The oil and gas industry are undergoing a huge transformation that will shape our energy solutions for future generations. With the newly abundant supply of shale gas, and the need for safety and sustainability within the refineries and chemical plants, the industry is on the cutting edge of creating a demand for unique and sustainable feed stocks that will be more competitive and safer. As such, the need for process measurement solutions becomes even more important than ever, since these feed stocks will be unknown and many new product developments from them will need to be clearly defined to establish repeatable and efficient processes.
Here are some trends to watch for in the near term1.
1. Natural gas—here and not forgotten
The abundance of moderately priced natural gas in North America, like that from the Marcellus and Permian Basins, does not get as much attention as the oil sector. Yet it is enabling significant long-term change in worldwide energy markets. Natural gas continues to grow as a source of lower-carbon power generation in the USA and abroad. The wave of new investment in petrochemical facilities would not be possible without the growing US natural gas and NGL supply.
Moreover, the United States is now a major player in global LNG markets, with two facilities in operation, at Sabine Pass and Cove Point, and four more due to start up in 2019. This is expected to shape global prices, trade flows, and business models. Although uncertainty exists, the recent decision to take final investment decision (FID) on another major North American LNG project (LNG Canada in Western Canada) is a strong vote of confidence in the viability of North American gas supply.
These new natural gas supply sources have a much broader range of hydrocarbon make-up than the existing sources. Online measurement will therefore be needed to ensure the proper consistency of the sample for quality control.
2. Focus on the infrastructure
Building and expanding pipelines, processing facilities, import and export terminals, storage facilities, and LNG plants must be recognized as a vital part in the process. The infrastructure phase is longer and more complex, which could lead to added costs and delays. More focus on proper planning, measurement and implementation of the most efficient way(s) to move the products through the pipe must be considered in order to align with the physical capacity of pent up supply to meet market demand. Designing the proper analytical measurements during this phase will help from the onset of these project to properly identify products coming down the pipe to ensure that up-time and product demand will be met.
3. The sustainability imperative
Energy and chemical companies are not newcomers to the sustainability agenda. They have been reporting and communicating on environmental footprints, impact mitigation, and sustainability for some years now. However, increasing consumer awareness of environmental and climate impacts and societal expectations are driving more and more companies to embrace sustainability as a core part of their business strategy, rather than a niche add-on activity. Major oil, gas, and chemicals companies are making increasingly sizable investments in companies and technologies that bring renewable, low-carbon energy to consumers and to reduce their own environmental and carbon footprints. By doing this, it is important to properly measure these new products that are being used, as their chemical compositions differ from what is widely available today.
4. Safety – becoming more than lip service
From 2013 to 2017, there have been 489 oil and gas worker on-the-job fatalities2 in the USA alone. Safety is becoming more of a priority that must be seriously considered when work is performed on site at plant level. Ballooning costs from an accident not only involve the workers compensation, but also State/Federal Disaster recovery agencies, insurance related costs as well as business interruption from neighboring companies. Risk management is at the top of the list to ensuring safety program compliance, this includes 3rd party approvals, insurance, proper process controls, etc. In order to manage these risks correctly, processes need to be measured. Analytical technologies play their role by providing the much-needed data and process controls to keep the plant safe.
5. IoT – Digital technologies are increasingly intertwined with the entire oil, gas, and chemicals value chain
As alluded to in the 2018 Outlook,1 opportunity from digital technologies are becoming increasingly apparent and have the potential to unlock new value. More and more companies are looking hard at deployment of artificial intelligence, analytics, robotics, and block-chain to increase efficiency, productivity, reliability, and predictability of operations. Refining and petrochemicals have been the leaders of process automation for many years, but we are now seeing signs that the other sectors are turning their attention to digital opportunities. Those that succeed could be well-equipped to thrive through business cycles and be responsive to customer and societal expectations.
Therefore, the need to properly measure and control the refinery process is more important than ever in meeting the up and coming trends in the oil and gas industry. Guided Wave’s process analyzers can assist the marketplace in many ways to make proper measurements.