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Amazon Web Services CEO: Another tech revolution coming to oil, gas industry

The combination of robotics and artificial intelligence is changing how humans work in the upstream oil and gas sector, the CEO of Amazon Web Services Inc. said March 11.

Speaking at CERAWeek by IHS Markit, AWS' Andrew Jassy said oil and gas companies are turning to the cloud to speed up their analysis and reduce costs. Machine learning, which involves using algorithms to study data and identify patterns, is helping companies better understand the vasts amount of data they ingest when exploring new production fields.

Jassy pointed to Royal Dutch Shell PLC's Open SDU project, where the company is collecting imagery of its drilled wells and exporting it to the cloud in order to drill more productively in the future.

"They are … using recognition technologies and some of our machine learning to first be able to take and cleanse the data to make some sense of it, then figure out what the characteristics and models associated with wells that have been very productive [are] as opposed to less productive, with the objective of being 100% able to predict which ones to invest in," he said.

Another top producer, Exxon Mobil Corp. in February said it signed a deal to use Microsoft Corp.'s cloud technology for its oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin.

Jassy said the Internet of Things — which he called "computing on the edge" — could help producers make better, faster decisions when situations change at the drill bit. The combination of IoT and machine learning, he said, will "really be powerful" as it will allow for changes to be made with plenty of information at the company's disposal regardless of where the decision-makers are.

"You're going to be collecting all this data from assets on the edge, sending this information into the cloud, use large-scale analytics and build key learning models," Jassy said. "You're going to take those models and move them back to the devices on the edge so they can do the predictions, the inferences right at the edge, so they can take action."

The increased use of robotics, the AWS chief executive said, will take humans out of potentially dangerous situations and put machines in their place. Rig inspections or damage reports will be done with drones or other machines, keeping people a safe distance away from harm.

Even if the industry is changed by the use of new technology, Jassy said, humans will not be removed from the picture. "We're going to keep finding higher, value-added jobs for humans," he said.