The factory of new knowledge

Energy Transition Group
6 Jan 2015

BP’s Chief Scientist, Angela Strank has described the oil and gas sector as ‘a factory of new knowledge’ in a prestigious academic lecture on technology and innovation.

Delivering the 2014 Huxley Lecture at Imperial College, London, Strank said, “oil and gas is a business that offers the opportunity to work at the very forefront of scientific research and development, human knowledge and endeavour, and importantly, to help provide people with the energy, heat and light they need for economic and social development.”

Surge of innovation

Strank spoke about “a surge of innovation happening in the oil and gas industry at the moment, bringing together digital and big data, nano, bioscience, robotics, advanced materials, computational modelling, energy storage and many other disciplines.”

“Technology is coming from many sectors and more countries than ever before as we assimilate innovation from the aeronautics industry, mining, pharmaceuticals, automotive and elsewhere,” said Strank, who also emphasised the importance of strategic technology relationships. “When innovation is happening so fast, we stand or fall through the strength and quality of our technical partners,” she said.

Innovation needed to overcome challenges

After starting her lecture with a brief history of innovation in the oil and gas sector, Strank then set out the challenges for energy innovation that are presented by the world’s population growing, the world economy growing, and energy demand growing by over 40% by 2035. “The challenge ahead is not just one of meeting substantially growing demand. We have to do to so in a way that is safe and reliable, and which meets global aspirations for a more prosperous future while minimising the consequences for the planet,” she said.

Strank then talked about how the oil and gas sector is rising to the challenge, describing  a number of BP’s industry-leading technologies including advanced seismic imaging, enhanced oil recovery (EOR), BP Well Adviser, advanced fuels and lubricants, and Permasense® ultrasound technology.

To illustrate the impact of new seismic imaging techniques, coupled with the 3.8 petaflop processing power of BP’s supercomputer in Houston, Strank said, “It now takes a geophysicist a single day to carry out analyses that would have taken four years only a decade ago.”

Following her explanation of Bright Water® and LoSal® EOR, two of BP’s suite of enhanced oil recovery technologies, Strank said that the potential of EOR is such that “more oil may be recoverable from reservoirs already discovered than from potential new discoveries.”

Father of Earth Sciences

The Huxley Lecture is named after T H Huxley, an eminent 19th Century British palaeontologist and biologist who is considered to the founding father of earth sciences. It is hosted by the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College, London – one of the world’s leading universities and a key part of BP's innovation ecosystem. Head of Department, Professor Jan Cilliers, said, “The 2014 Huxley Lecture delivered by Dr Strank was tremendous. Her excitement at being part of the oil and gas industry was infectious, and the talk was an inspiration for the students attending to join it.”


Read the full lecture on