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AI and the cloud enable energy’s transformative leap

By Jim Chappell, Global Head of AI and Advanced Analytics, AVEVA

The current pandemic has shown the oil and gas sector how dependable enterprise operations can be upended almost overnight. Workforce routines at extraction sites and refineries have been disrupted, causing unplanned outages, as we saw at the Sharara oilfield. With supply chains interrupted, parts manufactured in traditional source markets could not be delivered on time, delaying essential maintenance. Border closures and an unprecedented drop in demand have further constricted already tight economic operations.

Not only do these conditions look set to continue over the short term, but other challenges loom over the foreseeable future. A supply glut and a depressed outlook for hydrocarbon prices have been forecast over the medium term, and over the long-term, oil demand could peak within two decades as fuel demand drops and pressure to act on climate change mounts.

To thrive in this brave new world, oil and gas players must respond with transformative action, taking inspiration from the industry’s bold, pathbreaking history. At AVEVA, we have made it our mission to help companies capitalise on current opportunities, while striving to protect lives and livelihoods for the companies and communities we serve.

Success in a post-pandemic world will require innovative thinking and action at scale. Here, two transformative new technologies will shape a sustainable future for oil and gas and its partner industries, and for the world around us. These are artificial intelligence, or AI, and cloud computing.

AI is enabling better decisions

AI has been with us for over six decades. As it becomes more sophisticated, with wider use cases, it allows organisations to improve productivity. With unified smart analytics that bridge complete data stacks, teams can leverage mathematical thought processes across all their activities. Individuals are thus afforded scale and capacity that would otherwise have been unavailable: knowledge, data-led intelligence, and the capacity to recognise new opportunities. AI enables people to make better decisions – and even recommends courses of action – that enhance the capabilities of human staff. Overall, McKinsey predicts that AI will drive a 2% growth in manufacturing and energy for the next decade – or $1 trillion every year.

At AVEVA, we have been using AI to enhance the value chain over the past 15 years, with specific applications for predictive analytics in the maintenance and asset performance space. Aramco, for example, uses AI and advanced analytics solutions to help eliminate unplanned downtime across its diverse operations.

The cloud offers connected insights

Leverage the cloud here and we are able to integrate standalone products, linking AI modules together into a broader intelligence for more efficient performance. With integrated systems comes integrated analysis. AI can produce increasingly more complex insights and recommendations for human workforces quicker and with less chance of error. If AI underpins better decision making, cloud is the glue that binds it all together.

The cloud helps scale the benefits of AI across the entire range of enterprise operations as opposed to the past, when narrow AI was infused into various products. This broader AI leads to general artificial intelligence – the ability to make a complex decision using combinations of different types of AI, to learn something in one place and apply it elsewhere. The development of general AI is very much a continuum, and the potential benefits are enormous. Lessons from the resource extraction operation could very well be applied to another division.

With the shift to digital business models following COVID-19, the trend has gathered speed, and we are now partnering with clients worldwide to leverage those benefits.

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