As several countries and major oil companies continue on a virtuous road toward net zero by exploiting other available energy resources, a fundamental question remains about the future of the oil and gas industry and its role in the energy market during the next decades.

According to the International Energy Agency, the oil and gas industry accounts for approximately 45% of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions across the world. Such a number is alarming to our industry, making it a target for many environmental groups who would like to see it phased out and eliminated. As this crisis continues to transform societies’ perceptions, the upcoming inevitable energy transition will map the future of energy companies in one way or another.

Deepwater and ultradeepwater projects in the outer continental shelf are, by nature, the most complex in the industry’s landscape, susceptible to several serious challenges. Operators of these assets are under growing pressure to optimize their portfolios despite the enormous proved and probable hydrocarbon reserves in these assets and the anticipated upsurge in demand for energy exceeding the current annual increase of 1.5–2%, especially in countries not affiliated with the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Technical advancements and innovative solutions have played a key role in the successful journey of sustainability of deepwater developments. These concepts will remain a catalyst for these assets for the next decades, provided the availability of appropriate resources and executive vision.

With the current evolution in all technical aspects, continual efforts to improve operations and process safety are vitally needed. The deepwater segment cannot overcome another Macondo.

To stay the course, thrive, and safeguard the interests of the stakeholders, it is crucial for deepwater operators to develop specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (SMART); comprehensive; and collaborative strategic plans to

- Improve seismic imaging

- Focus on full-fledged green designs and operations

- Develop integrated and hybrid energy solutions

- Use the power of growing digital innovation

- Optimize existing and future facilities

- Improve operational efficiency and reduce risks

- Minimize both capital and operational expenditures

Selection of the appropriate initiatives and technologies under each of these objectives should be carried out through a meticulous technical rollout system with comprehensive assortment criteria considering the effects of geographic location, market demand, stakeholder sentiment, country commitment toward COP26 and the Paris Climate Agreement, environmental policies, economics of local development plans, local regulations and legislations, and the availability and reliability of sustainable resources.

Vocational preparation of manpower is exceptionally important for the oil and gas industry to ensure the attainability of the concrete foundation needed for technical advancements. The oil industry is experiencing a decline in the number of young professionals joining it, and the consequences of the pandemic have worsened this trend. It is imperative to heed this issue and align personnel planning with upcoming demand.

The future of deepwater projects is today, and the clock is ticking, urging a relentless return to deep water rather than relying on forecasting. This industry has experienced many failures in forecasting. Time is of the essence for industry leaders to pinpoint areas of vulnerability and identify a cloudless depiction of all components to step up to the challenge of inventiveness and ingenuity. Now is probably the groundbreaking stage for the majors to reinvent our industry and consider having an independent deepwater-governing autonomous ecosystem where only the foremost decisions come from the control center.

Recommended additional reading at OnePetro:

SPE 201218 - Recent Technological Advances Provide Highly Efficient and Reduced-Risk Solutions for Conveying Wireline Formation Evaluation Toolstrings in Deepwater Operations by Stephen McCormick, Petromac, et al.

OTC 30970 - Optimizing Deepwater Rig Operations With Advanced Remotely Operated Vehicle Technology by Bernard McCoy, TechnipFMC, et al.

IPTC 21778 - Automation and Digitization Technologies Value Estimation Methodology—A Deepwater Well Construction Case by Jose Daniel Telles, Schlumberger, et al.

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