Home Energy How Oil Giants ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Sinopec, Total and Gazprom Are...

How Oil Giants ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Sinopec, Total and Gazprom Are Using AI

The energy sector has a huge impact on the global economy. Oil is a highly valuable commodity. Investments in energy in 2016 are around $1.7 trillion.

This is 2.2% of the world’s GDP. However, gas and oil companies are seeking advanced methods of reducing the overall impact of production as well as consumption of gas and oil products on the environment.

Artificial intelligence has come in handy to offer solutions that can minimize this challenge.

This article seeks to assess how five leading firms in the gas and oil sector are applying AI, whether there have been positive results, and how these innovative efforts are likely to shape this industry.

The companies are selected based on Forbes’ global rankings.

READ MORE: 10 Applications of Machine Learning in Oil & Gas

The Insights of AI in Gas and Oil

The most widely used applications of AI among the top leaders in this industry are intelligent robots and virtual assistants.

The robots have capabilities for exploring hydrocarbon while virtual assistants assist customers in making inquiries.

Here are the details of how each company has applied AI in its operations.


ExxonMobil is collaborating with around 80 universities, both in the United States and abroad.

Most notable is its partnership with MIT that aims at developing robots for offshore exploration of hydrocarbons.

This will boost the company’s oil exploration. However, it is not yet clear when the AI robots will be deployed for ocean exploration.

Royal Dutch Shell

Shell, in 2015, announced its launch of an AI customer assistant system. The system will assist customers in searching for oil products such as lubricants from its large database. Consumers have been struggling to navigate through large databases.

Artificial intelligence systems being applied by Shell will use avatars, Ethan and Emma, to assist customers in discovering Shell products through natural language.

The system is already available in the U.K and the U.S, but it complements other such services such as the company’s LubeMatch system that recommends Shell products to customers. LubeMatch is already available in 138 countries and supports 21 languages.

Shell also operates a virtual assistant system on its website.

Although it is in a pilot mode, it is being monitored on its effectiveness and efforts are being made to increase its knowledge.

Shell’s priorities, according to the Shell Investor’s Handbook, are aimed at improving efficiency in its operations, processes, and products.

The company is reported to have applied virtual assistant systems, such as the one known as Amelia, which is responding to supplier inquiries about invoicing.


Sinopec, a Chinese chemical and petroleum corporation, is planning to embark on the construction of ten intelligent centers with the aim of reducing operation costs by 20 percent.

Huawei, a Chinese telecommunication company, announced plans to work with Sinopec to develop a platform for smart manufacturing.

The platform will be based on AI and it is aimed at centralizing data management. It is not yet clear when the system will be fully implemented.


Total launched a global competition in 2013 known as Total ARGOS challenge involving five teams from South America, Asia, and Europe who were given 3 years to make prototypes of autonomous robots to operate on gas and oil sites.

These robots are based on AI. The robots were expected to deliver reliable reports about inspection points where exploration takes place.

The robots were expected to operate day and night and be able to detect any abnormal equipment activities and intervene whenever there are emergencies, especially in risky situations like gas leaks.

The winning prototype was known as ARGONAUTS. There is no clear information on when the robot will be implemented, but Total retains rights to this innovation.


Gazprom entered into a partnership with Yandex, a leading internet firm in Russia, to implement new projects to improve efficiency in the gas and oil sector.

The two firms aim at applying machine learning and AI to develop projects aimed at improving:

• Drilling
• Well completion
• Optimizing other innovative processes
• Modeling strategies for refining oil

Currently, there are no reports on the implementation of these projects.

There is no evidence yet on the application of AI by Gazprom and no preliminary results have been released.

Concluding Thoughts

Leading companies in the gas and oil sector show that AI is being integrated in many areas.

Reducing carbon emissions, deep-sea gas exploration and implementing sustainable and innovative energy solutions are the driving factors in the transformation being witnessed in this energy sector.

Leveraging existing technologies with AI will surely assist in meeting these goals. Smaller companies are also expected to start applying AI technologies in their operations.

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KC Cheung
KC Cheung has over 18 years experience in the technology industry including media, payments, and software and has a keen interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, neural networks and its applications in business. Over the years he has worked with some of the leading technology companies, building and growing dynamic teams in a fast moving international environment.
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