An interesting recent article in the Financial Post highlighted the fact that “Calgary’s high-tech sector hinges on the oil and gas industry.” The need for new and advanced technologies for oil and gas exploration, development, and production, the author explains, has made Calgary a “silicon valley of energy technology.” For example:
One company . . . is Hifi Engineering, a maker of fibre-optics technology. “It’s basically using fibre optics to monitor the flow of fluids in the production of oil and gas or the transportation of hydrocarbons, like pipeline operations,” says John Hull, founder and president of the company. “We turn fibre optics into an acoustic sensor and it’s much more sensitive, allowing you to monitor several kilometres simultaneously.”
These are amazing technologies, and it’s great to read reports of companies in the high-tech sector benefiting from their relationships with the oil and gas industry. But one thing that should stand out to us when we read that that “high-tech sector hinges on the oil and gas industry” is that the oil and gas industry is itself a high-tech industry. Technology means manipulating nature using human ingenuity to solve human problems. The foundation of the oil and gas industry, the transformation of once worthless gas or goo into life-giving energy, is one of the most exciting technologies ever developed. And that technology just keeps getting better. The oil and gas industry has successfully applied geology, physics, mathematics, economics, and other disciplines to solving the problem of acquiring and using energy. The sheer complexity of understanding required to successfully explore for and develop new resource plays, to profitably invest millions of dollars to drill through miles of rock and produce active wells, and to transport the raw extracted materials to refineries sometimes thousands of miles away to be converted into usable human resources—was a massive technological feat long before the relatively recent introduction of computer technology. The fact that the oil and gas industry, by the nature of what it does (not just the tools it uses), is a high-tech industry is important to realize and to convey in conversation, because the concept of “technology” rightly carries a positive moral connotation—one that the oil and gas industry in particular, for its life-advancing applications of scientific knowledge, deserves in spades.