As Brazil sets its sights on becoming one the world’s top five oil producers by the end of the next decade, it is also demonstrating global leadership in another key area — innovation. The technological advances required to develop the pre-salt region in the deep waters off Brazil’s shores stand to benefit deep sea production elsewhere in the world.
Brazil’s increasing role as a global innovator looms large as GE officially inaugurates its newest Global Research Center on the Ilha do Bom Jesus peninsula in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is our hope that the center serves not only as an innovation hub for Latin America, but an incubator of breakthrough technologies that can be exported to markets all over the world.
GE’s business roots in Brazil are deep, going back nearly a century to 1919. Over time, we have established deep and meaningful customer relationships with Brazilian companies like Petrobras, Embraer and Vale. Together, we are developing the infrastructure products and services to build, power and move a growing nation and the world’s economy. But in today’s fast moving, globally competitive world, strong business roots are not enough. Those roots need to be seeded with sustained investment in technology, which is why GE has opened its $130 million technology center in Rio.
In Rio, GE is bringing technology closer to our business partners in Brazil and throughout Latin America. We bring the power of GE’s entire global research center network and connections to 50,000-plus technologists at GE with technical expertise and industry know-how in every major infrastructure sector — from energy and aviation to rail, healthcare and lighting.
What’s particularly exciting is the opportunity to work with local customers in the region to address the major infrastructure challenges Brazil faces as the nation grows and prepares to take center stage in less than two years to host the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Rio, of course, is known for its beautiful and distinct landscape, with the high mountains that rise over the city and look out into the ocean. This mirrors the view of GE’s scientists and engineers in Brazil, where we are looking at technologies for machines that fly 50,000 feet in the sky and those that have to recover oil 10,000 feet below sea level.
Within our technology wingspan are real solutions we can deliver with our customers to address the challenges Brazil faces. And looking out from Rio, the opportunities are right in front of us. The pre-salt areas off Brazil’s coastline contain vast deepwater reserves of oil and gas that hold the key to securing Brazil’s energy future. The country’s multinational energy company Petrobras anticipates that 50 percent of its total energy production will eventually come from these pre-salt areas.
Accessing new deepwater resources is more difficult than traveling to the moon. The pre-salt environment includes harsher conditions such as higher pressures, high temperatures and corrosive gases. As a technology provider for a range of products that operate in harsh conditions such as jet engines and power generation turbines, these are environments we know quite well.
At the heart of our efforts at GE Oil & Gas is a commitment to partner with Petrobras, the BG Group and others to build a subsea factory by 2020. Being able to do all of the recovery and processing of oil and gas on the seabed floor would truly be a game changer not only for Brazil’s energy picture, but for the oil and gas industry globally. If we can access deeper waters off the coast of Brazil, we can do it anywhere, in places such as the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
With great partners and a global research network of scientists and engineers working on various aspects of the subsea factory puzzle, we are confident we can make it happen by the end of the decade. How to deliver enough electrical power to the ocean floor; how to create advanced materials that enable parts and pieces of the subsea factory to function reliably in harsher conditions; how to effectively separate the oil and gas from other constituents that get brought up with the oil — these are all challenges our team of scientists are working to solve. has solved for other industries and can solve for Oil and Gas.
Oil and gas will be a key focus of our new center, but we will also be deeply involved in other industry sectors, such as aviation and transportation. We have a team of engineers designing new solutions for GE’s Green Skies program, which is delivering Big Data and analytics to air traffic management to make air travel more efficient for airlines and travelers. And on the ground, we have a partnership with customers to deliver smart train operation technologies and other solutions to help them move goods faster and more efficiently.
From the Brazil Technology Center, the view is incredible. From sky to seabed, we see a future ripe with opportunity for Brazil — and the world.
Kenneth Herd is General Manager of GE’s Brazil Technology Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil