AI: The Much Needed Fuel in Oil and Gas Industry
How AI in augmenting the Oil and Gas Sector?
The profile of the oil and gas industry has changed rapidly in recent years. Every day, modern technologies are being adopted by the energy sector to meet the challenges of a digital economic landscape. Besides, this industry is a storehouse of data containing information about land leases, legal rights, transaction details, and many more, which can be analyzed, monitored, and monetized using technologies like Artificial Intelligence. For instance, AI subsets Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and natural language processing (NLP) can be used by oil and gas enterprises to digitize the data that exists as documents. Leveraging these technologies also ensures higher data integrity by increasing accuracy and reduces human interpretation. Meanwhile, as this sector faces a string of challenges — on socio-economic, environmental grounds, and demands for reduced costs, lesser price volatility, etc., AI can help address most of these bottlenecks.
Types of Oil and Gas Companies
Based on operational activities, the oil and gas industry is categorized as follows:
- Upstream involves the exploration and production of oil and natural gas.
- Midstream usually refers to transportation and storage stages.
- Downstream encompasses the various processes involved in refining and selling oil.
AI has the potential to change the future course of each of these sectors. Further, it can help to augment the operational efficiency, minimize expenses, provide predictive data intelligence, find new resources (e.g., deep-sea exploration of hydrocarbons), and better safety measures. The following are some of the ways AI is being leveraged to solve issues of the oil and gas industry.
Corrosion by crude oil is a common risk for equipment failures in the oil and gas industry. This happens mainly because, in the production stage, oil and gas companies need to store crude and refined oil in large tanks and transport it through pipelines. Hence by deploying a computer-vision based system, companies can verify the quality of pieces of equipment and pipeline, carry visual data analysis, and identify factors that can lead to corrosion. While human operators can only monitor a maximum of 3 to 4 parameters, computer vision and machine learning can monitor several parameters at the same time and combine this information to decide the state of the pipeline system. This analysis can help approximate the corrosion occurrence probability and raise alerts to pipeline operators and proactive recommendations If required. Further AI can help in automating the assessment of inspection via ultrasonic testing, radiography, checking for magnetic flux leakage. AI solutions can alert management even for the smallest deviations in compliance.
Oil and Gas companies like ExxonMobil and Total are employing AI for mapping and identification of oil and natural gas deposits beneath the earth’s surface, a process known as Hydrocarbon exploration. Traditionally human workers and geologists used to perform this task; however, as environmental conditions are increasingly challenging for humans, companies are turning to robots for assistance. ExxonMobil has teamed up with MIT to automate the hydrocarbon exploration process by jointly developing deepwater exploration robots. These robots will be used to automate the natural seep detection and characterization process. This process minimizes human risk and ensures accurate data collection and exploration of hazardous terrains.
Meanwhile, in 2015, Royal Dutch Shell launched an AI assistant to help customers discover products using natural language. These chat assistants act as an excellent source of information and pull real-time data, handle tasks such as calling for help, and can provide relevant instructions from an internal knowledgebase. Using chat avatars Ethan and Emma, Shell can provide information like where lubricants are available for purchase, range of available pack sizes, and general information regarding the technical properties of specific products through the chat assistant.
At present, the AI market in oil and gas is projected to reach US$2.85 billion by 2022, and grow at a CAGR of 12.66 percent. Though AI has barely scratched the surface in the oil and gas industry, current initiatives show, AI will emerge as one of the major players in this sector.