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Drilling down: Using machines learning and AI to reduce upstream costs in the oil and gas industry

One of the big talking points in the oil and gas industry has been how to improve efficiencies in upstream to reduce the cost of producing a barrel of oil. We can’t speak for everyone who came along to ENGenious (4-6 September) in Aberdeen. After all, more than 1,000 people attended the three-day symposium and exhibition, aimed at driving radical digital and technological transformation across the offshore oil and gas industry. But those we spoke to and visitors to the Merkle Aquila stand at the AECC, seemed to share one opinion:

The interest in new technologies and data analytics is growing, especially with the oil price still trying to recover to previous highs.

Which means… interest is at an all-time high.

Historically the price of a barrel of oil has been high, and companies haven’t needed to be as innovative or at the forefront of how they use their data when compared to other industries. Yes, they’ve been at the cutting edge of technology, but it’s only now, as they seek to improve efficiencies, that thoughts are turning to data analytics.

At Merkle Aquila, we’ve been working for companies in the sector including a global multinational company, a government-funded research and innovation centre, and Total E&P UK, the leading producer of oil and gas in the UK (we won a DATA IQ award for the Most Innovative Data Solution). So we wanted to attend the inaugural ENGenious event, organised by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, to take part in discussions about digital innovations in the sector.

The theme for the event was ‘Re-imagining the oil and gas industry. Unleashing the power of digital – today, tomorrow and beyond’.

Mike Atkins, Merkle Aquila Engineer, presented alongside Nick Hayward from Total, introducing one of the projects we are working on with Total. ‘Image Analysis derived from Autonomous Inspection’ is a proof of concept to perform image analysis on asset integrity data collected by autonomous systems and IoT devices. The aim is to better understand the feasibility of these methods, and to demonstrate the benefits of robotic inspection with regard to improved safety, enhanced data capture and reduced operational costs.

On the last day, Sean Robertson, our Data Science Client Director, was part of a panel discussing what the future will look like. There was a heated debate on the challenges in the industry and how these can be overcome, reflecting the level of interest from a global audience.