Despite the Norwegian setting, the Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) conference and exhibition in Stavanger at the end of August had a strong Middle East theme.

More than 91,000 delegates and 1,300 exhibitors attended the event, which had Saudi Aramco as the main conference sponsor and featured a series of sessions devoted to the Middle East.

Technology and innovation were also key topics of discussion and the ONS Innovation Awards recognised two prime examples in the form of the SME Innovation Award to Fishbones and the Innovation Award to Schlumberger. Fishbones is an innovation based start-up company based on the fishbone idea—a completion method for making large numbers of laterals simultaneously out of one wellbore. Schlumberger was recognised for its GeoSphere reservoir mapping while drilling service. The service enables subsurface teams to get a picture of the reservoir, bringing new abilities to understand formation geometry, reservoir quality and oil water contacts.

Meanwhile, it was clear that the Middle East will be a key region for the industry for decades to come. Khalid A. Al-Falih, president and chief executive officer of Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil producer, said its investments will exceed $40 billion a year during the next decade. The bulk of this investment will be in upstream and increasingly from offshore, with the aim of maintaining maximum sustained oil production capacity at 12 million bpd, while also doubling gas production. The aim is to meet the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's (KSA) rising energy demand with gas for power and industry and refined products for transport, while also meeting the global call on its crude oil.

The Andrews Kurth team at the event included Dubai office managing partner Hugh Fraser, Houston-based partner Jeff Dodd, chair of Andrews Kurth's intellectual property and technology transactions group, and Angela Ewen, head of Andrews Kurth's business registration and licensing team for the Middle East and North Africa.

Hugh Frasersaid: "Hi-tech companies in Norway clearly recognise the technology requirements across the industry in the Middle East. More than 30 member companies of INTSOK (Norwegian Oil and Gas Partners) expressed interest in the KSA market, which is not surprising in light of the scale of investment over the next 10 years highlighted by Saudi Aramco during the conference.

Given our ongoing work with Norwegian clients, I am pleased to report Norwegian attorney Lisbeth Maier is re-joining the Andrews Kurth Middle East team on a consultancy basis and we look forward to drawing on her extensive experience of both markets.

As a team at ONS, we were also struck by the huge rate of innovation and opportunity within the subsea market. The industry has major requirements in regions from the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico to Brazil, Australia and Malaysia, but subsea companies are also watching Red Sea initiatives with interest and see future prospects there."

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