THERE has been a growing number of oil companies looking to invest in the development of emerging technologies, according to the Oil and Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC).

The OGIC says this growth comes as North Sea operators continue to demonstrate the benefits of technology-led solutions in response to economic downturn.

Access to advanced technology has always played a vital role in driving the oil and gas sector forward. However, the risks associated with bringing a new technology to market require significant financial investment to research, develop, test, and commercialise a new concept. With higher levels of investment typically required in the early stages of research and testing, companies are often deterred from exploring advanced technology solutions.

Companies are becoming more risk adverse in their efforts to find cost savings and operate with even greater efficiency to survive. Reducing research and development (R&D) budgets is often seen as a quick way to cut costs. However, the OGIC believes for a mature basin like the North Sea, withdrawing this investment can increase the risk of the UK falling behind global competitors, especially in technology.

In the last year, new technologies have presented opportunities to solve on-going challenges facing the sector, both now and in the longer term. Accessibility to adapted solutions that combine existing technologies is being accelerated by the advancement of Internet of Things and 4G offshore, which is opening up new opportunities to capitalise on the potential of emerging technologies.

Companies are now reappraising levels of research and development investment to provide a competitive advantage. This includes cost-effective ways to manage decommissioning, which is forecast to take place on 349 fields across the four regions of the North Sea over the next decade.

Ian Phillips, chief executive of OGIC said: “We are focused on encouraging early stage R&D investment in technologies with a real potential to solve some key industry challenges. By helping companies find appropriate research expertise within the Scottish university system, in addition to funding, companies are now benefitting from working hand-in-hand with cutting edge research departments, such as Oceans Systems Laboratory at Heriot-Watt University and the Petroleum Engineering Research Group at Robert Gordon University.

“We believe that providing access to more cost effective early stage research, often on unproven technologies when there’s a higher risk of the concept not working, is helping to stimulate ideas for more innovative solutions – especially as the ‘regret cost’ is significantly reduced if it fails. As a direct result, we are seeing a notable increase in projects with more advanced technology applications, with several of our collaborative projects gaining further investment and industry support based on the results of the early stage research.”