The Role Of AI in Carbon Reduction and Increased Efficiency for Energy

17 November 2020
Originally Posted: 16 November 2020 for Forbes Technology Council
Author: AJ Abdallat, Beyond Limits CEO


AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond Limits, the leader in artificial intelligence and cognitive computing.

Our world has reached a point where society recognizes the planet is under stress, with energy and technology sectors at the forefront of this reckoning. Microsoft, in association with PwC, revealed the urgency of the challenges currently facing our planet, reporting that 91% of people don’t live in standard air quality-controlled areas, 60% of biodiversity has been lost since 1970, and greenhouse gases are at their highest levels in 3 million years.
To get ahead of these challenges, we must reduce carbon footprints. AI will play a crucial role in supporting the energy industry’s goals of achieving a more efficient, connected and sustainable future.
The Net Zero Agenda
Many entities have recently announced plans to shrink their carbon footprints to “net zero” over the next few decades, commonly with a target year between 2030 and 2050. According to myclimate, “Net zero emission means that all man-made greenhouse gas emissions must be removed from the atmosphere through reduction measures, thus reducing the Earth’s net climate balance, after removal via natural and artificial sink, to zero. This way humankind would be carbon neutral and global temperature would stabilize.”
Strategies around this initiative have been paramount to the energy industry’s present and future operational plans. Some major oil and gas companies have even revealed ambitious blueprints, budgets and organizational transitions to do their part in reducing emissions and turning the climate change tide.
One example of a company making strides toward this aim is bp. The company aims to become net-zero by 2050 and hopes to help the rest of the world achieve that goal, too. The major energy company also highlighted near-term goals. According to MarketScreener, “By the end of the decade, it aims to have developed ‎around 50 gigawatts of net renewable generating capacity — a 20-fold increase on what it has ‎previously developed, increased annual low carbon investment 10-fold to around $5 billion, and cut oil ‎and gas production by 40%.”
The company says all of this is aimed at “performing while transforming — operating safely and reliably as well as delivering on the promises we’ve made to shareholders.” Shell, Spain’s Repsol, and Norway’s Equinor have also set their net zero targets for 2050.
Advanced AI At The Ready
As the CEO of an AI company making software for energy, I understand the importance of a worldwide movement toward a lower-carbon future. Our company plans to continue supporting client needs while tackling the cleaner energy challenge together, playing a part in the complex global challenge of transitioning to a future of less carbon while still meeting the energy needs facing our world today.
AI will play a key role in helping companies and industries achieve net zero ambitions. Accomplishing a low carbon future will require more efficient operations that help increase productivity and reduce waste. AI for energy can work toward this with technology designed to optimize efficiency, yielding more economical utilization of resources to accelerate renewable, decarbonization and carbon-negative initiatives across the globe.
Industrial-Strength AI: Modern Solutions For Global Evolution
Digitizing downstream operations has shown promising results, with plant efficiency increasing by 8%-12%. Amplifying the potential for AI to make its mark on this movement means leveraging the most advanced forms of technology. Explainable, cognitive AI systems are already in place to meet that need. These systems can ingest and recognize sizeable quantities of data that exist in large industrial facilities like refineries and leverage codified human expertise to make recommendations at company-wide levels.
Examples can be found in solutions supporting downstream operations for facilities today like bp’s Whiting refinery project. “As the largest refinery within bp, we need to embrace the dual challenge — a world that is demanding lower-carbon energy, while at the same time demanding more energy overall,” refinery manager Don Porter said. “We are positioning ourselves to thrive in this evolving context.”
A blend of knowledge-based reasoning and digitization is designed to help decision-makers detect unforeseen prospects and make tough choices. The subsequent improvements in processes could lead to streamlined operational capacity where facilities function more efficiently and reduce waste. Improved communication, strengthened collaboration, increased fuel savings and decreased waste means companies may also increase the potential to grow revenue, particularly in high-value industries.
Cognitive AI is excellent at understanding complicated problems where industrial practices are comprised of a perpetual influx of data like that found in energy, utilities and industrial IoT — where processes require constant, transparent oversight. Cognitive AI delivers this clarity through human-readable audit trails, allowing an entire organization to track how they may optimize processes to extract more value and decrease waste, ultimately lowering carbon footprints and moving closer to net zero.
A Realistic Outlook
Transitioning the energy industry from primarily oil and gas to more renewable sources won’t happen overnight. Global communities will require energy during this phase of fluctuation. Solutions that make processes more efficient and decrease waste will be essential to this transitional stage.
Humans still require legacy energy sources, alongside transportation and refinement of high-value assets. Our fossil fuel portfolio cannot disappear overnight. We should instead determine how to better manage it as we shift toward a more renewable future with less waste, greater efficiency, more productivity, and a lower carbon footprint. Solutions designed to help decrease carbon intensity per barrel of oil can help lead us toward a more carbon-friendly outlook while ensuring the energy needs of the world are met as we move forward into a net zero-focused future.
For all industries eager to follow this path forward toward embracing carbon-reducing AI solutions, here are two tips for choosing a solution provider:
+ Partner with an industrial-grade AI software company with tech that has capabilities to provide holistic, organization-wide outlooks and strategies.
+ Select an artificial intelligence company that has an AI-readiness program to seamlessly transition entire enterprises into their digitization strategy right from the get-go.
AI companies with both of those elements could be key for anyone taking steps to realize net zero objectives.
Check out the article on Forbes Technology Council here.