Oil reps to gather today for 3-day conference at UH

Harlesica Wooten

News Reporter

An estimated 350 oil industry and materials experts from around the world will gather starting today at the University Hilton hotel for an international conference to discuss offshore technological advances that may extend the Gulf Coast region's mini oil boom.

The technology presented at the Second International Conference on Composite Materials for Offshore Operations may help revolutionize offshore oil drilling, said Richard Vennett, director of the University of Houston's Composites Engineering and Applications Center.

Representatives from European and Far- and Middle Eastern oil companies, parts manufacturers and supporting industries will review recent developments in advanced composite material and structural technologies for offshore oil exploration and production.

The advances in composite components will enable the production of oil reserves at deep water depths while reducing cost, Vennett said.

"Before, it was not economically feasible for offshore production of oil and gas to proceed beyond depths of about 5,000 feet," he explained.

"However, with new lightweight, noncorrosive equipment and structures, it may now be possible to drill and produce at depths of up to 10,000 feet."

Being able to drill and produce economically at deeper depths will generate more jobs and may ultimately lead to a more secure source of energy.

While drilling and producing oil in the deep water areas of the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea is costly, the latest technological advances offer the potential to reduce costs.

"We can downsize some of the supporting structures," Vennett said, "and make exploring for oil domestically a worthwhile investment."

Downsizing equipment could save companies millions of dollars, and the savings could be passed along to consumers.

One of the objectives of this conference is to review the progress made in the United States and Europe in the development of composite technology since the first workshop, which took place in Houston in October 1993.

"It's a pretty important conference," said CEAC Director of Industry Programs Jerry Williams. "It's important for UH, the city of Houston and the industry."

Primary sponsors of the event include CEAC, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Petroleum Technology Office, the American Bureau of Shipping, Shell Oil Co. Foundation, DuPont/Conoco and the Exxon Education Foundation.

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