Five minutes with: Philippe Herve, VP, SparkCognition

Artificial intelligence is fast becoming a serious disruptor to how companies across multiple industry sectors go about their business.  

Philippe Herve was formerly the CEO at Secure-NOK, a cybersecurity company. He is presently the vice president of oil and gas solutions at SparkCognition.
Philippe Herve was formerly the CEO at Secure-NOK, a cybersecurity company. He is presently the vice president of oil and gas solutions at SparkCognition.

What advantages can artificial intelligence (AI) bring to the oil and gas industry?

AI brings the advantages of predictive and prescriptive maintenance to the industry, allowing companies to detect failure on an asset before it occurs. AI’s predictive and prescriptive capabilities in the industry maximise operations and provide actionable insight into production. Having these insights allows companies to increase uptime and better plan maintenance schedules.

The oil and gas industry is quite traditional and slow to adopt new technologies – will it embrace AI?

Artificial intelligence can seem like a daunting field to oil and gas organisations, and many are hesitant to invest in this technology. However, the oil and gas industry today is very competitive considering the recent depressed oil price. Accordingly, the leaders are already adopting AI to differentiate themselves and increase their market share. By augmenting their business with AI technology, companies stand to gain a wealth of benefits and a substantial return on investment, given the high cost of repairs and the cost of taking rigs offline.

Do you foresee AI replacing human operatives at oil and gas plants in the future?

The number of operatives at oil and gas plants is shrinking even without AI. The field has been struggling to find qualified candidates to take the place of workers who are retiring. With artificial intelligence, companies can capture the knowledge of their veterans in data and algorithms and preserve it for a new generation of workers to use. Thus, organisations can train personnel faster and leverage information more effectively. AI provides a way for oil and gas operations to adjust to this new reality of a smaller workforce, while optimising operations.

Elon Musk believes AI could one day destroy human life – is this just hyperbole?

There have always been those who will express fear over technology that holds a lot of potential. Even the printing press was initially thought hazardous to society. Once technology is developed, its innovation cannot go “back into the box” and will only continue to progress. AI is a transformative technology and widely in use - it’s important for us to understand as much as we can about it.

Over the years interest, and progress, in AI has varied, could there be another AI winter?

Another AI winter is very unlikely. Everyone involved in the oil and gas industry speaks of the value AI brings to operations, and we are only in the early stages of discovering the technology’s potential in the field. Today’s AI successes are enabled by a confluence of factors: massive amounts of data thanks to abundant sensors, research breakthroughs in the field, like deep learning, and powerful, affordable computers. From predicting well failures in artificial lifts to eliminating instances of stuck pipe, AI has proven very powerful in the oil and gas industry.

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