Minestar Taps AI to Refine Oil & Gas Bidding in Canada

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Minestar casts a wide net across the Canadian oil & gas and oil sands industry. That’s because it covers just about every aspect from mining and petrochemicals, to power generation and other sectors, as well. So when the energy industry began to drive down costs in recent years, Minestar, which is known as an engineering, procurement, construction, and maintenance (EPCM) business, was in a unique position to experience the fierce and rising competition close up.

But instead of sitting back and riding it out, we took a proactive step to meet the challenges with innovation. Specifically, we identified key issues to invest in, such as the lag time between approvals and production, which are inhibitive to investment, but needed to be overcome.

Minestar is the largest Aboriginally-owned EPCM service provider in Western Canada, which enables a strategic position within Western Canada’s oil sands. But we needed a partner in innovation to help us truly move forward through the challenges.

Since January, we have been working with the IBM Natural Resources Innovation Program here in Canada, which provides a collaborative industry approach to accelerating operational effectiveness and which is enabled by advanced technologies like AI, analytics and cloud.

Through this program, we’re looking to integrate our workflows with AI to enable intelligent learning and create high speed, adaptable and accurate programs that can save our customers time and money.

Our first move as a major EPCM company was to prioritize an AI-enabled Bid Advisor. Next we began work on an AI-enabled Project Advisor, which will integrate fully with the Bid Advisor. Together the programs will deliver an optimal level of efficiency across the full project cycle.

Requests for proposals (RFP) or quotations (RFQ) on construction or maintenance projects can involve more than 2,000 drawings. It can take a small team of employees six months to analyse the drawings, work through the necessary estimating activities and collate the data into a bid for a client.

With Watson, we can process the drawings relatively quickly, in weeks versus months.

The learning capability of Watson allows us a compounding advantage as it grows its subject-matter intelligence over time, incorporating continual improvement and elimination of variables embedded within the program solution. We’ll end up with further system enhancements as well—and that’s without our own direct inputs to optimize the process.

Bid Advisor will mean more bids get out the door and with higher accuracy. The more bids, the more work will be awarded, because it’s fundamentally a bid/win opportunity ratio.

Bid Advisor’s integration into the next AI module – the Project Execution Advisor—will deliver benefits in time and cost savings that Minestar can pass along to its clients.

A “reasonably sized” oil sands turnaround event, as an example, takes about 12 months to plan and six weeks to execute. Our new solution is expected to help reduce that planning time to just three months.

It’s important to remember that a typical oil and gas facility from one producer to the other is essentially the same and the work is relatively repetitive. That’s where I think this innovation will really shine. Once you feed the data in, you’re doing that full loop of learning and it’s going to become very robust very quickly. Ultimately that will reduce your time frames.

The new Bid Advisor and its eventual integration with Project Execution Advisor, along with continual improvement and expansion in capabilities over the four-year IBM Natural Resources Innovation Program, will deliver a powerful new competitive advantage to Minestar.

For decades now, everybody’s been following the same fundamental processes and methodologies and they’ve been facing the same challenges. There have been some improvements with the advent of certain programs but, at the end of the day, it’s largely been human capital and effort driven.

The capabilities that AI will bring to our business represents a step-change innovation.

To learn more about the IBM Natural Resources Innovation program visit:

Chief Operating Officer, Minestar Group

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