Should oil prices remain low to 2018, the attractiveness of oil plays in Arctic regions, deep water environments, and shale oil and heavy oil fields will remain low in the absence of new incentives.


Inevitably, the Oil & Gas industry is prioritizing technologies which drive meaningful efficiencies.

This includes automation in areas such as drilling and inspection, but also in areas like autonomous or remote controlled choking back of high water and gas producing zones using smart completions. Digitalization will clearly impact many areas, and is an integral aspect of automation (e.g. in autonomous drilling monitoring and diagnostics), but one area of potentially substantial impact is monitoring and data analytics to achieve the necessary flow conditions for stable and economic subsea production. 

Other areas of technology take-up rely more on new risk-based approaches and cooperation with regulators, for example with rigless plugging and abandonment, or instances where the benefits of new technology are multi-faceted – as in the case of biodegradable polymers for enhanced oil recovery which hold both economics and environmental benefits.

Photo credit: Statoil

02 Huisman 27-03-08.jpg


Advanced automation technology can fundamentally change how a well is drilled, but needs a complete redesign of drilling-related processes to reap the full benefits. Photo credit: © Huisman Equipment B.V.

Close Learn More

Drilling is a significant part of oil companies’ expenditures. Exploration and appraisal wells are high-risk, high-cost activities, while production well drilling is typically half of total field development CAPEX. In addition to these concerns comes safety: incidents involving personnel or the environment during drilling operations can and do break companies.

To enable continuous drilling operations, where a well is constructed without any interruptions to the process, several technologies need to be in place:

  • Automated drill pipe handling: Significantly reduces the risks to personnel by removing the need for people on the drill floor. Automated solutions are able to cater for using longer pipe sections, reducing the number of connections, and by that decreasing the time needed, especially for tripping and completion operations.
  • Managed pressure drilling (MPD): A closed, pressurized system that continuously and automatically controls the bottomhole pressure in the well. Enhanced pressure control increases safety and reduces downtime during complex drilling operations through improved detection of, and response to, anomalies.
  • Single trip drilling / drilling while completing: Depends on automation and MPD, and further accelerates the drilling and completion of a well. Removing the requirement to re-enter the well multiple times also improves safety, especially in challenging areas.
  • Drilling process monitoring and diagnostics: Linking topside and downhole measurements with analyses feeding directly into the automated control is the next step following the array of current measure-while-drilling capabilities. Automated drilling systems can utilize a larger number of data points to make correct decisions, especially when needing to adapt to dynamic events, and present relevant data to the operators in charge without overwhelming them in critical situations.

Automated drilling technology will make more wells economically feasible, enabling drilling of smaller targets and adding a higher number of infill production wells. The implications of automation will be felt throughout the performance of drilling operations, as automated rigs will change the roles of the different parties involved.



Completing a well is a time consuming and costly operation that requires a rig, and altering the completion once in place has traditionally been both expensive and cumbersome.

Close Learn More

In order to be able to drain a reservoir efficiently, avoiding excessive water or gas production, it may be necessary to close individual production zones in wells as they experience gas or water breakthrough. Smart completion systems involve either autonomous or remote-controlled choking back of high gas and water producing zones. Low-cost smart completions, which can be easily reconfigured without a rig, have the potential to improve production from complex reservoirs significantly, including from thin oil pay zones. These completions can allow more optimal locations of drainage points for a high recovery factor. Smart completions with multiple drainage points per well, which can be easily opened or closed, can fundamentally improve well performance through improved reservoir management at reduced cost. Moreover, by being able to limit the volumes of associated gas or water production, the residual processing capacity is available for other wells.



In 2025, we expect subsea solutions to rely actively on monitoring and data analytics to achieve the necessary flow conditions for stable production.

Close Learn More

The development of multiphase flow capabilities has enabled subsea production by simple, effective, and safe wellstream transport from the wellhead to the processing facility. Despite being enabled by advanced flow modelling, subsea systems have traditionally been quite simple from a control and monitoring perspective. This simplicity has allowed subsea systems to deliver reliable production from 5,000 wells around the globe.

Subsea system integrity and main flow parameters are monitored from remote control rooms 24/7. By 2025, we expect active monitoring and data analytics to optimize flow conditions for stable production. Better prediction of flow-related problems leads to quicker action to assure continuous flow, which has a significant impact on field economy through reduced downtime. More importantly, improved control over the flow and process conditions allows operation closer to the physical limits for a stable multiphase flow. This is especially relevant for heavier or waxy oil, gas with high liquid content, and large sand production. This is expected to enable simplifications in field development solutions, e.g., through longer tie-ins and simpler designs.

