Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used in numerous industries, improving processes and systems. It should come as no surprise that AI has already been introduced in the oil & gas sector and is busy making a significant difference.
Market research firm MarketsandMarkets estimates that the artificial intelligence (AI) market in the oil & gas sector will grow to $2.85 billion by 2022. According to McKinsey, digital technologies will help the industry save up to $50 billion over the next decade. During the last couple of years, the most prominent players in Silicon Valley, including IBM, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Accenture, have expressed a desire to help the oil & gas sector develop and implement AI solutions. This will also be a powerful catalyst for AI implementation.
Over the next two to three years, the AI implementation trends in the oil & gas sector will include the following:
Data cloud storage with the option of real-time data analysis
Chevron has an agreement with Microsoft, whose Azure startup will receive data from Chevron’s operations around the world. The data will be subjected to real-time analysis by machines, opening up a range of opportunities, from exploration to prediction of failures of expensive equipment. Equinor (formerly Statoil), Shell, Total, Repsol and other oil companies have similar cloud storage agreements with Microsoft, Google or Amazon, and Russia's Gazprom Neft has signed an agreement with Yandex Terra to jointly develop solutions in seismic data processing.
"Smart management" of oil wells and pipelines
ExxonMobil has signed an agreement with MIT to collaborate on developing robots for use in deepwater oil production. Among the tasks which the robots will perform is the timely detection of potential failures in subsea well pipes. The robots will help to prevent accidents, such as the one that occurred in April 2010 on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Finnish-Russian company ZYFRA has developed a new AI-equipped electrical submersible pump (ESP) software unit, which recommends well operating modes to ensure maximum oil flow rate and stable operation. The technology has already been tested for three months in 500 oil wells in western Siberia, Russia. It has so far proved highly effective, boosting production by 1.5% and generating additional earnings of $2 million.
Drilling accuracy and elimination of costly risks
AI is able to analyze large numbers of factors – something which is time-consuming and costly to do "by hand". These can include seismic vibrations, pressure differentials, temperature differences, etc. The aim here is not only to mitigate financial and operational risks, but also to improve the safety of the project if the well is located in a seismically unstable zone. The range of AI tools deployed will be driven by the specific needs of each company. For example, BP is already able to identify sand-free oil reservoirs in its Baku oil field with the help of AI tools.
Predictive equipment maintenance
Equipment maintenance can also be "smart". Companies could choose to replace equipment only when it breaks down, which is the simplest but most expensive approach. It is also possible to carry out periodic maintenance, as we all do with our cars. But for the oil & gas sector, with its expensive hardware, these approaches are costly and have long since fallen out of favor. The most advanced technologies make it possible to monitor the condition of equipment at all times. Through cloud storage and the analysis of the data, changes in the condition of the equipment are identified, especially changes that are followed by failures in 99 percent of cases.
Customer virtual assistants
Shell was the first major oil company to offer a "virtual assistant" service to its customers and distributors. So far, this is only available in the United States and the United Kingdom. Shell’s virtual assistants have two avatars - Emma and Ethan, who are happy to advise on where to buy the right lubricant, in what packaging and what amount. Users say that Emma and Ethan respond in just a few seconds. Shell’s Virtual Assistant can also connect the client with a free Shell service providing advice on the right product to buy and, in the case of more complicated questions, connect the customer with a call center operator.
Igor Bogachev is the CEO of Finn-Russian ZYFRA Group.