Repsol and IBM are jointly developing cognitive technology to aid E&P. We spoke with Repsol exploration and production technology director Santiago Quesada to find out more
In October 2014, Repsol and IBM announced an intriguing collaborative research programme linking digital cognition technology with oil and gas E&P.
In a press release at the time, the two firms noted that they would focus on the development of “two prototype cognitive applications specifically designed to augment Repsol’s strategic decision-making in the optimisation of oil reservoir production and in the acquisition of new oilfields.”
Speaking with InnovOil this month, Repsol exploration and production technology director Santiago Quesada explained their intention “to create a new frontier for our industry.”
Linking the work of IBM’s Cognitive Environments Laboratory (CEL) in New York with Repsol’s Technology Center in Madrid, the project aimed to improve the interaction between personnel and computer technologies by enabling faster and more efficient sourcing and processing of data. The objective was to develop a cognitive system which could search vast amounts of information – from seismic data and production reports to breaking news – in response to specific queries asked by E&P staff.
Using natural language processing, the computer is able to search documents and generate reports and simulations based on these queries, all of which should help the decision-making process become faster and more efficient.
The system also enables interaction with Repsol’s existing digital technologies. Programmes such as Kaleidoscope – a seismic data-crunching system – and Excalibur – a predictive mathematics tool used for field optimisation – have proved transformative in recent years. Quesada added: “Repsol has a long tradition in the development of advanced geomodels and innovative tools for fluid prediction, especially with the incorporation of uncertainty in the models. The value of the cognitive systems is centred in augmenting our capabilities for the technical development of these models and the proper characterisation of uncertainty and risks.”
Quesada suggested that this technology represented a great deal of change in terms of how personnel interact with big data and the process of E&P in general. These systems, he said, will “augment human capacity in a tremendous way”, though he stopped short of agreeing that it would represent a major change in how the company works.
When asked about any interesting or unexpected results, he was similarly partially drawn. “In R&D there are always surprises, unexpected results and also failures. A disruptive science like the Cognitive Science is being invented every day and running fast. Our project is alive and continuously adapting to all these new ideas and technologies.”
And alive it is. With plans to roll out a number of pilots across all of Repsol’s operating regions during 2016, its commitment to cognitive potential is impressive. Quesada added: “In 2016 we are working on the implementation of early results of the cognitive research in our tools, and especially in the applications for the optimisation of our Field Development Plans. Simultaneously we are planning to extend our learnings to other areas of our industry like Downstream.” By the end of 2017 the company hopes to have a full cognitive system in place to help in the acquisition of new licences.
Most encouragingly, these are not vanity projects. Repsol’s focus on big data, modelling and analytics is set to continue despite low oil prices, and Quesada sees it very much as a core area in terms of the company’s future strategy: “We have no doubt about this. This science has come to stay and will represent one of the major drivers of the future R&D of our industry.”