Five industry experts predict the advances and innovations expected in the coming year.

Technology is the mainstay of the oil and gas industry, so it is no surprise that R&D budgets continue to be heavily funded in 2012. Most of the dollars going into technology development will target subsea, automation, floating production innovation, and unconventionals.

With the rapid escalation in shale development and the growing interest in unconventional oil and gas, it is a fair guess that 2012 will bring with it a continued industry focus on developing technologies around hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling and completions, reservoir monitoring, and water treatment. Shale gas reserves are so enormous that they are likely to be the focus of E&P activity for decades.

While onshore shale developments gain ground, the fact remains that 30% of the world’s oil is produced from offshore wells. According to Infield Systems, although the shallow-water sector is dominant today, the global deepwater market is the fastest growing sector of the offshore oil and gas industry, with subsea technology and floating production the biggest contributors to growth.

Deep water will see US $225 billion in investment from 2011 through 2015 according to Douglas-Westwood, whose analysts predict a significant portion of the capex will go to presalt developments offshore Brazil, subsea installations, and floating production installations.

The future will bring with it new approaches to recruiting and higher investment in employee retention. Collaboration will become more important, with additional remote monitoring centers being established as operations move into more remote and harsh environments. And continued changes will take place in the ways people communicate, with social networking tools growing in popularity and application.

In general terms, it is risky to make a forecast, but this did not deter members of the E&P Advisory Board from accepting the challenge of making predictions about where the oil and gas industry is going as a new year approaches.

The pages that follow contain their take on what is in store for the E&P industry in 2012.

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