Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Partnering to Improve Environmental Performance

We are proud to announce our involvement in The Environmental Partnership, a new coalition of natural gas and oil companies focused on accelerating environmental performance improvements from operations across the U.S.

“The first program of The Environmental Partnership is focused on managing methane emissions. It aligns with our company focus on reducing emissions and maintaining high environmental standards as we supply the energy needed to drive economic growth and social well-being,” said Don Hrap, ConocoPhillips Lower 48 President. The 25 participating companies will begin implementing the voluntary program January 1, 2018.

The Environmental Partnership’s first initiative includes:
  1. Leak Program for Natural Gas and Oil Production Sources: Participants will implement monitoring and timely repair of fugitive emissions at selected sites utilizing detection methods and technologies such as Method 21 or Optical Gas Imaging cameras.
  2. Program to Replace, Remove or Retrofit High-Bleed Pneumatic Controllers: Participants will phase out high-bleed pneumatic controllers and install low-or zero-emitting devices.
  3. Program for Manual Liquids Unloading for Natural Gas Production Sources: Participants will minimize emissions associated with the removal of liquids that, as a well ages, can build up and restrict natural gas flow as a well ages.
While natural gas production increased 55 percent from 1990-2015, the natural gas and oil industry has reduced methane emissions from natural gas production 16.3 percent. Additionally, U.S. carbon emissions from energy consumption in 2016 were at their lowest level since 1992, partially due to greater natural gas use in electricity generation. The Environmental Partnership seeks to accelerate emissions reductions even further. Natural gas and oil companies of all sizes have pledged to further improve environmental performance by working with stakeholders and sharing best practices.
“Successful voluntary efforts by industry are the basis for regulatory regimes that are durable and sustainable over time,” said John Dabbar, ConocoPhillips Vice President, Federal and State Government Affairs. “The Environmental Partnership provides a mechanism for companies to share cost effective emission reducing innovations to deliver industry focus and action.”

We are proud to participate in The Environmental Partnership and encourage you to help spread the word about this effort by sharing this post on your social media platforms. (The icons at the top of the page should make this easy.)


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Friday, June 29, 2018

Mr. Charlie was the world’s first submersible and fully transportable drilling rig


The first truly offshore rigwas Mr. Charlie, designed and constructed from scratch by Ocean Drilling and Exploration Co.,headed by its inventor and president, "Doc" Alden J. Laborde. Its machinery were installed on a 220-foot floating barge, which allowed itto tow from one location to another in the search for reserves in the oil-rich waters of the Gulf. Once Mr. Charlie was situated over a drill site in depths averaging 40 feet, the giant pontoons were flooded with seawater to enable the vessel to rest on the sand for safe drilling.

Featuring a 500-ton hoist and durable welded construction, Mr. Charlie advanced the practice of coastal oil exploration from the stationary caisson structures used in the early 1950s to a revolutionary movable rig that allowed an entire field to be drilled.The rig became obsolete when the industry began to perform offshore Gulf Coast oil exploration in waters deeper than 40 feet. Mr. Charlie today is used as a museum exhibit and training facility.


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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Explore the Ideas all around the globe through Petrochemistry 2018

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

5 trends in oil & gas technology, and why you should care

Oil is in the news again. Last week, oil prices touched all-time highs due to Iranian export declines; the chief economist of the International Energy Agency said that high oil prices could cause an international recession. And whereas it looked like the State Department had put the breaks on the Keystone pipeline in November, President Obama announced last week that he was going to fast-track the construction of the southernmost portion of the project.
However, developments in oil and gas (O&G) are often overlooked in tech publications. It’s easy to see how technology is reinventing retail, entertainment, telecommunications, and healthcare, but there’s little discussion of tech’s impact on the universe of companies focused on natural resources extraction, such as petroleum, natural gas, and mining companies, aka “extractive industries.” The reality is, O&G is adopting a lot of new technologies, and a lot of funding is going into innovative companies that can help oil and gas companies work smarter.
(Chart based on the following patent classes: Solid Anti-Friction Devices, Materials Therefor, Lubricant or Separant Compositions for Moving Solid Surfaces, and Miscellaneous Mineral Oil Compositions; Mining or In Situ Disintegration of Hard Material; Mineral Oils: Processes and Products; Mineral Oils: Apparatus;Fuel and Related Compositions; Earth Boring, Well Treating, and Oil Field Chemistry; Chemistry of Hydrocarbon Compounds; Boring or Penetrating the Earth/)
Evidence of the increasing importance of oil and gas innovation is seen in patents, for example. The number of patents related to extractive industries more than doubled from 2005 to 2010.
Strategic investors in O&G technology include Chevron, BP, Energy Technology Ventures, a joint venture between GE, NRG, and ConocoPhillips, Statoil Ventures, and KPC Ventures. Statoil Ventures and KPC are especially noteworthy, because they are divisions of national oil companies (NOCs) — Statoil, Norway’s national oil company, and the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, respectively.
A Bain report highlighted the role that national oil companies play in spurring a country’s technological development – “the Petrobras Effect”:

