Wintershall Dea to Boost Oil and Gas Exploration with AI Search Engine


German oil and gas company Wintershall Dea said Wednesday it would boost its exploration processes with the roll-out of an artificial intelligence search engine.

"The Exploration Advisory Tool, developed in partnership with IBM, uses the latest cognitive search technology to give Wintershall Dea’s explorationists quick and easy access to relevant subsurface information," Wintershall Dea said.

Understanding the earth‘s subsurface is a complex but critical task when competing for new exploration areas, the company says.

"The artificial-intelligence-powered Exploration Advisory Tool improves and speeds-up knowledge discovery by extracting information from unstructured data like reports or presentations. Unlike a simple keyword search, the tool ‘thinks’ like a geologist, understanding and extracting information related to concepts like ‘formation’ or ‘reservoir’. In doing so, it saves Wintershall Dea’s explorationists significant time spent manually searching for data," Wintershall Dea explains.

In the gas and oil industry, time is an important value driver, the German firm says, adding that it can take up to 10 years from the acquisition of new licenses to first production. 

"Artificial intelligence can help us make better decisions about expected gas and oil volumes in the early stages of the value chain," says Hugo Dijkgraaf, Chief Technology Officer at Wintershall Dea. “Digital transformation at Wintershall Dea is about enhancing competitiveness and reducing risk. The roll-out of the Exploration Advisory Tool does exactly that, by enabling better and faster decision making. Importantly, it will free up our experienced team to spend more time on the tasks where they add most value.”

Wintershall Dea says its geoscientists worked side-by-side with IBM researchers and data scientists in an IBM Garage that used design thinking to drive innovation.

Stefan Mueck, CTO Cognitive Transformation, IBM says: “The IBM Garage approach was a key success factor for this innovation project. It is a transformation accelerator that brought together an empowered, agile and multi-disciplinary team. And it kept the focus on end users’ needs while building a solution based on leading edge AI technology.”

According to Wintershall Dea, the tool was successfully piloted in 2020 and will now be rolled out across Wintershall Dea’s global exploration teams during 2021.

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