People know ExxonMobil as a leading oil and natural gas company. But as ExxonMobil’s new Chairman and CEO Darren Woods likes to point out, at a more fundamental level we have always been a science and technology company.
Science and technology are at the heart of what we do. ExxonMobil relies on continuous innovation and advances in technology to maintain our edge in a highly competitive industry. And we know that addressing the challenges and risks posed by climate change – while continuing to meet the world’s growing energy demand – will require technological solutions. For example, we have announced major investments in biofuels, carbon capture and storage, and a process called reverse osmosis that has the potential to reduce energy consumption in plastics manufacturing.
What is perhaps less known are the technology initiatives in our Upstream business lines, which search for and produce oil and natural gas.
We recently announced several technology milestones tied to the Upstream. These advancements are designed to keep ExxonMobil at the forefront of industry innovation while improving efficiencies, enhancing operations, and driving down costs.
- In January we announced development of our cMIST™ technology to remove water vapor present during natural gas production. The cMIST approach is far more efficient than conventional dehydration systems, reducing size, weight, and cost. The resulting 70 percent reduction in surface footprint and 50 percent reduction in weight translates into environmental improvements, cost savings, and increased flexibility, particularly for offshore applications. In a potential Black Sea opportunity offshore Romania, for instance, the use of cMIST technology would eliminate the need for construction of an onshore gas plant.
- Last month we awarded the first global license of our patented Drilling Advisory System™, which is a key component of ExxonMobil’s proprietary Fast Drill™ technology suite. Fast Drill combines high-end modeling of drilling physics with structured well planning and design. This approach has improved ExxonMobil drilling rates by more than 80 percent compared to a decade ago – efficiencies that translate into less fuel needed for operations and a proportionate decrease in air emissions.
- February also saw ExxonMobil set a record in high-performance oil and gas computing used to model reservoirs for improved exploration and production. Working with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, ExxonMobil geoscientists and engineers employed 716,800 computer processors – easily the largest number of processors ever used for oil and gas reservoir simulation – resulting in data output thousands of times faster than typically seen in the industry. We expect this development to have a dramatic impact on future reservoir management capabilities. Reservoir simulation studies are used to guide decisions such as well placement, the design of facilities and development of operational strategies to minimize financial and environmental risk.
- Finally, we recently collaborated with the Stanford University School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences to develop a new tool to assess the seismicity risks associated with disposal of wastewater from oil and gas operations into injection wells. This new Fault Slip Potential software will help industry and regulators better identify locations for drilling future injection wells that reduce the potential for earthquakes being triggered by injection well operations.
While technologies can and do improve and change over time, one thing stays the same: ExxonMobil’s belief that such advances will be key to reaching new sources of energy in the years ahead while improving our operational and environmental performance.
Thomas Schuessler is president of ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company.