Strategics are involved in not only funding companies, but in funding VC firms. According to its website, Chevron invests in firms such as Ampersand Ventures, Element Partners, EnerTech Capital, Nth Power, and RockPort Capital Partners. KPC Ventures backs Braemar Energy Ventures, Chrysalix, Emerald Technology Ventures, Conduit Ventures, Nth Power, and EnerTech Capital. Baker Hughes, Nalco, and Weatherford sponsor the Oil & Gas Innovation Center, and the Surge Accelerator was recently started to serve as a Houston-based incubator for energy startups.
Whether we like it or not, hydrocarbon fuels are not going away anytime soon, and innovations in O&G tech have the potential to impact everyone. If technology makes oil and gas easier, safer, cleaner, and cheaper to extract, energy prices and quality of life could improve for everybody. And if that doesn’t appeal to the better angels of your nature, it presents a huge business opportunity.
Here’s a look at the five key innovation areas the extraction industry is focused on — and where the biggest opportunities lie for O&G technologists:
1: Software “Eats” Oil and Gas: The Digital Oilfield and Beyond
As Marc Andreessen has written, software is “eating the world,” and O&G is no exception. “The Digital Oil Field” is something of a buzzword in the oil and gas industry – tossed around like “the cloud” or “big data” are in IT. The basic premise is a web-based visualization platform from which companies can manage, measure, and track all of the data coming from all over the oilfield.
FindingPetroleum has described the digital oilfield as an oilfield where “all the components integrate and communicate as well as your body does.” A McKinsey report describes a “digital oil field” where “instruments constantly read data on wellhead conditions, pipelines, and mechanical systems. That information is analyzed by clusters of computers, which feed their results to real-time operations centers that adjust oil flows to optimize production and minimize downtimes.”
This represents a big opportunity for oil and gas companies. According to Oil and Gas Investor, total upstream energy IT support spending is about 25 cents per barrel of oil. Booz & Co mentioned that some analysts believe digital oilfield technologies could increase the net present value of oil and gas assets by 25%.
A digital oilfield can also minimize the impact of the lack of qualified skilled labor; Booz & Co predicts that the labor gap could reach 1 million by 2015. The McKinsey report describes how “one major oil company” was able “to cut operating and staffing costs by 10 to 25 percent while increasing production by 5 percent.”
Major software companies have jumped on this trend. EMC announced a development center in Rio de Janeiro to focus on big data analytics for oil and gas. In fact, EMC boasts that more than 95% of Forbes Global 2000 oil and gas companies use its technology. Other large IT and software companies with solutions designed for oil and gas companies are IBM, Microsoft, Progress Software, Cisco, Wipro, and SAS. Schlumberger and Baker-Hughes, two major oilfield services companies, have significant digital oilfield practices. A smaller company in this space is Chevron Technology Ventures-backed Mobilize, which enables energy firms to aggregate data in real time from multiple vendors.
A handful of other venture-backed software companies are tackling O&G. Some small companies in the space include Transform Software and Services, a developer of visualization and interpretation software designed for geophysical, geological, and engineering workflows. FiveCubits provides tracking software and plant control systems for bulk material companies, including petroleum, coal, and minerals companies. Rock Flow Dynamics provides software tools for reservoir engineering, specifically a reservoir simulator.
2: Accessing the Previously Inaccessible
When Marco Polo visited Azerbaijan, he found oil gushing out of the ground. Today, oil is considerably harder to find, but new technologies are making the once-inaccessible accessible. For example, BP originally estimated it would only be able to recover 40% of the oil at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska but has since revised this upward to 60%. Some of the new techniques BP has used include fracturing the rocks (applying pressure to the rocks to create fine cracks that can stimulate the flow of trapped natural gas), injecting low salt water into a reservoir to push out oil trapped in rock pores, injecting carbon dioxide into wells, and feeding in certain micro-organisms to help oil flow.
