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How AI Is Driving Project Planning in Oil and Gas

Ethan Pratt's picture
Director Framestr

I've worked in the energy sector for over 10 years across all industry sectors.

  • Member since 2019
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  • Feb 4, 2020

Every business and industry today is examining how artificial intelligence will change their futures, and the oil and gas industry is no different. Technology created the shale revolution that has fundamentally altered the path of this industry, and technology can create better AI that will create further revolutions and change.

And yet as the Houston Chronicle details, the industry is dabbling with proof of concepts instead of creating real change with artificial intelligence. Here are a few ideas for how AI can change things forever, to drive costs down and create more efficient projects.

Defining AI and Machine Learning

We hear a great deal about AI, but we must separate reality from science fiction and understand what AI truly is and what it can and cannot do. There are two kinds of artificial intelligence: general and applied or narrow. General is the kind of AI that most people think of that shows up in science fiction films, but it has not been invented and we are nowhere close to this.

Applied artificial intelligence is the AI we see every day with things like Alexa or Siri. Applied artificial intelligence is designed to do a set of tasks and only those tasks. In the oil and gas industry, companies could combine applied AI with machine learning and data science. These are applications which let AI run simulations and extract data that can help discover patterns much quicker and more accurately than human intelligence. When one considers the billions of data points which exist with every single oil well, it is easy to realize just how artificial intelligence can help deliver new insights.

AI and Project Planning

Project planning is arguably the key sector where artificial intelligence can revolutionize the oil and gas sector. Large oil and gas projects routinely exceed projections in terms of time and money, and even the best oil and gas models are fueled as much by guesswork as by any real data.

This is not due to a lack of insight or data, but rather because we lack the means to analyze the huge amount of historical project data. Think about how much information there is analyzing any potential oil field. A company must consider history, geology, geophysics, and economics among other sectors. Few, if any, individuals possess the knowledge to compile all that information together to draw firm conclusions.

But an AI can. Artificial intelligence can become the solution to analyze large amounts of data, quickly figure out which conclusions are correct, and design a plan for how a project should be approached. By analyzing fields and projects in real-time without a disconnect between machine and human, the result is a more efficient, faster process that creates less cost overlay.

Other Potential

Being able to interpret vast swathes of data has benefits for the oil and gas industry outside of project planning. Artificial intelligence can make the oil and gas industry a more efficient and safer place to work.

A common example here is that artificial intelligence can predict when machine or vehicle parts are about to break. Other industries, as well as the U.S. military, are interested in this application. AI can analyze how often equipment breaks, analyze signals produced by equipment, and then flag managers when a part appears to be failing. If we apply this process to the oil and gas industry, this can prevent slowdowns and safety incidents caused by suddenly broken parts.

AI could also help oil companies acquire assets. Instead of trawling through court records one at a time, artificial intelligence can review court records and land data far more efficiently than any group of people. They can identify assets that can be acquired for a good value, boosting an oil company’s bottom line.

Final Thoughts

Artificial intelligence promises to change how the oil and gas industry functions, but most companies are still catching up to other industries which are making full use of machine learning and data science. The companies which adapt to these technologies first can thus earn a major advantage in developing better infrastructure projects and cutting costs, among other benefits.

However, it should be noted that artificial intelligence will not entirely supplant human intelligence. As noted above, we are nowhere close to developing a general AI which can completely outthink a human. We can only create specialized AI for specific tasks. An AI which can analyze when different parts are about to break down will be different from an AI that can review data to create the best project and one that can find good assets to acquire.

Certain individuals discuss with hope or fear a world where humans have been completely supplanted by AI. The more realistic world is one where the two work together, with AI as specialists and humans as generalists. Regardless, the development promises great results for oil and gas and companies which move forward faster will secure a competitive advantage.



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Ethan Pratt's picture
Thank Ethan for the Post!
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