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Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers “a great deal of promise” for upstream operations, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Digitalization & Energy report released Monday.
“AI could be used to analyze well performance, troubleshoot underperforming fields, suggest corrective actions and even deploy robots to carry out tasks,” the report states.
“It could also enhance reservoir modelling, and thus aid operations by rapidly detecting and correcting suboptimal production behavior,” the report added.
Coupling AI with sensors and sophisticated data management tools could also allow companies to operate and maximize production from thousands of unconventional tight oil and shale gas wells “with only a handful of engineers and technicians,” according to the report.
“Tight oil and shale gas production is likely to be especially suitable for the application of new digital technologies given the shorter-term nature of investment cycles (compared with conventional fields), which should favor the introduction and implementation of new technologies in a more continuous manner,” the report states.
“Widely shared inventories of equipment suppliers could also shorten procurement times and reduce costs, creating a more efficient ‘just-in-time’ supply chain across the unconventional oil and gas industry,” the report added.
The initial focus of digitalization in the upstream oil and gas industry won’t be AI though, according to the report, it is most likely to be on expanding and refining the range of existing digital applications already in use.
Some examples given by the IEA were the development of miniaturized and fibre optic sensors in the production system, which could be used to boost output or increase the overall recovery of oil and gas from a reservoir.
Other examples given were the use of automated drilling rigs and robots to inspect and repair subsea infrastructure and to monitor transmission pipelines and tanks.
Remaining technically recoverable oil and gas resources around the world are currently estimated to be around 1.4 trillion tons of oil equivalent, according to the IEA, but this could be increased by up to 75 billion toe, equal to over 10 years of current world oil and gas consumption, through the widespread use of existing and emerging digital technologies across the global resource base, the report states.