Onshore/Offshore Facilities

Join a Technical Section, It’s a Win-Win

SPE’s technical sections offer communities rich with industry expertise. And your engagement adds to the wealth of knowledge to be shared.

Underwater remotely operated vehicle
Source: Getty Images

This month, my focus is on highlighting the industry expertise available when you become involved in SPE’s technical sections. And your engagement adds to the wealth of knowledge to be shared. It’s a win-win opportunity.

There are five technical sections directly related to our project, facilities, and construction (PFC) community.

The latter is a crossover area between SPE’s PFC and Health, Safety, Environment, and Sustainability disciplines.
The same cross-functional overlap exists for the technical section Carbon Dioxide Capture, Utilization and Storage. Since PFC practitioners are responsible for specifications, front-end engineering and design, design, installation and operation of the gear, I am on a campaign to build a stronger interface with that technical section as well.

These technical sections are discussing interesting, advanced technologies and applications worthy of your time and attention. Check into some of their activities; I suspect that participation and growth in the sections will increase significantly as more members dip in to see what is offered.

If I were a Young Professional (YP) member today, I would be delving into

  • The opportunities and allocation challenges presented by multiphase flowmeters.
  • The advanced robots, submarines, and drones that are the main foci in the Unmanned Systems technical section.

Chatting with Ed Tovar, the chair of the Unmanned Systems technical section a couple of weeks ago got us reminiscing about the heady days when we were YPs and convinced that technology transfer from the space program would facilitate all sorts of creative federal demonstration partnership initiatives in the frontier deepwater and Arctic areas.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the industry was working on concepts that are only now being applied at the commercial scale or are just becoming feasible with real-time data management for process control, improved communications bandwidth, and subsea power cables. Maybe, as with the current space exploration programs, we don’t need to bring all the data back in real time. By trusting the technology, we could allow distributed remote control within a safe operating envelope, defined by simulation studies that focus on process safety.

I recall screening studies in support of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean that envisioned not only total subsea production stations with multiphase pumps and meters, but also submarine-based control centers and well-servicing units. One of these concepts even considered the use of giant submarines to transport oil and LNG under the Arctic ice—science fiction for techies to identify the technology gaps that merited R&D funding.   

This led to a subsequent discussion with a different group about how we can envision having representatives from each of the five technical sections working collaboratively on a remote deepwater development concept in which only the multiphase line, power and chemical supply lines, and the control bundle would come back to the host facility. The entire water management system could conceivably be operated remotely with makeup water being drawn from the ocean, treated, and blended with the produced water using an integral water softening unit to ensure compatibility to mitigate any scaling risks.

Oh, it would be so much fun to be a YP in a technology development team right now! So many new materials, tools, data processing capabilities, information management, and remote-control capabilities are becoming available in the toolbox. Just think of the technology transfer and spinoffs from the Mars Exploration Programs, as well as the drone concepts that will be declassified by the military over the next decade.

Canadian developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik proposes that “it’s not that children are little scientists; it’s that scientists are big children.” I would change "scientists" to "engineers."

Daniel J. Levitin,a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist, wrote in The Globe and Mail, "Scientists, and I would add artists and entrepreneurs, spend a great deal of time exploring, playing, figuring out what the world is like. That curiosity fuels creativity and innovation."

On a more mundane, but important, level, I remind you to renew your membership. It is especially convenient to do this online. Besides discounted event registrations, there are many other membership benefits. And YPs, check out the benefits you’ll gain. The eMentoring program offers rewarding cross-generational opportunities.


Bob Pearson, Glynn Resources, is the SPE Technical Director for Production and Facilities.