How BP is using AI to access subsurface data

Artificial intelligence is at work in the oil & gas industry.
29 January 2019

When it comes to the oil and gas industry, the injection of cutting-edge technology is relentless as always, and for a company like BP, it’s just another day at the office.

BP Ventures, an investor for “game-changing” tech companies in the energy sector, has invested US$5 million in Belmont Technology to further bolster BP’s digital capabilities, as it explores opportunities to apply machine learning (ML) and cognitive computing in its global oil and gas business.

Why Belmont Technology? Well, the technology start-up, originating from Houston, has developed an AI-driven ‘cloud-based geoscience platform’. This allows BP to feed in geology, geophysics, reservoir and historic project information with the platform returning an advanced breakdown, or ‘knowledge graph’, of subsurface assets.

Experts can then explore and probe the data, asking the knowledge-graph specific questions in a natural language. The technology then uses AI neural networks to interpret results and perform rapid simulations.

AI in the oil and gas industry

Project lifecycles in this industry can be laborious, and this technology is targeting a 90 percent time reduction in data collection, interpretation and simulation. “This investment helps drive forward our digital strategy and further underpins our Upstream operations with cutting-edge technology,” said David Eyton, Group Head of Technology at BP.

“This AI-based platform, which we’ve nicknamed Sandy, is expected to unlock critical data for our subsurface engineers at a much-accelerated pace,” said Eyton. Experts can ask the platform specific questions regarding its reservoirs in certain fields, and the platform can make informed ‘Upstream’ decisions (the discovery and production stage of crude oil or natural gas) more effectively.

“This investment helps drive forward our digital strategy and further underpins our Upstream operations with cutting-edge technology,” he added.

“We are extremely honored to welcome BP as an investor as it is a validation of our approach and technology,” said Belmont Technology’s CEO, Jean-Marie Laigle. “We are excited by the prospect of deploying a cutting-edge cognitive AI solution within BP.

“Our technology enables real-time thinking for subsurface engineers, helping transform the way teams work, analyze data, understand situations and generate novel ideas.”

BP’s investment into Belmont Technology will also allow the start-up to expand its operations and follows BP’s previous deals in cognitive computing, including $20 million in Series B funding in AI company Beyond Limits.

That investment is helping deploy AI technology previously used in deep space exploration missions in offshore exploration, accelerating operational insight and process automation across operations.