AI use cases in Oil and Gas industry

Fuelish Decisions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already affected your life—in ways you might have read about, or already suspected—and this effect has been largely positive.  It streamlines your interactions and makes web searching easier.  AI controls traffic lights to reduce automobile congestion; it invisibly places elevators at specific positions in high-rises so that they are near where they are going to be needed, thus minimizing how long you wait when you push the call button.  Its abilities are expanding all the time.

For example, Facebook has invested heavily in AI so that they can present useful, related articles (or ads) on your FB homepage.  Google, Yahoo, and Bing all remember what you have searched for previously, and use that information as a filter to align their results.  All of these organize their “hits”, so they are more likely to match what you are looking for.

Nothing is Perfect

Let’s imagine you are looking up information about a controversial political figure, and when the results come up, you tend to click on results that are more positive or negative.  Each click is going to bias your future reporting results in the direction you have chosen.

If you pick positive, you’ll see more and more positive results in future searches because the program is trying to help you find what you want.  Conversely, if you pick negative results, you’ll see more and more of that.

We can’t blame the current algorithms for the results—they are merely trying to fulfill your requests—and only incidentally are they creating a bias in the reporting.  Try the same search on Ixquick at, a privacy-focused search engine, and you’ll find that the results are extraordinarily well-rounded, and don’t become biased over time because they don’t record your choices.  The convenience of a search engine that “knows” you, is great and helpful; if you’re looking for data without a “slant,” try one of the privacy engines.

You have to remember that Artificial Intelligence is only as useful as we make it.  It is important to build it without biases, so only the actual questions you pose to it will affect the results you get.  The subtleties of implementing an AI properly are covered in our AI webinars, which you are invited to join.

Oil & Gas

Representing 2-3% of the Gross Domestic Product— not for just a nation, but for the entire planet—this resource needs top quality management.  There are some ways that various companies are implementing AI, and the ones who get it “right” will “win.”

Sinopec Raises the Bar

China Petroleum and Chemical (aka Sinopec) is working on rolling out ten new processing plants run almost entirely by AIs.  They’ve teamed up with Huawei to create an intelligent data management hub to take charge.  Their goal is to reduce operation and production costs by about twenty percent.

The AI will study and learn as the operations progress, and it will see where efficiencies can be created.  Linked with the other facilities, it can manage processes to make sure that production always meets demand.  Oil reserves are a great place to store oil, rather than pumping it all the way to the surface only to store it in tank farms above ground.


Mineralogists, Geologists, Engineers, and Geophysicists all work together to locate petroleum reserves and then get the bounty to the surface where it can be used.  Yes, we’ve been using petro-products since the year 2000 B.C.E. (by the Babylonians), but that was based on it being discovered at the surface.

The first wells were drilled around the year 347 C.E. in China with bamboo shafts with hard “bits” on the end.  They were, in some cases, an amazing 800 feet deep.  The oil, under natural pressure and unrefined was piped (again, inside bamboo pipes) to salt springs where it boiled off the water to produce salt.  Amazing!

Nowadays companies such as TOTAL are sponsoring contests to build surveyor robots designed to find oil reserves.  What is unique about them is that they are entirely independent, and powered by AI.

These AI robots can keep themselves out of trouble without human management.  They’re autonomous and can fix problems that they discover, help protect the environment, and most importantly find petroleum.  Now all those important scientists mentioned above can focus on the discoveries made, rather than searching manually, and create more efficient ways to exploit the discoveries.

More Robots are Coming!

ExxonMobil is spending millions on the development of AI-driven robots that can search the seabed for Heavy Oil Seeps.  Seeps supply more than half of all the oil available in North America.  Locating these sources not only increases oil availability, but can contribute to environmental management, helping to stem the impact of these completely natural leaks of light oil, heavy oil, and methane.

Oil rising up the water column creates a slick that eventually precipitates back down, often landing 80 kilometers further away because of currents.  The methane release goes directly into the atmosphere, with all the consequences that attend such an escape.  These underwater AI automatons are not only good at finding oil; they can contribute significantly to environmental protection.

Avatar wasn’t just a Movie

Shell Oil has implemented a pair of AI ChatBots  (affectionately named Ethan and Emma) as a direct customer interface.  These AIs help customers search through the massive database of available lubricants to find the precise one needed for a particular application.

Where is the advantage?  A single ChatBot can speak to hundreds of people simultaneously, freeing up dozens of phone answerers for far more profitable pursuits.  Every C-Suite executive is looking for some substantial ROI that they can share with stakeholders, stockholders, potential investors, and assorted vested interests.  Let’s make sure they are aware of the incredible value of a customer whose life has been made simpler, who orders more, and who encourages others to become customers.

Engineers know what they need to do a job, but there is no possibility that they know all of the 3,000 products available, the nearly 20,000 different packaging options, or what competitors’ products each one can replace.  They may settle for something “adequate” and maintenance cycles might become more frequent.  By getting exactly what they need, a bearing or armature might last an extra 24 months.

This service even extends to retail customers asking what sort of oil their car requires.  Do they require a detergent in their oil?  What sort of transmission fluid should they use?

High pressure, low viscosity, temperature resistant, non-flowing, or a very wide, narrow, high, or low-temperature range makes no difference.  The ChatBots know everything about all the products so a customer can describe what they are looking for, what characteristics it needs to possess, and one of the two “E”s will guide them to the correct selection.  It really can be that easy.

This replaces a tedious process where a customer would traverse and search the massive database, looking for precisely the thing they needed.  Now, instead of minutes or hours, the same task can take seconds, or at worst, minutes if the customer asks for a range and then wishes to compare them manually.

Supporting Decision Making

Russia’s Gazprom is working with Yandex to update their petroleum industry development.  Using AI and Deep/Machine Learning, they are looking to enhance drilling efficiency and then streamlining typical well-completion.  The AI will also examine refining strategies to increase the efficiency as well as enhancing current technical processes to cut costs and render more oil products.

The Takeaway

If you need to put out a well-fire, go ahead and hire a Red Adair analog, but if you want your operation to be less costly, smarter, more responsive to environmental issues, and to make more money, at the end of the day, you are going to have to invest in AI.  Everyone else will be doing it and the ones that can’t, or simply refuse to stay current, will get left behind in the wake of those that are more in touch with where our industry is headed.

As you can see from the above examples, the big companies, all over the world, are already moving ahead.  Now is not the time to equivocate, hesitate, or hang back.

There was once a rather witty man named Laurence J. Peter, known for his pithy expressions.  One of the most relevant to the subject at hand was “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!”

He also said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”  That is probably not a desirable outcome in our industry.  Our business is based on science, not serendipity; we develop, create, and constantly evolve.  Relying on traditional methods when resources like AI are available to us—and already demonstrated to work—is likely to result in a dry hole rather than a Bonanza.

If you want to learn more, we provide webinars to show you where the future is going and how you can get there.  Don’t shortchange yourself.  Join us today!