Historically oil and gas operators have been slow to realise the benefits of technology. Following reports that BP has invested £20 million in an artificial intelligence (AI) start-up to help find new oil resources – is the traditional Oil & Gas Industry ready to modernise its practices?
Say hello to AI
Confirming interest among oil and gas companies in the use of big data to help find new resources, BP has announced its investment in Beyond Limits’ AI technology to increase the chances of finding new oil reserves when drilling wells.
Developed as part of NASA’s deep space program, Beyond Limits’ AI software is 20 years in the making. After being “battle tested in deep space where there is zero margin for error”.
Chris Cheatwood, chief technology officer of Pioneer Natural Resources, said machine learning would make drilling more predictable. The aim was to get “to a point where it’s actually artificial intelligence that’s drilling our wells for us, with us observing,” he said.
“So instead of, ‘hey, we drilled a record [low-cost] well for $3.5m and then we have a train wreck that’s $8m, we’ll start narrowing in on, hey, we’re averaging around $4.5m . . . for drilling a well’.”
In 2012 Beyond Limits set its sights on investment from industries outside of space exploration, with the view to make an impact in industries including: energy, finance, health logistics and transportation.
Morag Watson, chief digital innovation officer at BP, said artificial intelligence would be “one of the most critical digital technologies to drive new levels of performance” in the industry.
Opening up to technology
The AI deal, agreed last week, strengthens the opinion that the traditional Oil & Gas Industry is actively embracing digital technology and big data analytics – but it is not the first implementation.
Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) technology is already being used to improve emissions management on oil and gas sites. Historically, recording and sharing gas flaring emissions data would have involved recording the volume of gas flared locally and sharing data on a periodic basis. However, connected measurement technology means that now this information can be monitored and measured in real time through secure hosting in the cloud.
By using cloud technology to record gas flaring, companies can build a better picture of trends over time and use this insight to drive new emissions strategies. For example, on an offshore oil rig where flaring may only happen after certain maintenance procedures, real-time data can provide insight to more effectively manage the flaring process – reducing the amount of wasted gas. Over an extended period of time organisations will begin to see patterns emerging that enable them to more effectively predict which rigs will flare more gas than others.
AI and other progressive technologies are enabling the fourth industrial revolution within oil and gas, with the potential to help deliver the next level of performance and improve overall efficiency. While some traditional industries have been slow to realise the potential in technology and big data, oil and gas companies are finally considering its transformational role.