Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and the Oil & Gas Industry

Oil, often referred to as black gold, is the most valued commodity in the energy sector; but, with mounting environmental concerns, companies are actively seeking innovative approaches to reduce environmental impact among other things.

According to Markets and Markets research, Artificial Intelligence (“AI“) in the oil and gas industry is expected to grow from 2017 to 2022 to reach a market size of USD 2.85 Billion by 2022. This growth is due to the adoption of big data technology, digitalizing the oil and gas industry through adopting a variety of predictive algorithms, analytics, automation systems and more– with North America projected to be the largest market. The Economist has even opined data to be the oil of the digital era

Oil has various components: upstream (exploration and production), midstream (possession transport and storage of oil and gas) and downstream (oil refineries)–and AI can assist in helping in each area from advances in sensors and software to managing large amounts of collected data.

In 2016, ExxonMobile collaborated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT“)  to create “self-learning, submersible robots for ocean exploration.” These robots have the ability to detect natural seeps in the ocean floor. According to National Geographic, these seeps, or leakages, occur “when oil escapes into the water column from highly pressurized sea floor rock.” An estimated 60 percent of oil beneath the earth’s surface in North America is due to these seeps. In fact, Santa Barbara, California has one of the world’s largest seeps. These robots will not only assist in protecting the ecosystem but also search and locate oil resources (reservoirs). 

Other oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell (“Shell“) are incorporating virtual assist features. Maarten Wetselaar, head of the gas and new energies business stated that he “can imagine [Shell] competing with, but also partnering with digital companies.” What’s more, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chevron signed a seven-year deal with Microsoft to store data generated by Chevron and allowing it to be analyzed in real time. 

To this end, CEOs are seeing technology disruption as an opportunity in opining: “Technology is disrupting the status quo in the oil and gas industry. AI and robotic solutions can help us create models that will predict behavior or outcomes more accurately, like improving rig safety, dispatching crews faster, and identifying systems failures even before they arise. This level of predictability can have a profound impact on our industry, said Regina Mayor, Global Sector Head, Energy and Natural Resources, KPMG in the US.”

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