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Innovation in energy, new kind of moonshot – Todd Staples

nasa-apollo-moon-landingTexas’ oil, natural gas producers use innovation drawn from techniques, systems that astronauts, NASA scientists employ

By Todd Staples, Texas Oil & Gas Association

Back in 1969, the phrase “Houston, the Eagle has landed” affirmed Texas’ place in history and underscored Texans’ contributions to innovative technology and scientific research.

Texas has diversified tremendously in the nearly five decades since Johnson Space Center received those historic transmissions from space. But it was a different kind of moonshot that first propelled Texas into the global spotlight.

Nearly 70 years before astronauts set foot on the moon, it was Spindletop that would usher in the Oil Boom and put Texas on the map, launching a new era of transformational discoveries and innovations in the oil and natural gas industry.

Since those early days, technology and innovation have propelled the Lone Star State and the United States to new heights.

As the world’s largest oil and natural gas producer, America with its homegrown research, technology and investment has helped to increase our access to affordable energy, strengthened our nation’s security and created jobs and critical revenue for local, state and federal government.

We’re seeing Texas universities partnering with the energy sector to research and develop many of these new technologies. Many Texas oil and natural gas producers have created revolutionary ways to safely, efficiently and cost-effectively bring these natural resources from underground to market.

Dry holes, for example, are largely a thing of the past thanks to technology that can more accurately predict the size, location and porosity of oil and natural gas reservoirs. High-resolution, 3D seismic imaging makes oil and natural gas drilling more precise and productive today than just 10 years ago.

Reducing the oil and natural gas industry’s geographic and environmental footprint is happening with significant advances in horizontal drilling, which allows some modern oil or natural gas rigs to drill more than 20 wells from a single well pad site.

We’re also seeing technological convergence and cross-collaboration with other industries and organizations, too. For instance, MRI applications originally developed for medicine are put to use in the energy sector to map rock formations to find oil deposits.

And, NASA isn’t just about putting women and men on Mars. The state’s oil and natural gas producers use technology that is drawn directly from techniques and systems that astronauts and NASA scientists employ in their work.

Collaboration between NASA and Texas oil and natural gas companies like Anadarko have led to the development of a fiber-optic sensing system that can make offshore drilling platforms safer.

Meanwhile, Houston’s Glori Energy is employing a new mini and mighty oilfield worker.

By stimulating microorganisms present in oilfields, these organisms attach themselves to bits of oil, break it up and make it easier for crude oil to flow through rock and into the barrel.

This technology has extended the life of wells by several years and boosted recoverable oil by one-third.

Companies also are encouraging their employees to bring ideas into real-world applications. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, Shell GameChanger has provided innovators around the world with the financial and technical support they need to demonstrate the technical and commercial viability of their ideas.

To date, GameChanger has worked with more than 1,700 innovators around the world, helping them turn more than 100 ideas into reality.

Whether it’s partnerships like Apache and Rice University that are reducing carbon dioxide emissions or drones that Shell uses innovation to safely and quickly inspect oil and natural gas field operations and refinery equipment, Texas’ energy sector is defining the future and bringing technology to the forefront.

Technology innovation — much of it birthed right here in Texas — has enabled the oil and natural gas industry to take many small steps for man, and several giant leaps for mankind.

This op-ed first appeared in the Longview News-Journal

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