Today as part of the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas I had the opportunity to visit Halliburton offices here in Houston. As one of the other bloggers said today, yes, that Halliburton. And the title of this post refers to this rather significant marketing/PR challenge this company has to deal with these days.
Say the word and most people probably think Dick Cheney and Iraq. I say this not to perpetuate this particular talking point nor to weigh in on the larger contractor debate at all. But I raise it because there is a tendency, or at the very least a temptation, to demonize large multi-national oil and gas companies or those involved in this industry.
"Big, dirty, money grubbing corporate monoliths that chew up trees and spit out crude oil to line the pockets of the wealthy and leave the poor to deal with the pollution and devastation." Al Gore and his accolytes scream this caricature into the system.
But what I saw today was technology and innovation aimed at making energy exploration and extraction efficent and productive; at saving time, money, and reducing risk. Does this involve money for Halliburton and the companies they serve? Sure. But it also means high technology development; cheaper, safer, and more effective energy; and thus jobs, wealth creation, and economic development across the globe. This is a good thing.
I am not an engineer so I can't adequetly explain the technology involved at the Edgar Oritz Real Time Center or the Decision Space Center. But I do know that having a company developing cutting edge technology of this sort is a good thing. I do know that the open, collaborative, and real time information and data sharing capabilities that Halliburton is developing is both incredible and changing the nature of the industry.
Instead of flying out to a rig or a site, these technologies allow remote access collaboration and control. Instead of waiting weeks for critical information about the geography and make-up of a particular site to be transferred to others who could use that information this technology allows it to be transmitted in real time. Instead of gaps in data and fire walls keeping information from being shared, this technology creates an open and collaborative process that stresses optimization and efficiency. All of this means better knowledge, less risk, and better decisions.
This technolgy has the ability to save a company hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. It also makes the process safer and with a smaller environmental footprint. And these efficiencies radiate outward and affect consumers as well.
So next time I think about Halliburton I will think about all of the incredibly technology and hard work that I witnessed today; and all of the talented and friendly people I met and talked with. If America is to meet its energy needs in the future, these are the type of people who will be providing the solutions. Innovation and solutions don't magically appear. They happen because smart people work hard and put it on the line every day. We need a system that rewards and encourages this.
Worth keeping in mind as we debate energy and environmental policy moving forward.