten years is not directly connected to innovation but it’s related to the low oil price. Ten years ago and five years ago, the industry thought that reserves of oil and gas would reduce over the years and it would likely stay in the $100 region due to the scarcity but that has changed a lot because the countries that used to limit production, like Saudi Arabia and Iran, started overproducing which kept the oil price low and that had a big impact on the market,” Heerema said.

Talking about what to expect in terms of the oil price in the next ten years, he said: “A relatively low oil price, about $50 per barrel which calls for development at low costs. Three years ago we thought that the low oil price would lead to complete stagnation in the industry and it did stagnate for a year and a half or two. But gradually the oil companies started redefining their high specifications not calling for such tremendous redundancies on every structure and every solution any more, designing for fields that could be developed at a price of $50 a barrel and be profitable. And indeed, since the summer of this year, we see many more tenders for developments based on low cost. So that is the future for the coming ten years.”

He also added: “We think that the oil price will stay relatively low and it may change, it may suddenly go up again because of political developments but today we don’t foresee that.”

In terms of innovation, Heerema said that his company sees the need to develop things at low costs and the whole industry is responding to it. However, he pointed out that the one negative element of the low oil price and developments at low costs is that oil companies are also making use of the low market by accepting tenders at very low prices. The oil companies are also benefitting from contractors fighting each other and lowering their prices drastically to the point that some even have to disappear. While that is good for the oil companies in short-term, it is not good for the long term, he gathered.

He also touched upon the topic of decommissioning which is growing but as Heerema said it was never going to be a booming business. “There are going to be few platforms per year and that’s it,” he said.

Heerema took Allseas’ giant Pioneering Spirit vessel as an example of a multi-purpose vessel which was built as such because Allseas always knew there wouldn’t be enough lift work for platforms to keep the vessel busy for a reasonable part of the year. That is why the Pioneering Spirit can be used for decommissioning as well as pipelaying.

Heerema also noted that the wind and solar energy have become much more competitive lately.


‘Use it wisely’ 


Addressing the talks that the end of oil and gas is near, he said: “On one hand we must be mindful towards development of alternative energies and be optimistic about it but on the other hand we must stay with our feet on the ground.”

“If we want to change the world then let’s do something about the overuse of resources,” he added. “Use it wisely,” he further said.

“One of the most important things in innovations is that you’re there to think outside of the box. Don’t follow the general, try to think authentically, find new ways to do things by thinking very originally. That’s what I think you have to do and then you can change the world.”

As an example of original thinking, Heerema showed a short film of the Pioneering Spirit vessel removing Shell’s Brent Delta topsides.


‘The eternal fight’ 


Next up was Jan van der Tempel, CEO at Ampelmann, a provider of gangways to the offshore industry. The company marked its tenth anniversary at OEEC on Tuesday.

In his speech, Tempel talked about difficulties that new technology and new companies come across while trying to penetrate the offshore energy market. “Everyone wants to see the track record which is very difficult when you’re starting out.”

He pointed out that those looking at a product always look at now but what they don’t see is the eternal fight of getting the technology into that very conservative market because everyone wants to see the proof, everyone wants to make sure someone else has tried it before they have to try it.


Subsea as growth area 


The third speaker at this session was Pieter Swart, Subsea Pipeline and Materials Principal at Shell.

Swart mentioned Shell’s North Sea developments, work in the deepwater areas, and the company’s work on subsea production systems as examples of innovations not only in the last ten years, but longer.

He predicted that the use of subsea production systems is going to grow. “Having expensive platforms has certain disadvantages so going forward I think that the subsea production is quite important for the oil and gas.”

When thinking about subsea growth, Swart said that several factors are important, including communication, control, process and transportation.

In addition, representatives from the winner and two runner up companies for the Best Innovation in Offshore Energy Award presented their innovations at the session to a large audience of offshore energy experts. These are Next Ocean, the winner of the award, and GustoMSC and Barge Master.

In addition to presenting his company’s product, Next Ocean’s representative, Karel Roozen, told the audience that the company received an order to deliver its first product, the Next Ocean Wave Predictor, to Allseas.

Offshore Energy Today Staff