Skoltech joined forces with major Russian oil producer Gazprom Neft on Thursday to discuss how machine learning and big data stand to revolutionize the oil and gas industry.
Invited speakers from both host organizations covered a broad range of topics before a rapt audience of students, researchers and industry professionals.
The event was the latest result of a cooperation agreement that Skoltech and Gazprom Neft entered into in June in order to formalize their long-term partnership.
A chief aim of the agreement was to facilitate the organizations’ collaboration in identifying new opportunities in the oil and gas sector, and to spearhead the development of joint projects.
A key initiative the drafters of the agreement had in mind at the time was the expansion of research related to predictive big data analytics, as well as the development of technologies for data collection and storage and for modeling and visualizing data generated in geo-technical processes and the processes involved in the transportation and refinement of oil.
At the time, Skoltech Professor Dmitry Koroteev said that oil and gas exploration is known for generating a great deal of data, the majority of which is underutilized or not used at all. Together, Skoltech and Gazprom Neft hope to change the status quo.
Following last week’s conference, Koroteev again discussed the game changing potential machine learning has for the industry.
“With oil prices as low as they currently are, machine learning is one of the key tools we have in our arsenal with respect to hydrocarbon production. At the moment, the oil and gas industry is very actively seeking solutions to keep their margins at an appropriate level,” he explained.
The invited speakers from Gazprom Neft included representatives of the five research and development projects the oil company is currently working on with Skoltech.
Maxim Simonov, a leading specialist from Gazprom Neft’s Department of Scientific and Methodological Support of Reservoir Engineering, said on the sidelines of the event that in his opinion, the challenges that lie ahead in this sphere relate mostly to advances in machine learning, as opposed to the collection of big data itself.
“From the perspective of oil exploration and development, the most important thing is that we have enough data to plan oil development operations and know how to use the data we have. If for some reason we lack data, we should be able to obtain the missing data or make indirect calculations to fill the gap. It is not so much about the amount of data as it is about the right way to use it. If data is abundant, we simply need to properly structure and process it before moving on to data analysis,” he said.
Dmitry Schwartz, a department head from Gazprom Neft’s Center for Digital Innovations, likewise said that refining methods of data analytics is the way forward.
“The issue is not that data is big but that is has to be analyzed. From data analysis we derive new knowledge about interrelationships, processes, business logic and many other things. It is important to be able to analyze data no matter whether it is big or small,” he said.
Koroteev noted that in addition to providing a forum for the exchange of ideas between industry and academia, he hoped that it would highlight the career potential in this burgeoning field.
He explained that the drive to innovate that has propelled big data to the forefront has also made young graduates with data science backgrounds a hot commodity among oil and gas companies – like Gazprom Neft – that wish to shore up their big data offerings.
“Today’s event provided a very good opportunity to share this HR drive with our students. I hope that it has helped broaden our students’ horizons with respect to their employment prospects after graduation, and that it will give the visiting representatives of Gazprom Neft a better understanding of the skills and competences our graduates bring to the table,” he said.
Koroteev hopes to make this an annual event.