31 Mar 2020

Artificial Intelligence: A Big Player in the Oil Sands Industry

Canada is a major oil producer thanks to Alberta’s oil sands, which contributes more than 60% of Canada’s 4.6 million bbl/day oil production. While the first commercial oil sands production began in late 1960’s through mining, it was not until 1985 when in-situ production began with the first-in-kind project by Imperial Oil in Cold Lake. Since then, the industry thrived through determination, innovation and technology.

Unlike other industries, oil and gas has been slow in adopting technology and innovation at large scale. However, in Canada, depressed commodity price, and transportation capacity constraints imposed on oil sands producers created a state of innovate or perish. Thus, leading them to implement cost reduction and efficiency enhancement projects through technology implementation.

With several digital transformation projects, AI has been a key asset to some Canadian oil sands producers, who took major investment to adopt AI in oil sands production activities.

What is AI?

AI is a set of tasks performed by a machine that exhibits human intelligence, such as learning and improving. Nowadays, AI machines collect and interpret data, analyzes surrounding, and adjust to new scenarios every time it performs a task.

For instance: cognitive computing, which is part of AI, is being used to optimize steam injection in oil sands production. It allows the extraction of oil with the least amount of steam, resulting in increased efficiency and cost reduction.

What Are Canadian Oil Sands Producers Doing?

Imperial Oil established a two-year agreement with The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) to collaborate on the development of in-house machine learning, another branch of AI. Such initiative intends to enhance oil recovery, reduce environmental impacts and improve safety at the workplace.

Also, Suncor is using Microsoft cloud services as a way to move towards cloud-based computing. Such integration will allow the rapid deployment of new technologies, which includes AI, in order to improve safety and productivity in the workplace.

Additionally, companies have adopted an intelligent monitoring platform that collects and analyzes field data. Consequently, alerts and reports are automatically generated. This implementation has reduced routine well site visits which reduced incidents and improved operations.

The world is rapidly changing through the adoption of technology. Many industries have embraced the change through the implementation of innovation and technology such as AI. In Canada, the oil sands industry has made major steps in the adaptation of such technology, allowing them to thrive and to shape the future of our industry.

Examples of how AI is changing the industry can be seen at the Oil Sands Conference & Trade Show, September 16 & 17, 2020 in Fort McMurray.  For information on the education content, visit www.oilsandstradeshow.com.

Oea Consulting is firm that specializes in the upstream oil and gas sector. Their clients include Canadian emerging and junior E&Ps in planning and managing their upstream activities in international markets.  For more information, visit oea-consulting.ca.