The drop in crude oil prices has hit the oil and gas industry hard. Whilst the major players have been able to absorb the drop off, other companies haven’t been so fortunate with redundancies being made the world over.
Crude all prices fell to below $50 a barrel in January of 2015 and has followed a rocky path ever since, currently sitting at $68 a barrel and industry experts predict it’ll hold at roughly $70 for the next decade.
Moreover there is a general decline in mature oil fields which is making it increasingly more difficult and more expensive to drill, the find near Gatwick Airport earlier this year notwithstanding. Companies are forced to drill at greater depths or in inhospitable environments.
With oil prices cut by more than half and the cost of exploration and drilling rising, what is a corporation to do? In the case of GE Oil & Gas the answer is simple: innovate. This isn’t that surprising a response from a company founded by Thomas Edison and with more than two and a half thousand patents.
GE have been exploring new materials technologies to enable them to produce components that can survive the high pressures of deep sea drilling or the highly corrosive environments found within the ground.
Image courtesy of GE Oil & Gas
In a cost sensitive environment shipping replacement parts damaged or destroyed by hydrogen, carbon dioxide or hydrogen sulphide, chemicals often founds in deep wells, to remote locations around the world isn’t financially sound.
Instead GE is exploring ways of making traditional components more durable without resorting to expensive stainless steel. Focussing on advanced coatings the components are protected at a much lower cost than fabricating parts from stainless steel.
Working with GE’s Global Research Centres (the organisations primary R&D departments), GE Oil & Gas has been working with technologies developed by the aviation and power generation divisions. It’s a logical line of investigation as jet engines are subjected to extremes of heat and cold, exhaust, airborne chemicals and particulates not to mention the physical strain of moving through the air at great speeds.
GE Oil & Gas are also experimenting with 3D printers as a means of circumventing the aforementioned protracted and costly process of replacing common parts. Sending a digital model to a platform in the middle of an ocean is far more efficient than the parts themselves. Providing the quality is there. Early tests have been encouraging but consistent quality will be the key to making this just one part of GE Oil & Gas’ wider innovation strategy.
Once again, GE Oil & Gas looked to sister divisions and learned that titanium and metal alloy components used in combustion chambers of large power plants are already being produced in this way. This shift would mean a dramatic shift in the way GE Oil & Gas operates procedurally right down to how it deals with its supplies. The supply chain itself will dramatically alter as the machining aspect will disappear.
How GE Oil & Gas applies these new technologies will be fascinating to watch not just for the sheer scale of the innovation but how the staffing needs of the business shift. There is likely to be a greater need for data analysts, 3D Modellers and other IT professionals. Either way we will continue work with GE to find the best candidates for the amazing opportunities they offer. If you think you have what it takes, register your details with us today.