The increased level of monitoring will also cover the integrity of the system and the surrounding environment, including improved leak detection. Data gathered from subsea systems will also improve inspection, maintenance, and repair strategies. In sum, this will help designers and operators to safeguard a stable uninterrupted flow, while boosting confidence in the integrity of the system.



Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were first developed for military purposes but are being increasingly taken up by civilian and commercial users.

Close Learn More

Monitoring of onshore and offshore pipelines is expected to increase owing to the growing demand for energy in the face of challenges such as criminal activities (tapping and stealing of oil), terrorist attacks, and climate change effects (e.g., landslides).

AUVs performing regular pipeline inspection will provide a more efficient approach than using remote operated underwater vehicles (ROV). AUVs will be equipped with sonars, cameras, and sensors to sniff for a leakage of methane or oil.

For onshore pipelines, UAVs will be employed, but presently their use is limited owing to the lack of regulations and procedures for operation in the civil airspace. One scenario is to use high-altitude long endurance UAVs that operate above the commercial air-traffic heights (> 17 km), equipped with highly sophisticated sensor systems including radar, optical, and infrared imagers. Today’s UAVs are limited by range and endurance, but solar- powered drones are being developed for military and commercial use.

Photo credit: Courtesy Kongsberg Maritime

Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) generally refers to measures to achieve a higher oil recovery than that obtained by water injection alone.


Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) typically aims to enhance the sweep area or mobilize otherwise immobile oil, and use of polymers is one means for enhancing the sweep area.

Close Learn More

A polymer is a long chain of molecules, and, by adding polymers, the viscosity of the injection water can be increased to resemble the properties of the oil more closely, thereby increasing the swept area. In addition, by adding other polymers, a gel-like plug can be formed, diverting the water around the plug and forcing the water to take new routes through the reservoir.

One challenge with using additives in injection water is subsequent production of injection water with additives. An environmentally friendly alternative could be provided by degradable, non-toxic biopolymers, typically sugar-based, which are readily available and suitable for large-scale deployment by 2025.

P&A currently accounts for 40-50% of total decommissioning costs


New technologies for plugging and abandonment (P&A) are needed for permanent plugging of wells much more cost effectively. In order to achieve this, the operation needs to be performed without a rig.

Close Learn More

At the end of a field’s lifetime, all wells must be permanently plugged and secured to avoid future leaks. Current technologies for P&A generally require a rig to perform the time-consuming task of permanent plugging, which equates with high expenditure. Given that rig slots could also be used for value-generating drilling of exploration, appraisal, or production wells, P&A, which is pure cost, is typically left for later. In the North Sea alone, there are 8,000 wells that have not been adequately plugged.

Rigless P&A offers significant cost reductions. It implies that P&A should be performed with the well tubing in place. Suitable technologies are presently operational in some regions and for some low-risk well types, but most wells currently require rig-assisted P&A.

Rigless P&A requires that new regulations are introduced which acceptance criteria for validation of long-term integrity.Both governments and oil companies have a common interest in plugging old wells to minimize the risk of future oil spills from wells with temporary plugs, and in accelerating uptake of low-cost P&A technologies.

According to US Energy Information Administration, LNG may gain 35% of the US rail fuel market share by 2040.


Greater use of natural gas in transport is one way of improving urban air quality and reducing emissions.

Close Learn More

Regulatory limitations on NOX emissions and air particulate matter levels have been introduced stepwise over the past decade, requiring the transportation industry to use more cleanly burning fuels or to install filters and equipment to clean the engine exhaust. In addition, gas prices are lower and more stable than diesel. In Europe, LNG-fuelling infrastructure is well underway and will connect 12 countries (LNG Blue Corridor). Interest by commercial fleet owners in LNG-fuelled vehicles has risen significantly over the past decade, owing to on-going concerns about emissions, a better spread between lower-priced natural gas and higher-priced diesel fuel, and improved operational efficiencies.

Only a quarter of the world’s railway lines are electrified; in Europe, more than 50% of railway lines are electrified; in North America nearly none. According to US Energy Information Administration, LNG may gain 35% of the US rail fuel market share by 2040.

With current low gas prices in US, there will be a push towards LNG as fuel in the US market that will probably spread to other countries. LNG fuel in the US is now produced from LNG peak-shaving plants, but with more US liquefaction production capacity, use of LNG as fuel will become more attractive.

Source: US Energy Inormation Administration (2014)

Download PDF

1. Fill in details/ 2. Download

* Mandatory fields

Thank you for registering to download your copy of Technology Outlook 2025

Click the button below to download the report.

Would you like to learn more about DNV GL? Watch our video

Download PDF