The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) is a venture to replicate human intelligence in machines. In recent years, businesses across the globe are leveraging AI to optimize their process and reap higher revenues and profits. The energy sector is no exception. It has recognised the potential of AI, robotics, and machine learning (ML). According to Mordor Intelligence research, the AI in the oil and gas market was valued at USD 2 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 3.81 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 10.96% over the forecast period 2020 – 2025.
The collection and transmission of enormous data due to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have thrust upon analysing data to provide actionable insights that may be used to drive quick and accurate business decisions. Integrating AI in energy sub-sectors will enable managing operation, production and wastage efficiently. Further, this would eliminate the health and safety concerns giving way to implement decision-making and maintenance tasks from regional control centres.
Application of AI across sub-sectors of Energy
Oil and Gas – Al will improve deep-sea exploration of hydrocarbons, estimate rock density, porosity and formation, fluid resistance, well’s geothermal temperature profile, hole size and shape, etc. Robots have the potential to play improve safety and reduce costs on offshore platforms. The information collection would consume less time, have greater accuracy, and lower processing costs.
Power – Smart grids are a way forward in the power sector. The humongous data collected at a grid is monitored to ensure supply meets demand. AI in electricity trading could help with the integration of renewables which would enhance accurate forecasts, grid stability, supply security as well as coordinate various participants in the Virtual Power Plant. It would have an added advantage of regulating greenhouse gas emissions due to thermal power plants. Data gathered from smart meters integrated with AI will help DISCOMs achieve their AT&C loss targets.
Renewable – Solar and wind power are heavily dependent on weather conditions. To harness their full potential, AI should be incorporated in storage. Intelligent Energy Storage (IES) can be used to make smart storage management decisions. The combination of 3D printing and AI could improve the manufacturing of solar panels and wind turbines which are expensive and toxic to produce in conventional ways.
Coal – With introduction of automation and AI in mining, job-related risks such as dust inhalation, auditory perception, chemical risks can be subjugated. As per PwC’s report on ‘Artificial intelligence in India – hype or reality’, AI has helped operations in mining to get real-time alerts for detecting intrusions, identifying abandoned objects, evaluating traffic flow density and enabling facial and character recognition to improve overall safety and security levels at different locations.
Implementing AI across globe in energy sector
Royal Dutch Shell collaborated with Udacity to digitally train its workers in AI. The company recently launched virtual assistants, Emma and Ethan, to resolve lubricant-related queries of customers and distributors. ExxonMobil partnered with MIT to design AI robots for ocean exploration, aimed at improving its natural oil seep detection capabilities.
Schlumberger, Chevron and Microsoft announced a collaboration to accelerate digital transformation and obtain meaningful insights from multiple data sources. Gazprom Neft (one of the largest suppliers of natural gas to Europe and Turkey) collaborated with Yandex (Russia’s Google) to explore various potential artificial intelligence applications.
Total and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) are creating a digital innovation centre in India to improve industrial efficiency and energy performance. Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) is effectively using analytics for managing dashboards, reporting insights, making decisions, visualising data, and creating sales analytics. HPCL has also invested in an AI-based startup Tranzmeo. Wipro’s AI platform, Wipro Holmes, has assisted leading LNG company in gaining operational and business insight.
According to Accenture’s report on ‘Accelerating India’s Economic Growth with Artificial Intelligence’, AI has the potential to add US$957 billion to India’s economy in 2035. We have a promising picture ahead us but there are a few concerns that we need to address.
Should we completely rely on smart machines?
The biggest threat of introducing AI is the loss of human jobs. With a massive change in skill requirements, professionals might lose their jobs if they don’t stay updated. Also, automation and robotics are energy-intensive. Hence it is important to develop energy-efficient data centres with less/no carbon footprint.
Further, AI is as intelligent as its data. Capturing better data about operations is the first step in getting better answers. It is important to protect and secure the data from cyberattacks. Any information about past cyber-attacks could contribute to building a smarter data centre.
We need to be careful so that we may not end up defeating the purpose of inculcating AI in energy. Not only will it change the skill set of the professionals but also sector’s gender profile. It has the potential to revolutionise the energy industry.
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Saumya Pandey is a Young Professional at NITI Aayog. A data enthusiast, she graduated from IIT Dhanbad. The article has been co-authored with Mr Rajnath Ram, Adviser (Energy), NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.