VC-backed companies, including Oxane and Glori Energy, have sought to facilitate these types of operations. Oxane has commercialized technology from Rice University to create new ceramic proppant to increase the rate of production and the total amount recovered, and to reduce the environmental impact of fracturing. (Proppants are particles added to fracturing fluid in order to hold fractures open.) Glori Energy improves the sustainability and efficiency of recovering oil trapped in reservoirs by stimulating naturally occurring microbes. For more challenging jobs, Foro Energy has developed long-distance laser technology to destroy ultra-hard (high compressive strength) rocks.
Turning from oil to coal: Some coal is too deep to mine. Laurus Energy, a developer of underground coal gasification projects, is able to convert this goal into gas streams, which can be used as feedstocks or to produce low energy carbon.
3: Working in Remote Environments
Oil and gas exploration today is based in some of the most remote places in the world. It is hard to imagine places more inaccessible than Prudhoe Bay (on the North coast of Alaska), Russkoe Field (above the Arctic Circle in Russia), the Campos Basin (offshore, Brazil) or the Tengiz in Kazakhstan. North Sea oil is the reason Aberdeen has the busiest heliport in the world. Oil and gas companies have looked to technology solutions to manage these distances. For example, RigNet is a venture-backed company focused on IT networks for drilling rigs and offshore vessels. NuPhysica, a telemedicine company, solves a major need within the oil and gas industry of handling employee injuries when they’re out in the middle-of-nowhere. The company uses advanced videoconferencing solutions to allow doctors to diagnose and potentially treat patients remotely. In one case, it saved an oil company $30,000 by enabling an injured worker to be diagnosed on an oil rig rather than emergency transported to shore. Even mundane things, such as remote collaboration software, are crucial. VSEE Labs, a startup, provides video conference and collaboration software used by Shell Oil and Saudi Aramco.
4: Minimizing the Harm of Hydrocarbons
Cleantech investing may not be dead, but alternative energy is arguably in the “trough of disillusionment” in the hype cycle following recent scandals and the disappointing financial performance of public cleantech companies. The WilderHill Clean Energy Index is down 55% since it was launched in 2004. This has increased interest in making production and consumption of hydrocarbon fuel less harmful, rather than making alternative fuels commercial. For example, companies such as PWAbsorbents and GeoPure HydroTechnologies have tackled the problem of treating water produced in the extraction of natural resources.
Other companies focus on decreasing demand rather than trying to increase supply. Cerion Energy produces a nanotechnology-based diesel fuel that decreases consumption by a minimum of 8%, while reducing emissions.
5: Turning Lemons into Lemonade and Fuel Metamorphoses
There is another suite of companies that try to take one resource and turn it into other, more valuable or convenient resources. Fractal Systems is a VC-backed technology that upgrades heavy oil and bitumen. Heavy oil and bitumen have greater densities than light crude oil; they are more expensive to refine and produce more pollution; however, there is much more heavy oil and bitumen in the world than light crude.
Siluria Technologies is a company that replaces oil with natural gas for manufacturing processes. The advantage of doing this is that natural gas is cheap and abundant in the U.S. (and has become cheaper and more abundant because of fracking technology) and pollutes less than oil (0.23 kgCO2/kWh for natural gas vs. 0.27 kgCO2/kWh for gasoline). In a similar vein, Ciris Energyconverts coal to natural gas. This is valuable, because coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in the U.S. and China, but converting it to natural gas makes it more environmentally friendly (0.23 kgCO2/kWh for natural gas vs. 0.37 kgCO2/kWh for coal).
Even more audacious are companies turning waste into energy. Enerkem is pioneering technology to use garbage to replace petroleum. SunCoal Industriesturns organic waste, such as garden compost, straw, and chicken manure, into carbon-neutral coal. Agilyx developed technology to convert plastics into synthetic crude and other petrochemicals. Plastic is heated until it turns into a gas, the gas is condensed into a liquid, and then the hydrocarbons are separated.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018


