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6 Tech Advancements Changing the Fossil Fuels Game

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Plus, which companies to watch -- and own.

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LNG Technology: Floating Is Not a Fantasy

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) technology-from LNG seaborne tankers and LNG trains to floating LNG facilities have quickly gone from concept to commercialization, opening up new possibilities in new frontiers and rendering the remote-well, much less remote.

Liquefaction of natural gas is the process of super-cooling natural gas to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 162 degrees Celsius) at which point it becomes much safer and easier to transport. After shipped to its destination, regasification plants at importing or receiving terminals return the fuel to a gaseous state.

Floating LNG production, storage and offloading concepts are revolutionary because they have the ability to station a vessel directly over distant fields, removing the need for offshore pipelines and adding the advantage of mobility-these floating facilities can be moved to a new location once existing fields are depleted.

Floating liquefaction technology can bring additional LNG supply by accessing stranded gas reserves that were previously thought to be too remote, small or otherwise challenging for conventional land-based LNG development.

Shell's (NYSE:RSD.A) most prized LNG project is its Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) Project in Australia, which is moored some 200 kilometers out to sea and will produce gas from offshore fields and liquefy it onboard. This vessel will be six times bigger than the biggest aircraft carrier and will cost between $10.8 and $12.6 billion to build-but it also means that Shell won't have to pay rising prices in Australia's onshore LNG plants. The facility will produce about 3.6 million metric tons of LNG and 1.3 million tons of gas condensate a year.

M2M for Oil and Gas: Getting Smarter and More Connected

The hottest arena in the smart grid world is machine-to-machine (M2M) technology-an industry worth $1 trillion. It's relevance to the oil and gas industry should not be underestimated. Now it's about to get even bigger because the cost of sensors used to make M2M possible has fallen so much that they are BEYOND commercially viable; and wireless networks are now cheap and everywhere. This is the next frontier in cross-sector technology.

M2M device use in the oil and gas industry is set to more than double, as these technologies (including SCADA Telemetry-- supervisory control and data acquisition) emerge as key differentiators in expediting oil and gas exploration and accelerating operational efficiencies.

Adopting M2M early on enables remote monitoring and allows for more flexible control of assets from wellhead to pipeline. It also enables fiscal metering, drilling monitoring and fleet management, as well as worker safety and accident response.

It means higher productivity and eventually, lower costs for the oil and gas industry.

This is the important part: The number of devices with cellular or satellite connectivity deployed in oil and gas applications worldwide is expected to rise more than 20% over the next several years.

The top two applications for M2M in the oil and gas sector are in-land pipeline monitoring and onshore well-field-equipment monitoring.

The drivers are new regulations, rising operating costs (think unconventional drilling) and increasing competition (a lot more players on the field, and the rising ranks of the juniors).

Who to Watch (and Own)

In the high-tech hydrocarbons game these are our four picks: General Electric (NYSE:GE) for subsea infrastructure; Transocean (NYSE:RIG) for deep and ultra-deepwater rigs, Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) for 3D seismic, and FMC Technologies (NYSE:FTI).

As upward pressure pushes up day rates for deep-water (especially ultra-deep) rigs, it's Transocean all the way. This year's already been a pretty good year for Transocean, despite some rather serious legal problems, and it's got a nice backlog of contracts. But we're also looking at Ensco (NYSE:ESV) and SeaDrill (NYSE:SDRL).

But hands down, it's GE Oil & Gas, General Electric's fastest-growing segment, with annual 16% revenue growth over the last three years. GE is one of the most diverse companies out there, and it has carved itself a nice niche in the oil and gas sector. And it's impressively forward-thinking-from massive LNG projects to subsea drilling equipment. GE is positioned to experience significant growth.

This year has been an amazing year for GE Oil & Gas, with a list of contracts that would impress the biggest skeptic. Since January, GE has sealed a $620 million, 22-year contract for QGC's Queensland Curtis LNG plant offshore Australia; a $333 million 16-year contract extension for Russia's Sakhalin-2 LNG plant; a $500 million contract with Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) for new pre-salt projects in Brazil; $600 million in multiple-customer propulsion system contracts; and most recently, a $147 million deal with Statoil (NYSE:STO) for carbon dioxide injection. Adding to GE Oil & Gas' market share here is the recent acquisition of Lufkin Industries. Though it had a very rough time of things during the financial crisis, GE has turned around-and quickly. Downsizing GE's Capital Division has been fortuitous, and we see huge things ahead for this company.

This article was written by analysts at Oilprice.com.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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