The next industry to be drastically changed by AI: Oil and gas

Back in 2015, Shell launched an artificial intelligence-powered assistant for their lubricant service customers. Represented by digital avatars Emma and Ethan, the assistant assists customers with lubricant-related questions and concerns. It’s available around the clock, which means people can reach out at any time of the day or night and receive answers in seconds.

Shell claims that the assistant can handle over 100,000 data sheets for 3,000 products, and understands 16,500 physical characteristics of lubricants. The technology can also provide detailed information to customers about more than 18,500 pack sizes.


It is incredibly inventive and highlights just how powerful and influential AI can be in the oil and gas sector. But it’s only representative of AI being used in a customer service capacity. The technology is so much more capable than that, exactly why it’s poised to disrupt and revolutionize the field.

Markets and Markets estimate that artificial intelligence in the oil and gas industry will grow from 2017 to 2022 to a market size of 2.85 billion U.S. dollars.

1. Locating New Reservoirs and Environmental Conservation

A collaboration between ExxonMobile and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was established to develop a "self-learning, submersible robot" that will be used for ocean exploration. More specifically, the robots will "have the ability to detect natural [oil] seeps in the ocean floor."

Certain leakages or "seeps" occur when oil escapes and makes contact with seawater, originally restricted by highly pressurized sea rock. A large majority of the oil underneath North America originates from these leakages.

It leaks into the ocean and, just like oil spills on the surface, ruins the surrounding area including plant life and aquatic animals. The robots -- powered by AI -- will help discover these leaks, allowing us to better protect our oceans and also locate new oil reservoirs. Finding new gas sources is necessary to keep up with supply and demand. Oil and gas exploration is such as huge part of advancing the industry and requires state-of-the-art tools from next-gen drills and pumps, to AI-driven platforms.

2. Efficiency and Data Analysis

One of the benefits of modern technologies like AI is that they can be used to find new mediums and applications. That’s exactly the case with Gazprom and Yandex’s joint venture which will be used to find and explore possible applications of AI in the industry.

Alexander Khaytin, the executive director of Yandex Data Factory, believes that AI is the next logical step for assessing and processing data volumes that are quickly becoming commonplace in oil and gas. The AI will pour over "massive volumes of data" in order to identify "easy solutions for optimizing production and business processes [which] have long since been implemented."

It’s natural that new technology, especially one as powerful as AI, would be questionable in terms of how it can be applied. But over time, new solutions will present themselves or they may even be crafted by players in the market.

3. Smart Manufacturing Tool

China Petroleum and chemical corporation Sinopec announced a partnership with Huawei -- a Chinese telecom company -- to develop what is being described as a "smart manufacturing platform." The tool will be used to centralize data management and provide support for multiple applications that will be used in manufacturing and factory settings. In other words, the technology will be used to manage and drive operations in a more modern, intelligent way.

The AI is also designed to extract and assess valuable insights that can be used to further improve operations, boosting overall efficiency.

There’s More to Come

While many of the applications discussed here are already being used in the real world, they are not the only examples of oil and gas companies experimenting with the technology.

Expect to see a lot more innovations in AI and data processing, many of which should improve operational efficiency and change the way things play out.

Photo Credit: ded pixto/Shutterstock

Kayla Matthews is a senior writer at MakeUseOf and a freelance writer for Digital Trends. To read more from Kayla, visit her website

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