AI and the Future of Natural Resources Industries

Unlocking the value of Artificial Intelligence in Mining, Oil & Gas, and Agriculture Requires other Technologies and Human Intelligence

One of the most popular topics in the media of late is the growing importance of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, and what it will mean for the future of business, societies and for us as individuals and workers. Many see the potential it offers to enable new possibilities such as assisting doctors in the diagnoses of patients or in the automation tasks where machines learn to continuously do them better. Others see the potential pitfalls that may come along with AI, such as worker displacement.

Is AI alone enough to make natural resources industries more productive?

In natural resource based industries such as mining, oil & gas, and agriculture, companies are taking their first steps into the AI world in a variety of different ways. Some are experimenting with use of technologies that can parse historical exploration data to find likely targets for future drilling, while others are investing in machine learning for process performance prediction and preventative maintenance.

In a recent interview with CIM, AI expert Ilija Miskovic talks about the future of the technology in the mining industry, its limitations and its potential impact on the workforce. He notes that everything will be digitally connected, which will centralize more monitoring functions. It will also allow for more globally distributed expertise to be tapped into from a company’s locations around the world, enabled by collaborative environments that will contain all exploration and operational data for sharing and analysis. This collaborative world will also be more visually immersive. Real-time data, including from sensors, and even market data, will be fed into this platform, allowing for multiple what-if scenarios based on market conditions to be undertaken.

Miskovic adds that AI alone is not enough, a spectrum of technology, as above, is required and it must be combined with the Internet of Things, virtual reality and other tech to allow for the most accurate and timely view of mining performance. Only through this will systems be proactive in response to operational challenges. He also touches on the limitations of AI in that if it is left to digest all data without guidance, it will find only “insignificant patterns”.

It is interesting to note that the digitally connected, centralized, virtualized future world of natural resources companies, including those from mining, is already available today from Dassault Systèmes. It is called the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and it is revolutionizing industry the world over. It can drive operations today and enable companies to answer what-if scenarios based on data from operations, geology and the market.

With the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, companies connect all the data from different sources (geology, engineering, production, sensors, the market, etc.), to stakeholders and experts in their organization. It centralizes everything into a common, single source referential of a business for planning, development, and operations throughout its lifecycle.

From an operations perspective, it can help enable stability by driving variation out of processes, ensuring that plans are met efficiently. It allows for adjustments to be made and re-optimizations applied based on changes to geology and production issues, communicating updates to equipment operators within shift. (Think optimized short interval control.)

Information gathered from operations can also be utilized for continuous learning and improvement as new ways of doing things can be identified and the validated in the virtual world before being deployed in the real one. Virtual teams of experts, drawing upon the most experience minds from across a global company, can be brought together to innovate and solve problems.

The question of how to respond to changing market demand is perhaps the greatest barrier any company faces in its quest for enterprise agility: How do you scale up or down without escalating costs or negatively impacting the future ability to exploit the resource? When more information is available, and the ability to simulate it in what-if scenarios, the options become more robust.

Along with the general adoption of advanced technologies in industry, AI’s role will continue to grow, but the human perspective as Miskovic mentions, will remain critical. Having governance processes in place that will enable best practice use of data will be vitally important, which means geologists, engineers, and operators remain in control. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform ensures they will by driving best practice and in determining what data is important and what is not.

To learn more about our solutions for mining, oil and gas, and agriculture, visit us www.3ds.com/natural-resources.

Mark Bese

Mark Bese

Industry Marketing Director at Dassault Systèmes
Mark Bese is the Industry Marketing Director for Natural Resources at Dassault Systèmes. His scope within Natural Resources encompasses mining, upstream oil and gas, water, and agriculture and forestry. He began his first engagements in mining almost 15 years ago marketing software solutions.