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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Top Five Facts Everyone Should Know About Oil Exploration?

1) Oil is important. Shockingly, sometimes horrifically important.
The world economy has been developing with oil as its lifeblood for over a hundred years. Oil is directly responsible for about 2.5% of world GDP [1], but accounts for 1/3rd of humanity’s primary energy supply (>5 terawatts out of 15 terawatts total) [2]. It’s over half if you include natural gas.
World Energy Consumption by Source, in Terawatts
Oil/gas powers 100% of all transportation, within a few significant figures of rounding error. Transportation, in turn, directly accounted for 1/6th of world GDP in 1997 [3] and is heavily involved in every other type of economic activity. Except for a minuscule number of electric-powered vehicles, you can’t move anything anywhere faster than about 25 mph without oil. You can’t operate a modern military, and you can’t run a modern economy. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that modern civilization would collapse in a matter of months if oil stopped flowing. Oil is about as important to the developed world as agriculture. It’s truly a condition for the continued existence of most of humanity today.
2) It’s big. Capital B-I-G BIG. You have no idea how big oil is.
The world’s oil & gas transport infrastructure is a globe-spanning spiderweb of pipelines and shipping routes. The natural gas distribution pipelines in the US alone could stretch from Earth to the Moon 7-8 times [4]. There are millions upon millions of miles of pipe on the planet to distribute crude oil, refined products, and natural gas. (Mostly gas.) Consider this: if your home has natural gas heat, it is connected via a continuous network of pipes to tens of thousands of wells drilled into subterranean rock strata that were laid down tens of millions of years ago. That’s pretty cool, really. Your house is directly connected to the Pliocene era — by the world’s oil & gas infrastructure.
About 40% of all seaborne cargo is oil [5], and there is literally more seaborne cargo at any given time (by weight) than there are fish in the sea [6]. Oil is in transit for a much shorter amount of time than the lifespan of most fish, so the total amount of oil that moves via water each year is much, much higher than the total amount of fish biomass. Think about what that means for a minute. The ocean isn’t full of fish, it’s full of oil cargoes.
Unfortunately, that scale makes it next-to-impossible to technologically disrupt the oil industry. This is going to make some people mad, but it’s reality. Not only is oil/gas critical now, but there are no viable replacements in our lifetime. People who think renewables can replace oil with a few decades of Manhattan Project style effort are simply ignorant of how big oil really is.
There is no reason whatsoever to think any feasible amount of renewables growth can displace fossil fuels in a couple generations. Wind and solar are growing exponentially, yes, but from such a small base that it doesn’t even make a dent — the use of renewables as a percentage of total world energy consumption only increased by 0.07% from 1973 to 2009 [7].
Let me break down some numbers.
  • World oil production was 82 million barrels per day in 2010 [8]. At roughly 6 gigajoules per barrel, that’s about 5.7 terawatts of power production.
  • World wind power production in 2010 was 0.3 petawatt-hours [9]. Averaged over a year, that’s about 34 gigawatts.
  • World solar power production in 2010 was 0.03 petawatt-hours [9]. Averaged over a year, that’s about 3.4 gigawatts.
So world energy production from oil alone is 2 orders of magnitude higher than wind power, and 3 orders of magnitude higher than solar power. Let me pick on solar power a little, because it’s downright embarrassing to compare the two:
  • The difference in power generation between solar power and oil production is more than the difference between a professional bicyclist and a Formula 1 racecar.
  • If solar power generation doubled every decade for 100 years, it would still be pretty far behind oil today.
A lot of people have questioned this math, but it’s right. The ratio is about 1500x. These numbers get significantly worse if you add in natural gas and coal.
Sorry guys, but regular old exponential growth isn’t even enough. To match oil, you’ll need half a century or more of clear energy superiority. That means cleaner and cheaper and more concentrated for storage. Nothing fits the bill yet. To replace oil, you’ll need a century to allow the entire economy to retool and realign around the new technology.
3) Oil is wealth. Not just wealth for producers, but wealth for everyone who uses it.
The historical use of cheaper, more-concentrated, and cleaner energy sources seems to be one of the most direct causes of economic growth. Even more importantly, it causes vast improvement in the human condition. Simply put, better sources of energy increase productivity and produce fewer negative externalities. This effect is huge. Cheap, abundant energy lifts nations out of poverty. China understands this. Failure to secure energy supplies dooms nations to collapse. The Mayans found this out too late.
Energy efficiency is powerful and highly desirable, but it can’t compete with increasing the primary energy supply. Most of the time, increased energy efficiency actually results in increased energy consumption, because of cheaper costs (per unit output) and faster economic growth. (This is called Jevon’s Paradox Jevons paradox.) Highly-developed nations can use advanced technology to increase quality of life while using less energy, but less-developed nations cannot. Getting to developed-nation status required a lot of high-quality energy.
And oil is indeed high-quality energy. It’s liquid, which makes it easily moved and stored. It’s stable, and it releases a huge amount of energy. It’s also much, much cleaner than coal. If it weren’t for CO2 emissions, oil & gas would be a nearly-perfect energy source. Look at what their growth has done to the world’s wealth:
World per Capita Real GDP vs World per Capita Energy Consumption by Type
via World Energy Consumption Since 1820 in Charts and File:World GDP per capita 20th century.GIF
