Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is only one of many technological advancements that are driving the oil and natural gas sector worldwide as innovation has become an imperative, according to the latest global report by consulting firm Lloyd's Register Energy.

Fracking, said the report, “is only a small part of a technological transformation underway within the global oil/gas sector. Technological solutions are required to tackle rising costs, aging infrastructure, tougher regulatory demands, changing energy sources and [industry] skill shortages. Given this, today's companies are left with little choice but to innovate."

In cooperation with Longitude Research, Lloyd's earlier this year surveyed 257 professionals over a two-month period, and reinforced them with numerous interviews. The survey was global with about one-third each in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America.

The report dissects the state of innovation in the global upstream oil/gas sector, seeking to address several key areas, such as the principal drivers and barriers, how the innovative process is changing, and identifying which organizations are leading the way in innovation.

According to Lloyd's, a variety of technologies looks "set to have a high impact in the coming years." Some of those technologies bid to extend the life of existing assets through enhanced oil recovery (EOR). For the near-term automation is on the top of the list of coming technologies, including remote and subsea operations, according to those surveyed.

"With so much technology potentially coming on stream in the decade ahead, tomorrow's leading companies will likely be those that find the most effective ways of combining different technologies to add to an expanding tool kit," the report said.

Most of the respondents indicated that the rate of innovation was accelerating, and as a result the pressure to innovate has risen markedly in the last two years. However, only about 25% of the survey respondents indicated their companies consider themselves "early adopters," and thus the risk aversion in deploying new technologies is a major obstacle to innovation.

In the survey, 56% of the respondents described themselves as "fast followers," making changes after others have proved their worth. "Crucially, delayed deployment is a major barrier to progress."

The report breaks down its findings and conclusions into three boxes: energy technology, drivers of barriers to technology, and shifting approaches and innovation leaders. In drilling/extraction, one of 25 technological areas examined, high-pressure, high-temperature  drilling has some major expectations riding on it for the period ending around 2020.