Eni and IBM boost geological data interpretation with AI

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As part of its digital transformation, two years ago, IBM researchers and geoscientists from Eni, a leading global energy company, started to build an augmented intelligence platform based on AI called cognitive discovery to support Eni’s decision-making during the initial stages of hydrocarbon exploration, which naturally occur in crude oil.

An example from cognitive discovery tool which ingests PDF documents to create knowledge.

The exploration of hydrocarbons is a complex and knowledge-intensive business that involves various engineering and scientific disciplines working together. For example, to evaluate a basin or a low-lying area often below sea level, geoscientists analyze large volumes of data, from a broad spectrum of sources, to assess the likelihood of the presence and potential size of hydrocarbon accumulations. This preliminary interpretative process is crucial to drive the initial assessment of a potential area and to identify viable opportunities for exploration via a drilling campaign, while also calculating any financial risk.

Pioneered by IBM Research, cognitive discovery uses data from public and proprietary sources is combined with knowledge derived from numerical simulations as well as the outcome of experimental setups to define a unique knowledge space in which all the stored entities are semantically interconnected.

At Eni, the knowledge is based on the processing of large amounts of geological, physical and geochemical data, which is then processed into a knowledge graph. Geoscientists can then use AI to contextualize and present relevant information, which will help them to improve decision making and the identification and verification of possible alternative exploration scenarios. More specifically, for Eni this means a more realistic and precise representation of the geological model.

AI Critical for the Future of Oil & Gas

The introduction of AI techniques represents an important boost to areas of exploration such as geological and geophysical analysis. In fact, according to an IBM report, 83 percent of oil & gas executives believe cognitive computing will have critical impact on the future of their business. For Eni, cognitive discovery will facilitate new applications and enable their experts to analyse a huge amount of structured or unstructured data that can be numerical, logical or a combination of the two.

Eni and IBM will continue to work with the cognitive discovery platform to extend its document analysis capabilities to new domains such as engineering, reservoirs, and other sources. This will further enlarge its knowledge base and make any subsequent knowledge graphs fit for multiple purposes.

Cognitive discovery is running on premise on an IBM HPC Power 9 cluster installed in the Eni Green Data Center located in Ferrera Erbognone, Pavia, Italy.

Peter Staar

AI and Cognitive Discovery, IBM Research

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