Those two charts don’t match by accident. Every transition to a cleaner, cheaper, more-concentrated energy source causes dramatic improvements in real global wealth (and quality of life). Electrification caused most of the growth from 1900 to 1950. Oil enabled the post-war boom from 1950 to 1970, and natural gas strongly contributed to the growth from 1970 to 1995. The growth since 2000 has, unfortunately, been largely been due to increased coal consumption in Asia. The digital revolution and Great Recession have played a large part in global wealth trends, but mostly in the parts of the world that were already wealthy by global standards.
Ok, so maybe you don’t care about GDP, and want to know about quality of life. Energy is fundamentally required for a high quality of life, as measured by the UN’s Human Development Index. There is a range of energy consumption that depends on climate and population density, but broadly speaking, high-consumption countries have the highest quality of life.
Energy Consumption in Kilogram-Oil Equivalent per Year vs Quality of Life
Sure, the biggest energy consuming nations could reduce per capita consumption a lot and still have high quality of life. The US could learn a lot from Denmark. And current trends show that they are steadily moving in that direction — energy consumption per capita and per dollar of GDP is steadily dropping in the developed world. That’s a good thing.
But the energy required to lift 3 billion people out of poverty is far, far more than the potential energy savings from eliminating energy waste in the developed world. I’m not talking about stretch-SUVs and 60″ TVs, I’m talking about refrigeration for vaccines, irrigation for agriculture, and fuel for school buses. The planet cannot support 7 billion people at a low-energy agrarian level of existence — we have long since passed the point where we can revert back to a low-tech, low-energy form of civilization without billions of people dying of starvation.
All those green and red dots in the chart need to move past the blue dotted line — it is truly a moral imperative to allow the world’s poor to enjoy the basic fruits of development. That will require an enormous amount of new energy production capacity. Thankfully, the world mostly needs electricity, which is much easier to expand than oil. But we need a lot of oil too.
Oil is energy, and energy is wealth.
4) The oil industry is a really safe place to work.
Despite the Hollywood stereotypes, oil rigs are actually quite safe. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of extremely hazardous activities at a drill site, but they’re exceptionally well-managed. Working on an oil rig used to be pretty dangerous — lots of older guys in my office are missing parts of their fingers. But the industry has made huge strides in safety improvements over the past few decades by increasing automation, providing comprehensive safety training, and changing the work culture. It’s a different world now.
Accident rates have been dropped steadily since the 1990s, to the point the oil industry is now safer than many regular occupations. The OSHA statistics prove it. “To really put safety in perspective, the average 2.1 TRIR for rig operations is lower than [OSHA’s] 3.3 TRIR for real estate. You are safer statistically on the rig floor than driving around with a real estate agent.” [10]
Land rigs have about the same injury rate as a regular construction job, and offshore rigs have a lower injury rate than being a teacher. In the chart below, the oil industry is rolled up into “mining”:
Jobs that are actually dangerous include truck-driving, logging, fishing, and nursing. I’ll happily deal with swinging cranes, high-pressure chemicals, toxic oil fumes, and offshore helicopter flights — but you couldn’t pay me enough to be a nurse. They have it rough.
5) Oil companies don’t really make that much money.
Contrary to popular belief, the Oil “Majors” — ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Total, ConocoPhillips, and Shell — don’t actually make all that much money. Yes, it’s a lot in absolute terms because the companies are so large, but the profit margins are pretty sad in a good year. Bad years (like most of the 1990s) cause crippling contractions and mass layoffs.
Recent Profit Margins at Exxon, Apple, Microsoft
Oil Companies Underperformed the S&P500 through the 1990s
Yes, profits have beat the S&P500 lately, because oil prices are very high right now. Guess what? Exploration & development costs are rising faster than the price of oil. Net revenue per barrel at the Majors (not profit, just revenue) is only running about $20/bbl even though oil has gone up from ~$40/bbl to ~$100/bbl. What happens when China’s big recession hits, and oil demand drops significantly? The price will plummet by 2-3x, just like it did at the start of the Great Recession. This is an incredibly capital-intensive industry, in which large projects take longer to execute than the length of the business cycle. That’s fundamentally difficult to manage.
Oil is a widely-traded, high-competitive commodity market. That means basic economics causes profits margins to go as low as they can without companies exiting the industry. In this case, 8-10% profit margin is the minimum risk premium you can offer a company to convince it to continue doing business in:
  • A market where your product is almost completely interchangeable with the next guy’s product
  • A cyclic industry that sees 4-5x swings in the price of finished goods, with steadily-rising input costs
  • A business where each $100 million exploration well has a 50-90% chance of being a failure
  • A business where a bad mistake means $40 billion in fines & damages
  • A market dominated by government-run companies who are held to lower environmental and legal standards
  • Countries with a history of illegally nationalizing oil infrastructure
  • A fairly hostile regulatory environment
  • A fairly hostile PR environment
Frankly, it’s a miracle anyone wants to be in this business at all. I truly think the major oil companies are underpaid.The risk-adjusted returns are crap compared to most sectors. The only way oil companies survive this kind of business environment is by consolidating, so that the risks are spread out over a wider base. That’s why oil companies are some of the largest publicly-traded companies in the world — because they have to be huge to survive.
So where does all the oil money actually go? To national oil companies — mostly OPEC. They have control of all the cheap oil that’s easy to get out of the ground, so they have a combination of high net revenue per barrel and some semblance of cartel pricing power.
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Three Emerging Technologies with Life-Saving Potential

