While Gulf oil and natural gas activity is lagging, the economic outlook for developers of new technology to quickly identify high-pressure leaks in blowout preventers (BOP) and other outage events looks brighter, executives say.

"We're going to be the Microsoft of the drilling industry," said C. Mark Franklin, president and founder of Katy, TX-based Innovative Pressure Testing (ITP), which has developed the next generation of leak detection methods for BOP.

"In the short term the moratorium is a little, minor negative for us. In the long term, the technology will be the standard for the way BOPs are pressure tested," he said.

The company said it has replaced the "antiquated, circular chart recorder" for detecting leaks, which takes up to an hour to perform, with a SureTec technical approach that detects a high-pressure leak within two minutes.

ITP and the industry were "equally excited" about the new BOP leak detection technology before the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig off the southern coast of Louisiana, "but the Gulf [disaster] has put a bigger spotlight" on ITP, Franklin said.

Houston-based APO Offshore is at the forefront of monitoring and predicting "anything that can cause an outage" on a rig, including BOP, said Carol Piovesan, founder and CEO. The system, which she developed for Saudi Aramco, operates on much the same premise as the lights in automobiles that tell a driver when the engine is hot and the fuel tank is empty.

The downtime of the average platform, which is about 12%-20, could be cut in half as a result of the technology, she said. Piovesan noted that one offshore platform in eastern Asia was down 45 days due to a hot rotary bearing, and as a result lost more than $25 million in profit.

"Things are going to get crazy for us in the very near future, but not in the Gulf," ITP's Franklin said. Brazil has expressed a "huge interest," and ITP has received phone calls from the United Kingdom.

"We've just gone commercial," Franklin noted, adding that the company has spent more than a year in research and development of software. APO Offshore has been in business for three years.

"As the rigs get started up in the Gulf, I believe [new BOP leak technology] will become standard," Franklin said. "Some of the rigs are able to work in the Gulf now in completion actions," he said, adding that there has been "talk" among operators that the moratorium may end in late September.

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