How Oil Innovation Has Benefited Other Industries
- Trent Jacobs (JPT Digital Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- March 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 40 - 42
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Special Section: The Value and Future of Petroleum Engineering
Technology transfer in the oil and gas industry is often viewed as a one-way, inbound street. It comes with a good reason. The industry, from upstream to downstream, has a well-established track record of seeking out and ingesting external innovation. And thanks to the expanding menu of digital technologies available today—advanced computing programs, the internet-of-things, and robotics—this appetite is growing.
One of the most important periods of technology transfer for the oil and gas industry came in the years following World War II. Military technologies without a war to help fight would find new homes within engineering companies tasked with modernizing the upstream sector. Some of the most successful adaptations include shaped charges, offshore structures, and reeled pipelines.
But sometimes a new link is added to this chain of innovation. As the technology that comes into the oil and gas business becomes refined, its potential soon trickles into the periphery of another sector. The other side of this outbound transfer includes native-born technologies that are adapted to the benefit of others. In either case, the most well-trod pathways of this technology transfer lead into the areas of Earth and life sciences, space exploration, and renewable energy where exploration and production innovations are enabling new areas of research and understanding.
Reservoir models are easy to take for granted since they have been a fixture of the modern oil and gas sector for more than a generation. But a government-backed study in Norway aims to see if the technology can be carried over into the medical world to improve how doctors interpret magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which may save lives.
The idea is based on the similarities between the human brain and oil reservoirs. Because both are dual-porosity media, researchers think the industry’s reservoir models could lead to a breakthrough. The $1.1 million project is being led by The International Research Institute of Stavanger, or IRIS, which has more than 20 years of experience in reservoir modeling. The roots of the collaboration began with Pumps and Pipes, an international group of technologists first launched in Houston to explore synergies between the oil and gas and medical sectors.
Fiber optics have also been around for decades, and are considered to be the backbone of the world’s communications network. The oil and gas industry has used the technology for an extended period as well to monitor the habits of their oil wells, including how their pressure changes.Quebec-based Opsens is one of the companies that began in this application area but has recently adapted its fiber-optic sensors to be used inside the human body. The medical version of its technology has been approved to take pressure measurements inside arteries that affect heart function. The potentially disruptive procedure it enables allows doctors to quickly assess the severity of blockages and legions to see if they require angioplasty or less invasive therapies.
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