IEA: Energy Sector On ‘Cusp Of A New Digital Era’

Artificial intelligence (AI) may still be a nascent digital technology, especially for the oil and gas industry, but its use holds promise for upstream operations, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“AI could be used to analyze well performance, troubleshoot underperforming fields, suggest corrective actions and even deploy robots to carry out tasks,” the IEA said. “It could also enhance reservoir modelling, and thus aid operations by rapidly detecting and correcting suboptimal production behavior.”

The thoughts were shared in the IEA’s Digitalization & Energy report, the agency’s first report that tackles the intersection of digital technologies and energy. The Nov. 6 release of the 188-page report, which covered several areas of the energy sector, was delivered as the oil and gas industry’s increases its uptake in digital technologies in search of uncovering further efficiency and cost gains.

“Energy companies with whom we work very closely—oil, gas, electricity, technology companies—are increasing their investment in digital technologies,” Fatih Birol, executive director for the IEA, said during a Nov. 6 webcast on the report’s release. “Our numbers show that the investment in digital infrastructure has increased by 20% each year over the past couple of years.”

The IEA found that use of digital technologies such as those associated with enhanced reservoir modeling, advanced seismic data processing and sensors throughout the oil and gas industry could lead to a 10% to 20% drop in production costs.

Laura Cozzi, head of the IEA’s Energy Demand Outlook Division, said unconventional oil and gas could benefit the most.