What is it about September? In the magazine editor trade, the workload stays fairly even – we never rig down for a month or two — across the year, but it seems like the general white noise of the industry gets louder after August. Perhaps it’s because everyone is collectively behind schedule and trying frantically to catch up after some downtime during the summer. The conference season is certainly in full flower, which adds to the volume. At any rate, herewith are some items that have attained “top-of-mind awareness,” as the marketers would say, during a busy September of disparate goings-on:

BOMA goes offshore
As you may know, E&P has for the last 2 years conducted a conference on optimizing mature assets. Both years, the focus has been on land, but this year we are moving offshore and holding the conference nearer to offshore in Houston. The conference location and operational area focus may be different, but the facts remain. The demands of energy consumers in the years ahead will be met mostly by oil and gas (unless something truly miraculous happens in the alternative energy sector or we return to a hunter-gatherer economy), and a lot of that oil and gas will come from producing more of what we already know is there. You’ve seen the numbers. Current studies estimate that oil and gas from mature assets will account for more than one-half of the global energy mix (some serious people say up to 80%) for the next 20 years, and probably much longer. There’s no way around this, and thus we are pleased to provide a means to exchange information via BOMA. The program is arguably the strongest lineup of industry experts ever gathered to address this topic.

It’s not too soon to start addressing this challenge. From the Gulf of Mexico to the North Sea to the Caspian Sea, fields are aging and production is falling. If the industry is to meet growing worldwide demand, we must moderate these trends. The conference will address key areas including facilities upgrades and life extensions, production stabilization and enhancement, EOR/IOR, infill drilling, and unconventional reserves accessible from existing facilities and well bores. Also discussed will be emerging problems in mature offshore fields, such as sustained casing pressure, in addition to emerging technical solutions. I invite all interested parties to join this outstanding group of recognized experts from operating companies, service companies, government and academia as they present the latest thinking on mature asset development offshore through presentations, Q&A sessions and one-on-one discussions. It’s going to be a good one.

Reporting on R&D
Every year about this time we take a look at the world of oil and gas industry research and development. It’s a particularly challenging subject, in part for the obvious reason that companies with game-changing technology still on the burner are reluctant to show their hands prematurely. Actually, some companies are reluctant to talk about their already commercial technology in sometimes comical attempts to tell their customers without telling their competitors. We don’t fault companies for not letting us inside their “Skunkworks,” as Lockheed’s legendary research and development (R&D) operation was known, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to report on R&D. We note two trends worth watching, as they will surely accelerate. One is “cross-pollination,” for lack of a better word. This is the borrowing of technologies from unrelated industries. We’ve seen some of this already and we expect to see a lot more as companies develop systematic processes for identifying and evaluating them. Another is — you guessed it — nanotechnology. We’ve seen some fascinating proposals of nanotechnology applications in the oil field lately. Watching these trends and listening to the industry’s favorite knock on itself — we’re too slow to adopt new technology — can cause cognitive dissonance. I think one day soon the too-slow-to-adopt complaint will fall into the category of things about the industry that used to be true.

The glass ceiling
I was privileged recently to have an enjoyable lunch with an accomplished, mid-career engineer who works for one of the major operating companies. Because she is, well, a she, she had some interesting observations about women and their prospects in the industry based on her experience. In particular, one comment struck me: “Men are promoted on potential; women are promoted on accomplishment.” I think it’s fair to say that almost everyone in the industry is working very hard to level the playing field and remove the glass ceiling. In our articles and publications about career-related topics and the challenges of finding and retaining talent, we certainly have noted a refreshing pragmatism. However, old habits die hard, and as my wife will cheerfully attest in my case, they can get to be things we perform unconsciously. Let’s keep trying; we’ll know we are succeeding in doing the right thing when women like my engineer friend are buoyant about their prospects in an industry crying for talent. Trust me on this: if you had my friend on your staff, you would not want to lose her.