AI and energy: taking data further, faster

Despite recent changes to working environments, Aramco remains keen to engage and collaborate, in particular where it concerns innovation. This summer saw specialists from its Delft Global Research Center (GRC) in the Netherlands, focusing on upstream technologies, join online discussions on the growing role of artificial intelligence (AI).

In 2019, AI’s value to the industry was US2bn and is expected to surpass US3.8bn by 2025 (a pre-pandemic estimation). Specifically it is AI’s ability to make complex data more reachable that has E&P experts pushing for further inclusion. Context was provided through introductions given by EAGE Netherlands chapter President Diego Rovetta, an upstream specialist at Aramco’s GRC. He highlighted the crucial opportunities available to the energy industry through AI.

Alongside smart software, cloud and supercomputing, AI can take data interpretation to a new level, something built on by the session’s first speaker, Paul Zwartjes, a senior research geophysicist at GRC and a recognized expert in his field. “AI is a big term that can mean many things, including making machines smarter. Advanced algorithms allow for fast track solutions, reducing delivery times in seismic data processing and subsurface imaging” he said. “However, this does not mean we can predict drill locations using only data and AI - that would be hasty, though it can help with part of the problems.” Indeed, the biggest gain is in reducing processing time, not in improving quality per se, supporting the process rather than driving it – turnaround times could go from 6-12 months to 1-3 months.

“Integration to existing workflows can assist with parameter estimation, quality control and event classification, while in terms of drivers, AI has potential to improve geophysical data processing, velocity model building and imaging.” Zwartjes demonstrated his thoughts through case studies looking at first break picking, blending noise attenuation and inversion. In all three, AI outperformed regular tools in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

Indeed, the prospect of greater speed and lower processing costs makes the application of AI valuable to upstream operators, through faster and cheaper ways to determine if oil at the bottom of a well is feasible to drill. Temperature profile, hole size and shape, rock density, porosity and formation, and fluid resistance are some of the attributes that can be analyzed by algorithms, faster and more accurately than by humans.


The AI webinar saw interaction from several chapters of host organisation EAGE (European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers), including the Netherlands. London, Oslo, Paris, Aberdeen and some student chapters were also in attendance. “This initiative is great in strengthening further the name of Aramco Delft Global Research Center in the geophysical community,” said Roald van Borselen, Center Chief Representative. “The talk clearly demonstrated the leadership position of Aramco in adopting Artificial Intelligence in novel Seismic Data processing applications.”

“Local chapters are one of the EAGE pillars where our members meet, connect and exchange knowledge”, said current EAGE President, Everhard Muyzert. “The success of the Netherlands local chapter is due to the enthusiasm of its members and the generous support by companies such as Aramco.”

Through GRC, Aramco looks to collaborate with various institutions to conduct research and develop geophysical technologies, to help solve the sector’s greatest challenges and GRC’s primary goal of developing break-through technology in AI for Aramco’s in-Kingdom operations.

Also sharing his thoughts was Norbert Dolle, co-founder of White Space Energy, a company exploring the use of AI in complex decision-making. Dolle, formerly of Shell, underlined how the energy industry relies on successfully making difficult choices across the value chain comprised of multiple options, risk, as well as competing drivers like safety and time constraints.