New technologies could help unconventional oil and gas production become more efficient and cost-effective, executives from ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco told the 23rd World Petroleum Congress.

When asked what shale producers need to succeed in the coming years, Aramco vice president of southern area oil operations Khaled Al-Buraik quipped: “Maybe we’ll find another George Mitchell”, harking back to the father of the unconventionals revolution.

While shale oil and gas production has become popular in the US and has other nations hoping to emulate its success due to low costs and swift production times, the process still has efficiency concerns.

Only a small percentage of the available resources is actually tapped into by current unconventional methods.

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David Scott, vice president of ExxonMobil’s Permian business unit, said the unconventionals sector had made “huge strides” in efficiency in recent years, lowering costs and bringing wells on stream faster. Still, additional improvements can be made.

“I think... the future of unconventionals is continuing our ability as an industry — and certainly ExxonMobil — to drive unconventional resources to be resilient and efficient,” he said during the Future of Unconventional Resources panel discussion.

“The industry has made huge strides in this space in recent years. We’re continuing to use technology... to make unconventional resources more and more resilient and efficient.”

Scott said ExxonMobil is also using technology to reduce emissions from unconventional exploration and production.

He said it is on track eliminate all routine flaring by 2022 and is taking an aggressive approach to eliminating other emissions.

“We’re working to continue to develop technologies around monitoring, aerial surveillance and even in space, using satellites to drive emissions [monitoring] across operations,” he said.

“When I think about the future of unconventionals, it’s about continuing to raise the bar in responsible operations.”

While US companies focus on improving technologies in the shale sector, other nations are hoping to use those advances to start unconventional production of their own.

Aramco’s primary focus in shale is at its Jafurah gas field in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which it estimates has 200 trillion cubic feet of recoverable resource.

Al-Buraik said the field is the “crown jewel” of Aramco’s unconventional programme and could produce up to 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day by 2030.

“My main message here is that whatever we have done can be easily replicated everywhere outside North America,” he said.