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ExxonMobil’s research and development initiatives

We seek to develop breakthrough technologies that can benefit our business and have a positive impact on society.

We believe human ingenuity and innovation are critical to supplying the fuels and products that consumers need in a manner that is safe for our employees, communities and the environment. To support this, ExxonMobil is founded on a culture of science and technology. We employ more than 2,200 Ph.D. scientists and 5,000 employees at our research and technology divisions around the world.

Each year, we invest around $1 billion on corporate research and development efforts. Our goal is to develop breakthrough technologies that can benefit our business and have a positive impact on society and the environment.

We are also collaborating with leading universities to research and discover next-generation energy solutions. We are proud to say that as a result of these and other such research and development initiatives, ExxonMobil was named one of the “Top Global 100 Innovators” by Thomson Reuters in 2015 for our leadership performance in overall patent volume, patent-grant success rates, global reach and invention influence.

Our scientists and engineers are presently working to develop technologies designed to produce energy in an increasingly safe, economical and environmentally responsible manner. Two examples are full wavefield inversion and advanced drilling technologies, both of which are enabled by high-performance computing. A supercomputer is a high-performance computer that executes at or near the current maximum operational rate for computers. Supercomputers play an important role in the field of computational science and are used in various fields, including quantum mechanics, climate research and oil and gas exploration. ExxonMobil uses high-performance computing to find and develop the most challenging resource opportunities in the world.

With advanced algorithms and high-performance computing, we are able to process extremely large volumes of data from multiple sources to identify key trends and relationships to determine which decisions will yield the most positive outcome. By leveraging our computational sciences expertise to combine software, engineering and geoscience skills, we are able to deliver the advanced technical capabilities needed to execute technical computations on an unprecedented scale to analyze models, perform simulations and assess opportunities.

Photo — ExxonMobil employees Steve Derenthal and Michael Deal visit the Houston-based center that houses ExxonMobil's high-performance computing system.

Full wavefield inversion

Full wavefield inversion (FWI), a key component of ExxonMobil’s EMprise seismic capability, uses supercomputing technology to provide geoscientists unparalleled insights into the physical characteristics of rocks and geologic structures in the subsurface. In the past, the oil and gas industry could only utilize a portion of the sound wave data in 3-D seismic processing technology because processing techniques could not handle the complexity and quantity of data.

FWI enables us to better leverage data from a seismic survey to produce high-definition images of the subsurface that could make development and production more efficient and less costly. In doing so, we can help make oil and gas resources easier to identify and target in exploration, development and production programs, which ultimately helps us reduce our impact on the environment. Specifically, FWI enables us to evaluate data with more certainty — and in a time frame that is practical for business applications — whether or not the rock that is surveyed has potential to contain hydrocarbons.

Photo — Researchers at our Upstream Research Company analyze seismic data that was imaged using full wavefield inversion.

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Advanced drilling

Advances in technologies used for well drilling and completion have enabled the energy industry to reach new sources of oil and natural gas to meet rising demand around the world. Recent innovations in advanced drilling technology, such as ExxonMobil’s proprietary Vybs software, are helping bring about new efficiencies and environmental benefits.

Vybs is the latest breakthrough technology used to overcome factors that limit drilling efficiency. In an effort to improve efficiency, Vybs uses sophisticated algorithms to understand and harness the vibrations at the end of a drill string. Vybs uses kinetic energy from the drill string, thus reducing the amount of energy needed from the rig to penetrate the subsurface. Improving drilling efficiency means wells can be drilled faster, which reduces costs and the amount of time spent with a drill rig on location. In addition to helping reduce the costs associated with drilling, this technology also helps reduce the environmental impact of energy production and safeguard our employees and contractors by allowing more oil and gas to be produced with fewer wells and by reducing our well pad size.

In addition to helping reduce the costs associated with drilling, this technology also helps reduce the environmental impact of energy production and safeguard our employees and contractors by allowing more oil and gas to be produced with fewer wells and by reducing our well pad size.

Partnerships with leading universities

ExxonMobil is partnering with approximately 80 universities around the world to explore next-generation energy technologies. We recently began collaborations with Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of our commitment to finding meaningful and scalable solutions to meet global energy demand.

In October 2014, ExxonMobil became a founding member of the MIT Energy Initiative, a unique collaboration that aims to advance and explore the future of energy by focusing on new energy sources and more efficient uses of conventional energy resources. Since launching the collaboration with MIT, the joint research program has made inroads into several areas, including bio-inspired catalysts for the petrochemical industry and computational modeling to better understand the properties of iron and iron-based alloys used in pipelines. The program has also enabled ExxonMobil to expand research efforts to emerging areas like photovoltaic and nuclear power, as well as enhance our understanding of energy options and the interactions between them.

In 2015, ExxonMobil entered a five-year partnership with E-ffiliates, a program administered by Princeton University, to pursue transformational innovations in the fields of energy and environment. E-ffiliates has already started working with research groups across the university, including selected graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. The partnership will help accelerate research by creating an umbrella framework that makes it easy for any business unit of Exxon Mobil Corporation to undertake research projects with any department or lab at Princeton.

"Meeting the world’s energy needs in a sustainable way is a formidable challenge. Developing economically viable solutions requires the collaborative efforts of industry, government and academia. We are delighted that ExxonMobil is joining E-ffiliates, broadening the vibrant collaboration between Princeton and leading industry partners in the energy and environmental sectors.”

Pablo Debenedetti
Dean of research, Princeton University
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