Breakthroughs: The Top 10 Oilfield Technologies of All Time
- Steve Jacobs (RMI)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2010
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 18 - 19
- 2010. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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The petroleum industry has a long record of achievement in developing technologies that have made a significant difference—breakthrough technologies. Over the course of the past 30 years I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to evaluate a wide range of oilfield technologies to assess their technical merit and determine their marketability. While many of these technologies represent respectable contributions to our industry, only a few have truly made a significant difference in the exploration for oil and gas around the world. A good measure of the impact of any technology is to ask the question, “What would our industry be like without a particular technology?” The answer to this question makes it possible to separate “important” technologies from those that can be considered “breakthrough.”
In an effort to determine the “top 10 oilfield technologies of all time,” the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association (PESA) asked me to conduct an informal survey to develop an initial list. Respondents included a small number of operators, technology providers, analysts, investors, editors, and other individuals in our industry whose opinions I value. Needless to say there were a range of opinions from various experts, with no real consensus found past two or three technologies that undeniably deserve to be on the list. PESA further studied and tweaked the list and then published it in a book created to commemorate the association’s 75th anniversary. In a separate effort, these top 10 technologies were presented and discussed during a session at the 2009 Offshore Europe conference in Aberdeen, where the audience provided their opinions on the list using voting pads.
Every time I look at this list I think of one or two other technologies that deserve consideration. But that is the fun of compiling such a list—discussing and arguing which “players” should make such an all-star, all-time “team.” Should you disagree with the technologies on this list I would like to hear your opinions (firstname.lastname@example.org). So here is the top 10 oilfield technologies list of all time, in no particular order:
1. Wireline—Where would we be without this technology? The contribution that Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger (and others) have made to our industry is inarguable when it comes to formation evaluation.
2. Logging while drilling (LWD)—Introduced in 1978, this technology revolutionized drilling, and allowed the industry to drill well profiles previously unimaginable. With the addition of formation-evaluation LWD, rotary-steerable systems, and extended-reach drilling, this technology easily earns its place on the list.
3. Computers—While not invented by our industry, without computers the current value obtained from the other nine technologies on the list would be impossible. Computers personify the description of an “enabling technology.”
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