Is the oil and gas market ready to flip the switch on recovery?

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At this week’s OTC (Offshore Technology Conference), the keyword was probably cautious optimism for the oil and gas market. The event—which has been down since its record-breaking year in 2014 as gas prices plummeted—continues to get smaller, but fluid power manufacturers and show organizers are still preparing for a slow and steady ramp-up.

In 2014, OTC hit a 46-year high of 108,300 attendees, the highest in show history, with 680,025 ft² of exhibit space taken up by 2,568 companies. This year’s event saw just 64,700 exploring the 599,295 ft² of exhibit space taken up by 2,470 companies.

For most, long-term growth, focusing on R&D and helping to position rig operators for efficient operations is what is keeping most companies in the game. For example, while no major groundbreaking product announcements were announced, most companies had new lines designed to increase efficiency, safety and streamline operations.

Trelleborg-Deep-sea oil and gas market

Image courtesy of Trelleborg Offshore

Trelleborg, for example, has launched three new materials in its technically advanced multi-purpose perfluoroelastomer (FFKM) compound range to meet new challenges in oil and gas, said Chris Busby, Product Manager. Developed to be compatible with virtually all chemical media and over the widest temperature range possible, the newest Isolast formulations provide real benefits and cost advantages with optimum sealing reliability and extending service life.

Additionally, the company produced a study with fluid producer McDermaid to show the importance material and fluid compatibility has on a seal’s life, and thus, the life of the machine in which it operates. Understanding which fluid’s corrosion inhibitors and additives work best with different FFKMs means seals will have longer lives and increase operational productivity.

Over at Danfoss, Juston Lisk, market manager for Danfoss Power Solutions’ Marine, Oil and Gas division, echoed the cautious optimism sentiments. “We have a lot of people indicating that they’re building more equipment and things are trending in the upwards direction,” Lisk said. “Everyone’s focusing on efficiencies of their operations and trying to be more profitable with prices this low.”

Danfoss-3D-printer

Danfoss uses 3D printing technology to test assembly functions and operations, helping to time to market.

One example of these efficiencies was that Danfoss had a 3D printer on hand, which it uses to test how product assembly flows and works best, thus speeding up assembly and production, and increasing time to market. And rather than just show its Danfoss Power Solutions hydraulics division, the company also was highlighting other divisions, including Drives and Industrial Automation.

Lisk also said that with the OPEC production cuts, there has been a bit shit from the Middle East to North American production. “With Trump economics, there’s even potential because he’s talking about opening drilling on the East Coast. If that takes place, we could see some activity slowly and steadily.”

Show organizers, too, stressed the importance of innovation in helping to shape recovery for the oil and gas market.

“The energy industry is continuing to be transformed by the technological revolution taking place, and downturns tend to be the ultimate driver of the type of innovation that is often launched or showcased at OTC. Today, OTC is more important than ever as a venue for the type of learning and idea sharing necessary to propel greater efficiencies and safety,” said Joe Fowler, OTC 2017 chairman. “Thanks to the hard work of the OTC staff and volunteers, the conference once again upheld its commitment and delivered an unparalleled amount of information on new technologies as well as global developments to its attendees.”

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order on Monday directing the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to issue a new five-year plan for development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Zinke also spoke in a technical session titled, “Offshore Energy Policies: Harnessing the Full Potential of America’s Offshore,” and later toured the exhibition floor.

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