AAPG Middle East Region GTW, Digital Subsurface Transformation

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From Insight to Foresight: Knowing How to Apply Artificial Intelligence in the Oil & Gas Industry


We are in an era where digital technologies are developing at exponential rates and transforming industries wholesale. The confluence of machine learning advances, accelerated growth in acquired data, on-demand computing such as cloud infrastructure, and other advances in automation and robotics are causing an industrial revolution that some term “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Given that all these transformative technologies are now available and rapidly reinventing other industries, why is the rate of adoption in the oil & gas industry so slow? How can we best utilize these advances to stop drowning in data and instead transform this data into information and knowledge in order to enable secure and intelligent automation in oilfield operations? We outline some of the structural challenges facing the oil & gas industry, and describe a few of the solutions that have been developed to help companies in the industry. These include applications from the subsurface in geophysics, completions design, and production. Overcoming data silos in traditional data infrastructure requires a novel approach to cloud infrastructure that respects user access, data privacy and data residency requirements of companies. The step of assessing data for quality and for reasonable diversity and variation in order to answer questions posed by oil & gas companies can be quite profound. This critical step prevents companies from spending lots of non-productive time and money trying to develop and tune artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms to produce answers that are simply not available in the data. Further, getting the data to be in a suitable form to apply artificial intelligence/machine learning can be quite involved. We illustrate the above challenges by several subsurface examples, and then describe the implementation of solutions. What we will show is that the oil & gas digital highway presently has data traffic jams preventing it from moving at the speed of light. Removing these traffic jams offers decision makers the opportunity to move from insight to foresight – looking out in front instead of the rearview mirror to drive change.