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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Why Big Oil Loves Artificial Intelligence

The oil industry has fallen hard for digital tech, with artificial intelligence and robotics a particular focus of attraction, KPMG’s latest CEO Outlook: Oil & Gas has suggested. As much as 85 percent of respondents—52 global chief executives from the oil and gas industry—told KPMG that they have either already adopted AI in their operations or are in the process of testing it for adoption. What’s more, a high percentage of the respondents believe that this increased adoption of digital technology solutions will actually create more jobs.

Oil and gas companies’ excitement about technology is not exactly new, but it is intensifying. After years of shunning suspiciously unfamiliar, possibly dangerous alternatives to the way business in the industry has been done for decades, oil and gas producers are now eager to enter the new digital age and reap as many benefits from it as possible.

These benefits were neatly laid out by experts in a recent story in Offshore Technology and, unsurprisingly, they include data analytics, big data, AI and automation, surveillance tech, and blockchain--because blockchain, it seems, will soon be everywhere, from the oil field to kindergarten.

And the benefits? Improved productivity and lower costs through time savings thanks to automation and algorithms, to name just a few. Better safety through automation and capabilities for remote operations and surveillance—think drones—are some more.

KPMG’s respondents identified a few other long-term benefits for the industry from digital technology: 46 percent said the top one was acceleration of revenue growth, and another 39 percent noted better risk management. An equal percentage, 39, said they believed the biggest long-term benefit of digital tech was increased agility, something they learned the hard way during the last crisis, which luckily happened to coincide with a major tech push into algorithms and machine learning. Related: Why Is Canadian Crude Selling For $20?

“Technology is disrupting the status quo in the oil and gas industry. AI and robotic solutions can help us create models that will predict behavior or outcomes more accurately, like improving rig safety, dispatching crews faster, and identifying systems failures even before they arise,” said one of the authors of the survey, KPMG’s Global Sector Head for Energy and Natural Resources in the United States.

Interestingly, most CEOs seem to believe the transition to a digitalized future will create more jobs than it will kill. In fact, as much as 93 percent of the survey’s sample said they expected a rise in the overall number of people employed in oil and gas thanks to the shift to technology. Also, a substantial portion, 58 percent, said they believed AI adoption and robotics in particular will create more jobs.

These expectations do make sense: they will create jobs for people who can operate AI and robots, and it is possible that these jobs will eventually exceed the manual jobs lost as a consequence of the increased automation of field and support operations. But these are long-term developments that will likely take place gradually rather than in leaps and bounds. For the short term, oil and gas CEOs are also optimistic. And no wonder, with higher oil prices that are allowing them to loosen their belts a little. As much as 85 percent of respondents expect the industry to grow in the near term and beyond. Technology will certainly help this.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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