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2017 was the most expensive year on record for disasters in the U.S., estimating $306 billion in total damage. The FBI also reported 2017 as having the most incidents and the most people killed in any one year by active shooters.
With this rise in crises across the United States, data and technology have an increasingly important role in improving emergency management departments across the country. Approximately 240 million calls are made to 911 in the United States each year, with at least 80 percent coming from wireless devices, yet many emergency management systems still operate on legacy systems made for wireline phones. As a result, people in need are unable to easily share precise locations or send media messages to responders, making emergency communication and resource coordination more costly and difficult.
City and national government entities are already making strides in using analytics to improve emergency response operations, from Google’s 911 study in San Francisco to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) work with FEMA to crowdsource real-time information during emergencies. Yet, emerging technologies present even greater opportunities to make our emergency management systems more intelligent, secure, and effective. While cities have long sought to integrate tech into disaster response, the available technologies and opportunities are constantly evolving. Today, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain offer the potential to generate, transmit and read emergency-related data for better decision-making in crises.


Industry and government leaders today are discussing—and seeing firsthand—how AI can change the way we work, get around, serve residents, and much more. In emergency management, AI can help predict, evaluate, and simulate incidents to improve response times and streamline resource dispatch processes.
The city of Los Angeles, city of San Francisco, and multiple San Mateo County cities are now using the One Concern platform, which employs artificial intelligence through analytical disaster assessment and calculated damage estimates. Specifically, One Concern assigns a “unique, verified ‘digital fingerprint’” to every element in a city, modeling the entire system, and monitoring the impact of each disaster and climate change on a location. The team leverages data on city infrastructure and former disasters to predict the damage when different disasters hit, accomplishing 85 percent accuracy within 15 minutes on a city block-level basis. In Santa Clara County, One Concern worked with Woodside Fire Protection District, Portola Valley, and Woodside to gather jurisdiction-specific critical infrastructure data and model their Seismic Concern product, providing a bigger picture of risks in the area.
For 911 call evaluation, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials(APCO) and IBM Watson recently partnered to use speech-to-text analytics software to help agency directors better analyze conversations and compare them to pre-scripted content in real time. As a result, directors can learn from real-time conversations between callers and dispatchers, and iterate training materials to help improve the performance of 911 staff. The city of Memphis also used Watson Analytics to reveal trends in emergency medical services. The IBM team conducted 80 stakeholder interviews and gathered relevant data from various city departments on the 911 process, including 911 call volume and use of emergency services. IBM helped the different city agencies pool and analyze information to identify challenges and improve joint decision-making and enlisted the help of third parties—such as health insurance companies and health care clinics—for non-emergency calls. Based on the analysis, the city determined that about 64 percent of ambulance callers would be better served by long-term care for chronic conditions rather than emergency room visits, and was thereby able to reduce emergency service costs by $20 million.
The Cincinnati Fire Department has started using a new predictive analytics system to surface recommendations to dispatchers on appropriate responses to emergency calls based on a number of different variables including location, weather, and inputs from similar types of calls. The AI software helps the department prioritize and respond more effectively to the 80,000 requests they receive annually, reportedly improving emergency response times for the department.


