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Unlocking America’s energy potential

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The first two parts of the report America’s Energy, America’s Choice looked at securing an energy future  for the nation and encouraging jobs and growth. The third section looks more closely at the innovations and infrastructure that will help unlock the potential the country has within the global energy industry.

The oil and natural gas industry is reportedly one of the most technologically advanced in the US, ensuring that the industry can continue to grow and develop with even less environmental impact. It is thanks to this technological advancement that the US unconventional revolution has occured and contributed to the security of energy supply. However, to make even greater progress, the American Petroleum Institute (API), believe that ‘America must choose to support policies that not only encourage the innovative production of oil and natural gas resources, but that also enable the US to maintain the necessary refining capability and infrastructure required to transport oil and natural gas.’

State of the art

Onshore, the oil and gas industry has made leaps and bounds with its technology development. Deeper wells can now be drilled and multiple wells can now be drilled from a single pad site. Also, underground work has developed with the use of polycrystalline diamond compact bits. Offshore, ultra deepwater plays are now utilised due to semi submersible technology developments.

When it comes to exploration there have also been developments in the form of 3D seismic mapping. 4D is also now in play, especially when it comes to seeking for underground reservoirs and plotting their developments over time. According to America’s Energy, America’s Choice, ‘these and other innovations are transforming the way the industry produces oil and natural gas [and] America’s refiners are [also] now incorporating new technologies to improve fuel choices.’

Refining and the fuels of the future

US refineries, reportedly, produce some of the cleanest gasoline and diesel in the world and according to the report, ‘new vehicle emission requirements are largely possible through gasoline and diesel fuel advancements achieved at America’s refineries.’

Sulfur content has been lowered dramatically in gasoline thanks to refining technology developments. Also, with even more advanced vehicles on the road, the US refining industry is expected to play a key part in providing the fuels of the future. CNG and natural gas fuels are two things that are becoming more commonplace as well as LNG fuels, all of which are usually used for fleet vehicles.

Biofuels are also becoming an important part of the refining industry, as they are possibly the next key fuel. However, development is expensive and vast sums of money have already been invested in them. Yet, the industry cannot ignore them if US refiners are to stay competitive.


Transportation, be it by rail, truck, sea or pipeline is integral to the oil and gas industry, as without it, the industry would be centralised and static around key resource points. Also, each infrastructure needs to be kept robust to ensure ‘that energy can reliably and efficiently reach consumers.’ The US does currently have the largest oil and gas pipeline network in the world covering over 2.6 million miles and carries 14 billion bbls/y of oil. Rail is a popular and important mode of transport also, however, pipelines do come out tops.

Yet, the US pipeline infrastructure needs to be increased as according to the report, ‘oil and natural gas produced at remote new wells in America now need to be transported to US refineries and processing facilities before they can be moved to market.’ And this appears to be the next big challenge that the US industry is facing, but is the Keystone XL, rail or sea going to be the biggest solution to this challenge? This is yet to be seen. 

Written by Claira Lloyd.

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