Over the past year, the United States has made significant strides toward energy independence. With the crude oil export ban lifted in January 2016, exports of crude oil have finally started to rise. While we still import most of the oil used in the U.S., we are growing our position as a low cost supplier internationally.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has seen similar successes thanks to low prices and growing demand. This is a good thing for end-users, but does present added competition for the oil industry. Costs need to remain low among both resources to stay competitive in this changing landscape. Even within the natural gas sector, low prices have created a buyer’s market where suppliers have less control. This can certainly present a challenge down the road.
Other challenges include natural disasters. 2017 saw an active hurricane season that included Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged Texas. While the oil industry bounced back fairly quickly, the destruction left behind is a constant reminder of how vulnerable the supply chain is to unforeseen circumstances.
New technologies aim to reduce some of this vulnerability, however. The introduction of artificial intelligence in the oil and gas sector has led to greater oversight of energy production. Automated data analysis makes it faster and easier to see which wells have the highest production, and which ones may require attention. The goal is to maximize productivity while keeping costs down.
The constant data analysis can also show which oil wells may be malfunctioning or require service. Repair crews can be deployed before a major breakdown occurs, which can prevent downtime and reduce costs. Automating data entry can even improve accuracy and make it easier for everyone to view data in real time and make informed decisions. It also makes forecasting easier since you can refer back to monthly numbers and track trends.
Over the next year, we expect to see greater investment into new technologies to streamline oil and gas productivity and tracking. We also expect 2018 to be a strong year as we continue to boost exports and remain competitive as a global energy supplier.
As a sheet metal fabricator supporting the oil and gas industry, Red River Precision is already seeing heightened demand in this sector. We expect to see this trend continue throughout the year, and hopefully beyond.