IBM ‘cogs’ for oil and gas

Repsol’s ambitious project leverages IBM Watson and the cognitive computing environment from IBM research. Use cases include production optimization and new venture decision support.

Repsol and IBM have set out to ‘transform’ the oil industry through the use of ‘cognitive computing.’ The concept comes out of IBM research’s Cognitive environments lab which provides novel human machine interfaces leveraging speech, gesture, robotics and advanced visualization. The idea is to ‘understand and compensate for human bias in decision-making.’ This will be enabled by a ‘society’ of software agents called ‘cogs,’ working in partnership with humans. In oil and gas, cogs support interaction and collaboration between geoscientists, engineers, economists and planners in a ‘single environment that leverages their individual skills.’

Specific use cases include mergers and acquisitions, where cogs can ‘naturally highlight value and synergies.’ Emergency planning is another target for cog-enablement where agents will ‘explore successes and failures from past data to recommend options and trade-offs for allocating funds and deploying emergency crews.’

Repsol believes that the approach will help it ‘compete with giants, when acquiring new acreage and on optimizing its production. Upstream CTO Santiago Quesada explained ‘This collaboration with IBM opens up new possibilities. We believe that the blending technology and talent will be the key driver for the industry in the 21st century.’

Cogs are backed up by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence back end. Repsol’s Ruben Rodriguez explained, ‘We are trying to find synergies between people and Watson, building an oil industry knowledge base and expert system.’ The interface to the cognitive environment includes an operations room with mikes and video phones.

Speaking at the IBM cognitive systems colloquium last month, Quesada observed that, with offshore wells costing $400 million and with a 25% chance of success, ‘We have to go further, look at emerging technologies like cognitive systems. Our team of E&P experts will prototype these aids to decision making. It will be difficult but it has to be done.’

‘We have to deal with huge amount of data. It’s impossible to be handled by humans. We want to not only handle the data but to control this data. Today, we don’t control data. Data controls us and this has to change.’ ‘We want to make this a reality, not just a vision. We’re combining talents of the joint team. We have the passion for this. Hopefully we’ll see important results very soon.’ IBM’s marketing team has been in overdrive with its ‘society of cogs’ and ‘human-computer collaboration at the speed of thought.’ For a more measured view of the Repsol project, read our interview with Santiago Quesada in next month’s Oil IT Journal.

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