As finding resources means more remote locations, technology is key

Tue, 10/13/2009

Sheila McNulty

As oil and gas companies the world over are searching increasingly remote locations for new sources of oil and gas, technology is going to play a growing role in accessing those resources. It is also going to play a major role in maintaining them and keeping them flowing.

That is why consultants have long urged the sector to increase its research and development budgets. Yet there may be a faster and cheaper solution to technological advances than in-house research.

RealityMobile, the mobile technology company, says it has secured $6.5m in capital in a round led by Energy Ventures, an independent venture capital firm, in conjunction with the venture capital arm of Chevron Technology Ventures and communications investor, the Dobson Partnership. The funding will allow Reality Mobile to bring its real time mobile software system into the energy sector. The group has already made inroads into government and defense markets.

Reality Mobile is opening a Houston office with sales and support staff. It is offering software that allows users to collectively see high-value assets and data that may be in need of repair or assessment, anywhere in the world, through any wireless network. Through the platform, known as the RealityVisison, users can securely transmit live video from virtually any camera source, from cell phones to high definition cameras, and share it immediately, in real time, with any and all system users.

So if a hurricane has hit a platform, for example, an oil company could use the system to see which experts needed to be brought to the scene, instead of flying out several people on expensive flights, to make such assessments. Here is what the company’s chairman, Patrick McVeigh, had to say:

Some events are unexpected. Companies need to bring experts and decision makers on site. That’s what we allow them to do. RealityVision allows you to be in the same place as your colleagues around the world. Whether they are in the office interpreting data, or on a rig off the coast of Angola, you can bring key personnel to the same level of visual understanding of an asset, with a push of a button. The expertise you need can be virtually by your side in moments.

While the technology clearly could be used in many industries, the companies are targeting the energy sector, which has done better than most throughout the downturn, despite falling commodity prices. Not only does the sector have money and promise of earnings for years to come, but there is a clear expectation that the energy sector will increasingly rely on technology as the world looks for smaller carbon footprints from companies, and accessible fossil fuel resources become increasingly scarce given resource nationalism.

On top of that, many experienced staffers in the energy industry are reaching retirement age, which means there will be fewer experts to spread around the globe. This is what attracted Leif Andre Skare, partner with Energy Ventures:

In many industries, and especially in energy, experts are a strained commodity. Giving field teams visual access to the right experts in real time will improve and speed decision making, while helping companies avoid costly downtime and dangerous situations.