As the domestic oil and natural gas industry strives to become more competitive, technology has been presented as one answer to reduce instability in oil and gas markets and escalating regulatory compliance costs. To exploit the remaining resources of the eastern US, operators need access to new technologies that reduce the costs of finding, drilling for and producing hydrocarbons from mature reservoirs. The problem is that new and emerging technologies are often beyond the reach of domestic producers, both large and small.
The Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC) is a new national, producer-driven organization designed to make technology work for independent and major producers. Formed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in cooperation with state and regional industry associations, and the Gas Research Institute (GRI), the PTTC's mission is to enhance and accelerate the transfer of upstream petroleum technologies to and among producers. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has provided start-up funds to help this important project become a reality.
The PTTC technology transfer program has several components: problem identification workshops, focused technology workshops, regional resource centers with electronic information systems, and producer outreach. Through these steps, the PTTC will make the latest advancements in exploration, reservoir characterization, drilling, production, offshore and environmental technologies accessible to the producer in the field, The PTTC is interdisciplinary, involving petroleum geology, engineering and geophysics. Many state geological surveys and universities are involved in implementing the PTTC regional activities.
As a grassroots organization, the PTTC has nearly finished holding problem identification workshops around the country. This process is helping producers to assess current technology and communicate their technological needs to the government, universities, GRI, national labs, service companies and others in the research and development (R&D) community.
Independents have long been critically important to America's energy security. They have been responsible for a large portion of the major domestic discoveries and for drilling the majority of the domestic wells. Historically, independents were primarily wildcatters. They would make the deals, drill the wells, find the oil and gas, and then sell the proven properties to a major company to develop. The independent would then use the capital received to invest in the next new wildcat. Over the last fifteen years, the role of the independent has changed as uncertain oil and gas markets have caused the major oil companies to continually move more and more of their capital overseas. The independent of today is not only finding resources, but also has become the main purchaser of the proven producing properties for the first time in our history. This trend is expected to continue with more properties that have been largely unexploited by the majors being transferred to independents.
As the independents purchased properties, their staff of engineers, geologists and geophysicists increased to enable them to maintain and exploit the resources, This trend of expansion continued through the early 1980s, until the oil price collapse of the mid 1980s caused independents to reduce staff and budgets. The last decade of low petroleum prices, rising oil imports and increasing regulatory costs have taken their toll on the industry. Many of the big players among the independent oil and gas industry during the boom have either failed, merged or simply faded from the scene.