Advancing Technology Together With Other Industries

Last week, I had the exciting opportunity to participate in the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Digital Energy Conference in Houston, Texas.  It was a terrific session fueled by a profusion of collaboration and dialogue. One particular highlight was the sharing and communication that took place across multiple industries.  In addition to established O&G industry experts, panelists and speakers from NASA, IBM, GE, HP and Box were on hand contributing unique perspectives. Given the focus of the conference, a great deal of discussion examined the convergence of the physical with the digital. This concept compelled me to reflect on the upcoming SpaceCom and made me think about how Space and Oil & Gas can partner to advance technology. Here are a few thoughts from the session that came to mind:

There are significant similarities between the challenges faced by the space flight and O&G industries. Issues such as the mission critical nature of the tasks, harsh environments, significant investments in modeling & simulation prior to execution, and robotics adoption are all common…the list goes on. 

In harsh environments, space deals with low pressure and O&G faces high pressure challenges.  Both are unforgiving and in both, first principles physics must be understood and respected. Subsequently, many tasks must be completed remotely and with robotics. This is a distinct area in which the space and O&G industries continue to collaborate to advance the state of the art technology. 

Distance and dealing with data latencies was another topic during our session. There was discussion around dealing with this issue by making equipment more autonomous. In space, distances are measured in light-minutes, and in O&G they are measured in kilometers. Yet, both have similar challenges. Think about bandwidth and latency…whether from earth to a probe/rover, or gathering information from a drill bit through a mud pulser. These challenges also exist in subsea fields spanning hundreds of kilometers.

Augmented reality is also an area being pursued in both industries. Making useful information available hands free, in or near your direct field of vision is a great way to drive productivity, quality and safety.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Rather, it contains some initial reflections that jumped out during a 90 minute panel discussion during the conference.

SpaceCom is a great chance to bring together experts and thought leaders from across multiple industries to focus on challenges facing commercial space flight. It provides an excellent opportunity to look at how we solve those challenges together for our mutual benefit. As the home to both the Space and Oil & Gas industries, Houston provides the perfect setting for the event.

Eric Gebhardt is the Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering for GE Oil & Gas. Stay up-to-date on GE Oil & Gas activities on Twitter and LinkedIn.