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Working better, safer, faster: how AI can help the energy transition

Release date:
15 November 2023
bp’s wider transformation is under way. While we’re mostly in oil & gas today, we’ve increased global investment into our lower carbon businesses, convenience stores and power trading from around 3% in 2019 to around 23% in 2023.
Leigh-Ann Russell - EVP, innovation & engineering
bp’s executive vice president of innovation & engineering, Leigh-Ann Russell, explains how this cutting-edge technology can help to enhance safety, increase efficiency and more on the journey to net zero
🕒 3 min read | 📖 Feature

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence (AI). Why is this relevant to bp?

There is so much talk about AI at the moment. Rightly so, it’s relevant to everyone. And it is incredibly relevant to bp. We’re transforming from an international oil company (IOC) into a nimble, increasingly lower carbon, and tech-driven integrated energy company (IEC). We need the right tools to help us optimize our processes, become more efficient, save costs, lower emissions, and unlock growth. The potential for AI to facilitate that is huge. 


As we transform, we plan to focus even more on being a service provider as well as an energy producer. Whether it’s by offering services to corporates to help them decarbonize, or by creating more products that our retail customers need, AI and data science can revolutionize the way we interact with them.

How are you using AI to support bp’s ambition?

We’ve been working with AI and machine learning for a while now. 


Above all, on our journey to net zero, we want safe operations and AI can be incredibly useful for that. There’s an amazing app we created in 2018 called safe2go that Air bp uses to prevent misfuelling – it does this by using computer vision to match images on the aircraft to the correct fuel. It’s had a 100% success rate and has won four innovation awards. 

 

Already, AI is helping us do things like choose the best locations to build a hydrogen plant or install the next EV charger. In our oil and gas business, we’ve built a tool that when I started out as an engineer, I couldn’t dream of. For example, we've got geologists, or more precisely, biostratigraphers, whose job is to identify the best places to drill by studying the layers in rocks. A job that used to take two months, they can do in days using this tool.

“In our oil and gas business, we’ve built a tool that when I started out as an engineer, I couldn’t dream of.”

How do you ensure the responsible use of AI? 

Really important question – it’s something at bp we’re thinking about deeply. One thing we’ve done is to integrate digital ethics into our Code of Conduct.

 

And we’re working with leading academic institutions, like the University of Oxford, and industry partners to define and establish ethical guardrails. I really want to ensure that however we use AI it is inclusive, in line with our values and that we mitigate risk.

Has digital transformed the way we work? 

To a degree already, but it has the potential to do more. It’s all about bringing together the physical and the digital and using one to enhance the other. To give one small example, we can use AI to monitor corrosion in a way that we just can’t do manually and cut manual inspections by 70%.


And people in bp tell me how excited they are by the potential of AI to remove mundane tasks so they can focus on innovation and problem solving. What are machines good at? They can quickly analyze and find patterns across large volumes of data. What are people good at? We are great at creativity, intuition and logical reasoning. 


The solutions we need for the energy transition are going to require the strengths of both people and technology, working together in ‘human-machine’ teams.

As bp digitally transforms, what are you most excited about?

Digital is a core component of our strategy. It’s why I’m focused on embedding an industry-leading digitalization and technology agenda to support our transition to net zero by 2050 or sooner. We have a great opportunity to speed our transition and to differentiate us. 

 

Just look at what we are already accomplishing with AI alone. Currently, we have many areas where AI is in use, and we’ve identified many more across the organization where it may add value. Digitally empowering our teams to design solutions for the future of energy is what I am most excited about.

Watch this short film for more on innovation & engineering at bp

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