In the period of low oil prices, digital technology, such as big data and other digital technologies, presents an accelerated trend of development, and may lead to a revolutionary breakthrough in the oil industry. Daniel Yergin, a world-renowned oil strategy expert and the chairman of the Cambridge Energy Research Association, stated publicly that big data will be the most revolutionary technology in the oil industry after horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. According to the statistics of IHS, the world's fastest-growing technology sector has been digital technology and artificial intelligence since the sharp drop of oil prices in 2014. Between 2012 and 2013, the investment in data technology and artificial intelligence accounted for 10% of the total. In 2014-2015, the proportion of investment increased sharply to 15%. However, the proportion of investment in areas such as underground engineering, seismic imaging, drilling engineering and enhanced oil recovery has dropped in varying degrees.
Digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data are widely used in oil and gas fields. Oil geophysical prospecting is a natural application of artificial intelligence technology, an edge detection algorithm used widely in computer vision and image processing field; the ant tracking method based on artificial swarm intelligence, which can automatically complete the seismic fault interpretation; the development of the field of artificial intelligence nonlinear optimization techniques, such as genetic algorithm, simulated annealing algorithm, particle swarm algorithm, Markoff Montecalo method, have been incorporated into the research of geophysical inversion technology . Artificial intelligence covers the whole period of the exploitatiom of an oil field . Oilfield Development is moving towards intelligent oil fields such as Chevron's IFields project, BP's Future Oilfield Project and Shell’s Intelligent Oilfield Project. These companies are looking forward to improving their reservoir management and reducing the costs of operating through the introduction of digital technologies; and continuesto deepen the research of intelligent drilling. New software developed by Apache Corporation, a drill system that communicates directly with surface equipment and controls penetration and direction,which made the intelligent digital pipelines being maturing. In 2014, GE and Accenture jointly launched the world's first "smart pipe solution" to help pipeline operators fully understand the security and asset integrity status. Digital technology brings unprecedented opportunities to the oil industry. The application of big data analysis technology in the field of seismic imaging has been developing rapidly. It has been explored greatly in sweet spots recognition, reservoir simulation and drilling and completion optimization. Big data analysis has been applied to shale well location selection, guiding shale drilling and screening fracturing programs. Another major application of big data in the oil sector is the device inspection. By intelligently analyzing and judging equipment operation data, big data can give early warning of equipment failure and remind operators to timely repair or replace equipment, thereby improving the stability of working equipment, reducing unexpected non-working time and greatly reducing operating cost .
Oil companies and oilfield service companies actively expand the application of digital technology. For example, Norway oil is expected to invest 240 million dollars in the establishment of the digital center by 2020; Shell formed a more than 70 persons team of big data analytical research ; Schlumberger set up the Software Technology Innovation Center in 2014, focusing on technology applications such as high-performance computing, cloud computing, big data, Internet of Things and industrial Internet organizations. Many companies outside the industry technology also set foot in the digital field of oil and gas industry, trying to make a "piece of cake" in the development of digital technology in the oil and gas industry.
The technologycompanies outside the oil industry play its powerful technology platform in cooperating with the traditional oil companies and oilfield service companies to create business value. In October 2016, GE merged with Baker Hughes to leverage GE's powerful technology platform in a capital-intensive oil and gas industry. Huawei uses its high-performance computers, digital production management and asset management as well as core technologies such as massive long-distance data processing and application-critical business data security to carry out the cooperation with PetroChina, Honeywell, ABB, Halliburton, etc . Currently, Huawei serves for 14 oil companies in the TOP20 global oil and gas industry.
There is still plenty of room for technological progress in the traditional fields. And digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data are booming in the oil field. In the future, the oil price of 50 US dollars / barrel may become a normal state, and only the companies that carry out technological innovation can survive and develop in the new situation.