By Katie Mazerov, contributing editor
Statoil has forged a partnership with NASA to examine how technologies and expertise from the space industry can benefit oil and gas as it pushes into new frontier regions, such as the Arctic. The agreement, which will run to 2018 with the option of a contract extension, will focus on supercomputing, new materials and tools, robotics and communication, which all relate to today’s downhole technologies, said Knut Rostad, representative for international activities for Statoil. Research efforts under the contract with NASA will be carried out at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.
“Searching for oil and gas resources has become so advanced technically over the past decade that new solutions and ideas are needed,” Mr Rostad said. “For Statoil, this agreement is a significant opportunity to take technologies that have been developed by NASA and JPL for the harsh and challenging environments of space and apply them to the equally demanding environments of oil and gas production, for example, in the Arctic. Materials, robotics and options for communication are examples of Arctic challenges where further technology is needed. Possible developments within these areas all relate to downhole technology as of today.”
Statoil currently holds offshore Arctic positions in Norway, Russia, Greenland, the US and Canada, Mr Rostad noted. “We believe that Arctic resources in the future will become increasingly important to meet the world’s energy demands, but we are taking a stepwise approach, not going faster than technology allows. This implies that we are building on more than 30 years of experience from the harsh environment of the Norwegian Continental Shelf and other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.”
Exploring the Arctic
The company is planning to commence exploration drilling in the Hoop area in the northern Barents Sea in 2014. It’s also preparing for follow-up exploration offshore Newfoundland, Canada, and in its partnership with Russian operator Rosneft in Arctic Russia, he said.
“We have created a technology roadmap to prepare for activities in even harsher Arctic areas, which includes increasing our Arctic research budget from NOK 80 million in 2012 to approximately NOK 200 million in 2013 (US $13 million to $32.5 million), sponsoring two research cruises to northeast Greenland and maturing an Arctic drilling unit concept,” Mr Rostad continued. “Research is very important in closing Arctic technology gaps, and in that regard we have a committed and ambitious research program.”
The agreement will complement work already under way at Statoil, which has a strong track record as an innovative energy company and annually spends $550 million on research and development, Mr Rostad added. For example, the collaboration could pave the way for new ideas in subsea technology, where Statoil has been an innovator in developing more cost-effective and smarter solutions, he said, noting that the company has worked with leading world institutions in the past. “Improving the robustness of subsea technology and other existing technologies are examples of how the JPL/NASA agreement hopefully will play a supplementary role in our stepwise approach in developing Arctic technology. It is our hope that NASA also will benefit from this collaboration,” he said.