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OTM Consulting on maximizing tech investments

OTM Consulting's general manager Crispin Keanie on maximizing R&D

Keanie says real technology development is now taking place in the region.
Keanie says real technology development is now taking place in the region.

OTM Consulting’s general manager Crispin Keanie on how to stay competitive and maximise your R&D and technology investments

Everyone wants more for their money, but sometimes we don’t realise how much more we can get for it. It can take a specialist advisory firm like OTM Consulting to really uncover the value of investments in research, development, and technology.

Headquartered in the UK, the international consultancy is dedicated to advising the oil and gas industry on technology management. It was only in the summer of 2011 that the company opened its Middle East office to service its local clients.

For OTM’s general manager, Crispin Keanie, there are three types of clients in the Middle East. The first are the national oil companies in the region who, “almost without exception, have been significantly growing their research and technology activities over the past five years.”

The second are the international oil companies which were the company’s principal client base until a few years ago. Finally, there are the technology developers who see the Middle East as a large potential market to launch their technologies but are unclear on the specific technology needs of the region.

Keanie’s exposure to the technology market in the Middle East has afforded him some valuable insight into the major trends.

First among these, is the “shift in momentum within the global oil & gas industry with new hubs of focused research/technology activity taking-off away from our traditional innovation centres of North America and Europe,” he reveals.

He highlights Brazil as an example of a very exciting area at the moment for its Deepwater technology with huge investments in local R&D from Petrobras, its production partners and key suppliers.

“In the same way, the Middle East is realising that it can’t wait for others to tackle some of its very specific needs and requirements and is starting to develop significant expertise here in the region,” he says.

Secondly, Keanie has noticed that the regional GCC governments are all determined to advance the intellectual capital in the region to provide long-term sustainability to their hydrocarbon dominated economies.

He suggests that a key factor to achieving this will be to continue the growth of R&D, technology and innovation capabilities and capacities.

“This is a slow process, particularly as there still remains the problem of growing local capabilities fast enough and so there will continue to be a hybrid approach, linking into leading institutes and companies around the world,” he explains.

“But all the GCC countries are moving in the right direction, driven by proactive government initiatives.” Abu Dhabi’s Technology Development Council, Oman’s Technology and Research Council and Qatar’s Science and Technology Park, are all examples of this shift in Keanie’s eyes.

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Thirdly, Keanie believes that there has been a change in attitudes from external parties within the industry towards research centres in the region.
“In the past, some companies have merely shown lip-service to Middle East R&D and technology centres, with the cutting-edge work still done back in Europe and North America,” he remembers.

“Now, people are starting to realise that serious R&D and technology development is being done and can be done here in the Middle East.”

Fourthly, says Keanie, as with any technology development, there has to be significant end-user pull if any progress is going to be made. In this regard, until recently, the region hasn’t had the best track record for application of new technology.

“However, we’d see this as simple market forces at work: if you can produce production quotas without the need for new technology, then why take the risk on new technology?” he asks.

“I’m pleased to say that we’re seeing this attitude pushed out of many companies with a growing realisation that technology is and will continue to be a key factor in providing long-term stewardship of their resource base,” he says.

The result has been an increased interest in applying new technology and an adoption of the necessary mechanisms to promote the uptake of new technology.
“Indeed, in focused areas, such as onshore seismic interpretation, aspects of EOR, ICDs, large scale reservoir simulation we can confidently say that Middle Eastern oil companies are leaders within the global industry,” says Keanie.

Keanie believes that ultimately, the regional oil and gas R&D and technology landscape is currently going through a significant growth period that will continue for many years to come.

“It has a long way to go to compete with traditional oil and gas technology hubs,” he says. “But the intent is there and we’re already starting to see some interesting outputs as well.”

To meet the changes in the oil and gas technology sector, OTM Consulting offers four key service areas: The first is in providing focused E&P technology market intelligence.

“As clients look to engage with and invest in E&P technology they often want a wider perspective than they can obtain internally, or via partners, so they turn to OTM for an independent view,” says Keanie.

From R&D capabilities to state-of-the-art and technology benchmarking the company deals with technical areas from subsurface and wells through to subsea facilities and gas processing.

The second is in providing technology and research and development strategy advice. As technology programs evolve, they can become increasingly difficult to manage effectively, both in terms of content and processes.

“Indeed, OTM’s analysis shows that it isn’t how much you spend on technology that brings increased value, but rather it is how effectively you mange technology that dictates how much value you realise,” says Keanie.

The third is in supporting clients as they commercialise technology through reduced time-to-deployment, better quality of technology application and better IP management.

“As the region develops, for the first time, unique areas of IP and technology, then the challenge of how to commercialise effectively and how to maximise its value becomes an issue,” he explains.

Finally, OTM Consulting provides the unique service of being proactively engaged with technology practitioners and actively facilitates the adoption and uptake of technology via 25 pan-industry networks and collaborative initiatives such as standards development.

Keanie argues that the region is starting to collaborate more around technology development but there is still a long way to go, and a key thing for OTM is to ensure that the ME oil companies, as well as working well together, are engaging effectively with the wider industry.

As a technology consultant, Keanie does have some valuable advice for operators in the region as they seek to maximise the value they gain from R&D and technology: “First I’d suggest the need to clearly understand and define the role of technology for your company and remain focused on following-through on the strategy to deliver it,” he says.

In the technology and R&D business, it is very easy to get excited by an interesting technology or a charismatic champion, but if it doesn’t align with your strategic direction then it can just be a distraction and potentially a large drain on resources, explains Keanie.

“Secondly, I’d suggest the need to empower staff in R&D and technology. There has never been a more important time to get and keep our best people in R&D and technology as we seek to tackle the ever increasing technical challenges within our E&P business,” he adds.

But this is only possible if they feel inspired by management’s vision for the role of technology within the company, valued through rewarding career pathways, and encouraged as assets and central research and technology groups work effectively together to develop, adopt and deploy new technology.
Two very simple suggestions for a very complex industry segment.

OTM Consulting will be exhibiting at MEOS for the first time this year.
“With Saudi Aramco as the leading player in the region in terms of R&D and technology, we’ve always found MEOS to be an exciting venue with lots of attention paid to the sorts of things that we’re interested in,” says Keanie.

“And given that we’ve now worked or have contracts progressing in all of the GCC, it seemed like the natural move to raise our profile at the regional level with existing and potential clients,” he adds.

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