The Incredible Ways Shell Uses augmented intelligence certification To Help Transform The Oil And Gas GiantAdobe Stock
Current initiatives include deploying reinforcement learning in its exploration and drilling program, to reduce the cost of extracting the gas that still drives a significant proportion of its revenues.
Elsewhere across its global business, Shell is rolling out AI at its public electric car charging stations, to manage the shifting demand for power throughout a day. It has also installed computer vision-enabled cameras at service stations, which are capable of detecting customers lighting cigarettes – a severe hazard.
During the data strategy development, I worked with Daniel Jeavons, Shell’s general manager for data science. Jeavons talked to me about Shell’s AI-first strategy and said “What it means in practice is that we as a data science team are in a great position because we can make our current business more effective, more efficient, more reliable, safer – by applying AI into those settings.
“But we can also play a role in creating some of the new business models that we want to create, and that’s really exciting because we’re playing our part in taking Shell into the next generation of energy sources, new fuels, and new sources of revenue.”
Shell is involved in the entire oil and gas supply chain – from mining raw hydrocarbons from the earth to refining them into fuel and various other products, to retailing them to businesses and individuals. AI is being rolled out or trialed at each step of this process. Recent developments include the adoption of reinforcement learning – a form of “semi-supervised” machine learning, to control its drilling equipment.
While machine learning can work with either labeled data (supervised learning) or unlabelled data (unsupervised learning), reinforcement learning takes a middle-ground approach by incorporating a reward system, dependent on the outcome of the AI’s “choices.”
As Jeavons says, “The key thing is you’re giving the [AI] agent the autonomy to make the decision. But you’re providing input into the model, so you’re providing reward or penalty functions on the basis of what’s happening in the model, and how the model responds to the set of conditions that you give it.”
Algorithms designed to guide the drills as they move through a subsurface are trained on historical data from Shell’s drilling records, as well as information gathered from simulated exploration. It covers mechanical information from the drill bit, such as temperature and pressures, as well as data on the subsurface from seismic surveys.
The result is that a Shell geosteerer – the human operator of the drilling machine – is able to understand the environment more accurately they are operating in, leading to faster results and less wear, tear and damage to machinery.
In many ways the challenge was similar to those faced by developers working on self-driving cars – only instead of navigating hazards a vehicle might encounter on the road, the drilling machinery must autonomously adapt to changing conditions under the ground.
Jeavons says “We talk a lot about augmented intelligence certification, and the reason is that this isn’t about removing people from the operation … what we’re trying to do is help the people who make the decisions to make those decisions with additional support from the intelligence that we’ve created.
“What we expect is that this will probably never fully replace geosteering as a discipline, but it will allow a single geosteerer to support many more wells.”
Encouraging motorists to switch to an electric vehicle is seen as key to reducing the Co2 emissions caused by humanity, and limiting their effect on climate change. But it involves something of a chicken-and-egg problem. Motorists are put off making the switch due to a lack of public charging terminals, and forecourt operators may be slow to adopt them due to a lack of demand.
Shell’s answer to this problem involves deploying AI to monitor and predict the demand for terminals throughout the day, enabling power to be supplied more efficiently.
“If you think about it,” says Jeavons, “as a grid operator you’re operating many, many electric charging posts … if all the cars plug in at the same time and automatically start charging, you create a big load…