2008 was an exceptional year for the Industry Technology Facilitator in terms of the numbers of projects launched, levels of funding secured and technology implementations. This has been achieved despite a backdrop of gloomy economic forecasts, oil-price crash and banks reluctant to lend to businesses.
ITF has assumed a leading position within its global peer group and its MD, Neil Poxon, says its performance during 2009 could be more important than ever for technology developers central to the longevity of the UK oil&gas industry.
And the key to this is “undeviating focus on the launch of quality technology projects” which address ITF member needs – that is, 22 major global operators and service companies.
To remind, ITF’s task is to identify technology needs, foster innovation and facilitate the development and implementation of new technologies.
The organisation currently has a portfolio of 40 ongoing projects, representing a funding input of £17.4million (a lot more than the US’s Deep Star initiative).
With nine new technology implementations, 25 joint-industry projects launched, £8.3million of funding secured and a further 11 JIPs at the final stages of contract negotiation, 2008 appears to have panned out to be the Aberdeen-based outfit’s most successful year since it was born out of the ashes of the Centre for Maritime & Petroleum Technology in 1999.
Poxon said: “These figures make satisfying reading, but it is important not to get too caught up in them because the key to ITF’s success is the delivery of high-quality, innovative projects that address our member’s needs.
“During 2008, we have really worked to strengthen our facilitation process, ensuring that it offers value to our members – so that we can help to address the big issues and unearth solutions that would not be developed without a collaborative industry effort.”
Five of 2008’s nine implementations are subsurface/exploration-based:
Edinburgh University’s COFFERS project developed a statistical reservoir model to look at correlations between injectors and producers across fields and, from that, calibrate faults and fractures impacting on production. The university has commercialised the software and undertaken its first North Sea contract.
Swansea-based company Rockfield received support from ITF members to develop geomechanics software that aims to provide greatly improved modelling of rock formations post- fracture or fault formation. Supporting companies are now using this software in-house to assist with field case studies.
Another example of an implemented project is Heriot-Watt’s flow assurance, hydrate monitoring and early warning system. A university spin-out company, Hydrafact, is now commercialising the technology, which has already been deployed by a number of the companies that supported its development, plus others.
Staying with flow assurance, Manchester University won support via ITF to develop a new technology labelled Acoustek that uses acoustic technology to detect partial blockages, blockages and leaks in gas pipelines at a distance of up to 10km. The technology was recently used to successfully identify and locate a partial blockage in an offshore gas pipeline.