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Optimism among global oil and gas CEOs surges as prices recover, survey finds

Now that the oil and gas industry is up off the mat after a beating from low commodity prices in 2015 and 2016, oil and gas executives around the world are twice as confident in the industry's future, according to a new poll released by consulting firm KPMG LLP.

The percentage of oil and gas CEOs who are confident in their company's growth prospects in the next three years more than doubled to 88% in the survey released Oct. 10, compared to the findings of a similar KPMG survey in 2015. Almost universally, the CEOs said they expect the industry to add jobs.

"The higher price of oil is playing a significant role in driving a more positive sentiment across the industry," KPMG Global Sector Head for Energy and Natural Resources Regina Mayor said in a statement. "Executives are really honing in on ways they can improve internal efficiencies through strategic M&A moves and the use of robotics, AI and other means of digitalization across the industry."

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KPMG said the results come from 74 CEOs of oil and gas companies, out of 1,300 chief executives sampled in industries across the globe. The oil and gas executives were all from big companies with between $500 million and $10 billion in annual sales. The 2015 CEO survey included 136 global energy CEOs.

Oil and gas CEOs felt that they are leaders of the pack when it comes to the use of technology to grow their companies. Most of the executives, around 85%, said their company was implementing artificial intelligence programs and robotics to improve margins. This was nearly double the 47% in 2015 who said their firms were leaders in the use of data and analytics. In 2018, more than half, or 59%, predicted their use of technology will transform the sector, but an almost equal number are finding the short lead times for technology implementation are overwhelming.

"Technology is disrupting the status quo in the oil and gas industry," Mayor said. "AI and robotic solutions can help us create models that will predict behavior or outcomes more accurately, like improving rig safety, dispatching crews faster, and identifying systems failures even before they arise. This level of predictability can have a profound impact on our industry."

Robots and AI will create more jobs than they destroy, according to 58% of those surveyed. Revenue growth was a big benefit of technology, according to 46%, closely followed by improvements in risk management and increasingly agile organizations.

The technology blade cuts both ways for some oil and gas CEOs. About 23% of them listed technology disruption as the biggest risk to companies in the next three years. Other concerns focused on environmental and climate change impacts and "territorialism," or economic nationalism.