IoT refers to a network of physical objects embedded with sensors and software that collect data and communicate with one another. As it relates to emergency management, IoT can be used to enhance data collection from the physical environment and quickly communicate this data to different city departments.
Weather-related disasters such as hurricanes or floods sometimes prevent emergency response teams from reaching certain locations. This obstruction reduces teams’ ability to track damage, notify the public with up-to-date information, and respond in a timely manner. However, if IoT devices were present in these areas, they would be able to more easily broadcast signals and communicate critical data such as temperature, water quality, or smoke. With this data, government can make more informed decision on how to deploy resources during a disaster situation. Today, the Rio de Janeiro City Hall Operations Center uses sensors to collect real-time data about weather, traffic, police, and medical services in the city. In the United States, the city of Houston worked with AT&T after Hurricane Harvey to deploy IoT technology for identifying damage and communicating information.
From a more proactive standpoint, cities can place IoT on city infrastructure to monitor risk factors and surface data about potential emergencies. For example, The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) uses 270 sensors to measure how fast water is moving across a stream and models what water may do at different touch points. From this, LCRA can proactively manage floods and easily get ahead of water-related disasters in the area.
Cost, security, and interoperability challenges are still barriers to scaling IoT solutions across a city for emergency management. However, the power to share data during emergency situations—as well as a number of other use cases, from monitoring air quality to locating parking spots—make these challenges worth overcoming.


Of these three technologies, blockchain is in the earliest stages of development, but is a tool that some claim will be transformational for how we transact data. Blockchain is a distributed and immutable digital ledger, secured by cryptography, which can be programmed to record a series of transactions. Its most scalable application today is bitcoin, a cryptocurrency and payment system still growing in its use around the world.
The benefit of blockchain in emergency management is that it provides interoperability and transparency. In terms of interoperability, blockchain can be adopted as a universal system across organizations—similar to the internet—and allow multiple parties across that system to coordinate resources in an emergency. In a disaster relief scenario, multiple parties are often contributing resources to aid an affected area. If all parties involved in this scenario were to adopt a blockchain-based shared system of record, they could coordinate more efficient disaster responses, ensuring resources were allocated to the areas where they are needed most. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now looking to pilot blockchain for the use case of public health data surveillance, where it will collect and communicate data to entities who treat patients in disaster relief scenarios, including local public health agencies, hospitals, and pharmacies.
Regarding transparency in the disaster relief scenario, blockchain could provide an immutable record, accessible by everyone, to illustrate what resources have been dedicated to an area and by whom.
This transparent record—to which anyone could submit an entry—would reduce the possibility of resource diversion and corruption in these types of scenarios.
UNICEF is testing blockchain technology to track the status of international grants in a secure way that is accessible by the public. Along these same lines, FEMA’s Public Assistance program could be another great use case for blockchain, tracking where resources are going after a disaster. Seeing the potential of blockchain, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate awarded $1.3 million in grants to explore blockchain technology through their Small Business Innovation Research program. Several technical limitations prevent blockchain from scaling across any industry today, but emergency management departments across cities should take the opportunity to learn about the technology and its various applications to plan for future IT systems.
Above all, a city’s ability to collect, analyze and communicate data is critical to effective and efficient emergency management. AI, IoT and blockchain are all technologies that enable more sophisticated data processes and can improve the capacity and efficiency of emergency staff.
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