What drives innovation in the upstream hydrocarbon industry?

Jeffrey B. Thurston and Robert R. Stewart


Anecdotal evidence suggests that the pace of technology development in the exploration and development (E&D) industry quickens in response to the necessity for cutting costs when commodity prices are low. Our review of the history of significant E&D technology advancements leads us to believe this model dos not adequately explain previous technology cycles. Rather, we suggest clusters of E&D innovations have been a response to demand pull and/or technology push. This perspective points to a current confluence of favorable drivers. Historically, alignments like this have fostered technological booms that have led to diffusion of some of the industry's most important technologies.

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