Artificial intelligence is one of the most exciting technological advancements to reshape our society in living memory, yet few people have a robust understanding of AI and the myriad of ways that it’s changing our world. Nowhere is AI more important and disruptive than in the energy sector, where professionals from a wide range of backgrounds are finding it immensely helpful. Nevertheless, the role of AI in the oil and gas sector is still largely misunderstood, and many potential entrants to the industry have no idea where to begin brushing up on this complex topic.
Here’s a breakdown of how AI is disrupting oil and gas, and why intelligent machines will be imperative to the future of the energy sector.
AI isn’t coming – it’s already here
If there’s an easy way to describe the role of AI in the oil and gas sector, it’s that this technology has already become an ingrained part of how energy companies and professionals achieve their objectives. Oil and gas companies have historically been massive collectors of data; if well workers couldn’t access huge treasure troves of data about the region they’re operating in, for instance, they would never be able to succeed at their jobs while ensuring workplace safety and cost-effectiveness. This means that the oil and gas sector was ripe for disruption by AI, which more than anything else desperately needs massive volumes of information to work effectively.
AI began to take over the oil and gas sector in no small part because it was already replete with a tremendous amount of data surrounding ongoing drilling operations and planned future initiatives. Predictive algorithms were capable of digesting huge volumes of previously collected data before generating new insights that contemporary oil and gas professionals simply wouldn’t have been capable of producing without the assistance of intelligent machines. It will thus become imperative for future oil and gas workers to be familiar and comfortable with computers if they want to remain successful in their field for very long.
More than anything else, those workers who rely upon complex software to manage their responsibilities are finding themselves disrupted by AI. This mostly isn’t a negative process, however; while AI-led disruption may temporarily perplex workers, it’s not rendering them obsolete. Many claims that AI and similar innovations would result in widespread joblessness haven’t come true. This is mostly because many of the people making such predictions were critics of AI and related technologies and thus argued that job loss would occur after adopting it in an effort to prevent its adoption.
The cat is out of the bag, however, and there’s no stopping AI now that it’s become a regular facet of the oil and gas sector. As a report from EY makes clear, areas of the industry that are under siege by changing market conditions can benefit from AI by relying on it to cut down on operational costs while simultaneously catching errors that the human eye would never notice.
Reservoirs aren’t so intimidating
One of the most impressive ways that AI has disrupted the oil and gas sector is by rendering reservoirs more accessible than ever before. Previously, companies shied away from drilling in certain areas because they were unsure of the probability of success. Now, however, simulated programs that are managed by AI can create impressive ‘knowledge graphs’ that incorporate the region’s geophysics and other reservoir project information. Companies that were once worried about paying for expensive oil and gas training courses can thus avoid wasting their money on frivolous training procedures by using programs to determine whether a reservoir is worth pursuing in the first place.
Precision drilling is also ensuring that reservoirs that were previously accessible can now be exploited to a fuller and more profitable extent. This means that many projects that oil and gas executives thought were winding down can instead be reinvigorated with the help of AI-led drilling, which is far more precise and productive than that exclusively managed by humans. Field surveillance, too, will be made much easier and far cheaper when it’s simultaneously managed by man and machine working together rather than one of them operating by their lonesome.
Finally, AI is also making the oil and gas sector safer than ever before. Smart helmets and other “wearable technology” that workers carry with them will ensure that those who are stuck in tricky situations will enjoy closer monitoring from their peers. This means that workers who find themselves imperiled will have outsiders aware of that trouble coming to rescue them sooner than ever before.
From project maintenance to worker safety, AI is disrupting and benefiting the oil and gas industry so much that it’s almost difficult to keep track of all the innovations it’s introducing to the field. Before long, we can expect AI to become a normal and almost mundane aspect of the oil and gas world.