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NASA and Statoil Team Up to Adapt Space Technology to Oil and Gas Production, Vice Versa

Nov 23, 2013 12:52 PM EST

NASA officials and the Norwegian-based oil and gas company Statoil signed an agreement Friday designed to help the company access new fossil fuel reserves using and expanding upon the US agency's technology.

Number 39 on the Forbes 500 list of the world's largest companies, Statoil has found itself looking increasingly at "frontier regions" in the search for oil and gas resources -- regions that, at times, resemble worlds beyond our own.

"Searching for oil and gas resources has become so advanced technically over the past decade that new solutions and ideas are needed," Lars Høier, Statoil acting senior vice president of research, development and innovation, said in a statement. "To Statoil this is a significant opportunity to take technologies developed by NASA and JPL for the harsh and challenging environments of space and apply them to the equally demanding environments of oil and gas production."

The contract is expected to run until 2018 with the option of extension and focuses around supercomputing, materials, robotics, development of new tools and communication optionality.

Statoil is not the only partner set to gain from the agreement: according to a JPL statement, "The agreement also provides an opportunity for JPL to benefit from synergistic technology currently being developed in the oil and gas sector that might be used for space exploration."

Both entities stressed that the shared technologies will be developed and adapted with increased safety and efficiency in mind in regard to the production of the world's fossil fuel reserves.

Statoil spends roughly $550 million each year on research, development and innovation. According to the company, the NASA agreement is "complementary" to work it is already doing.

"This agreement is the latest example of how NASA and JPL technologies can benefit us here on Earth," said JPL Director Charles Elachi. "It's also an example of how collaborations with other industries can be beneficial to space exploration."

The agreement was signed the same day the United Nation's climate summit came to a close following 11 days of talks. Among the conference's main focuses was the reduction of fossil fuel production and an increased focus on renewable energy.

According to a recent report by the Global Carbon Project, 2013 is set to be a record year for fossil fuel emissions, with estimates hovering around 36 billion metric tons, or a 61 percent increase from 1990 levels.

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