Data & Analytics

How Intelligent Work Flows Change the Oil and Gas Industry

With so much volatility in the sector, acutely felt by many western consumers, how are intelligent work flows enabling the shift toward alternatives?

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As defined by EY, intelligent automation (IA) refers to the integration of robotics with multiple components from different emerging technologies. These software robots operate as virtual employees, reliably automating manual, repetitive tasks at scale.

EY adds that "when robotic, intelligent, and autonomous systems are integrated, the result is intelligent automation, widening the scope of potential tasks and processes that can be automated. This powerful combination brings transformation across the whole spectrum of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of things."

Within the oil and gas sector, data-driven analytics are driving safety and productivity improvements, but businesses face an uphill challenge to implement automated artificial intelligence (AI) work flows based on a standardized data model in a manner that is integrated with standard work processes.

Silos and data sets are seen as the main barriers within organizations and across the energy industry at large, which has led to such initiatives as the Open AI Energy Initiative (OAI), a first-of-its-kind open ecosystem of AI solutions involving Shell, C3 AI, Baker Hughes, and Microsoft.

To add more perspective on this initiative, Dan Jeavons, Shell's data science general manager, who has led the initiative’s development, and Christophe Vaessen, Shell's general manager for commercial, EU, Middle East, and Africa, who leads commercialization efforts of Shell’s intellectual propertyto third parties, spoke about technological advancements in their industry.

Vaessen told, “Digital technology is a key enabler to facilitate the way we are doing business. As an energy company, we have to adapt to remain at the forefront of this transformation. The three previous industrial revolutions have demonstrated that not only the most advanced industries were successful but the ones that were able to partner, develop, and work together effectively were the ones that often stood out. In the OAI platform, we are building an open environment that enables all parties to work together toward a common ambition.”

The OAI is an open platform where companies can plug in and commercialize their apps. This includes not only international oil companies but also different sectors, such as cement or mining companies, that are running large operations and looking for digital tools to help with predictive maintenance.

As industrial facilities require robust and supportable applications, C3 AI provides a series of apps that provide predictive maintenance and reliability capabilities, while Microsoft provides the base platform.

Jeavons added that Shell is “committed to working as part of an ecosystem—bringing multiple players together to move forward in the AI space because no one company can solve the world’s AI problems.”

“Furthermore, speed is paramount. The energy transition is forcing us to change more quickly, and the digital transformation of society is also accelerating. Our view is that alliances are critical to accelerating our progress and enabling AI deployment at scale.”

As founding members of the OAI, Shell takes a leading role in developing a curated ecosystem of integrated solutions and creating fair value exchange for the companies that build on top of the platform.

“The nearest analog to what we’re trying to do with the OAI is to create an Apple App Store for the process industry,” Jeavons added.

“We have a standardized data model based on open standards. We have a platform that creates consistency, scalability, and supportability to drive adoption. And, on top of that, we are aiming to build solutions that respect expertise and create fair value exchange.”

Shell is focused on further developing predictive-maintenance solutions that can help plant operators take preemptive action to avoid shutdowns based on equipment failure, Vaessen said.

“In the medium term, we would like to expand the offer by making it more integrated and include offerings to assist plant optimization, inspection, and sustainability. We want to bring in other elements in the value chain and, therefore, offer a full ecosystem for plant operations.

“Partnership for the OAI will be incentivized by the solutions offered, and today, Shell is providing a first wave of solutions. As the platform gains more adopters, its offerings will increase over time. Through collaboration and sharing technology, we are aiming to build an ecosystem where adopters will, together, be developing a fully integrated solution,” Vaessen said.

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