Transforming the energy landscape with AI

In what ways can the energy industry utilise machine learning capabilities to address the urgent challenges of today?

By this point, it’s a safe assumption that most people are at least somewhat aware of terms such as net zero and energy transition; endless conversations surrounding ‘zero carbon 2030’ are seemingly pervasive in  our climate change vernacular and corporate conversations.

As businesses look to scale processes, enabling them to be more cost-efficient and sustainable, the deployment of AI can prove invaluable. The convergence of AI and energy means that on the convoluted path towards achieving net zero, businesses are able to better manage operations. The integration of machine learning not only enhances productivity and releases resources for the transition towards sustainable energy, but it can also directly contribute to reducing the environmental impact through the ramping of renewables and integrating cloud computing, alongside improving the traceability of supply chains and increasing transparency in governance.

Every cloud has a sustainable lining

For all the denunciations that the oil-and-gas industry receives,it nevertheless remains vital within the climate change discussion – and to energy security at large. Research from the International Data Corporation has found that the adoption of cloud computing in large-scale data centres has the potential to decrease carbon dioxide emissions by at least one billion metric tons or more. 

By transitioning to cloud computing, oil and gas companies can not only save costs, but also scale more efficiently while simultaneously reducing their emissions.

The adoption of cloud computing to mitigate energy usage and increase the efficiency of the sector is something the data management solution company, NetApp, specialises in. The cloud computing giant helps energy companies manage big data to improve decision-making, accelerating data analysis for 3D modelling, exploration, seismic processing, and rendering.

Matt Watts, Chief Technology Evangelist at NetApp believes that prioritising sustainability when selecting a cloud provider means companies can make leaps in their green efforts and demonstrate their commitment to a more sustainable future.

“Ways in which the sector can reduce emissions are by centralising data storage, reducing their reliance on on-premises data centres, and leveraging real-time analytics via cloud solutions, all of which will enable the oil and gas companies to optimise their operations, reduce downtime, and make data-driven decisions that improve their overall performance,” Watts states.

Watts believes that embracing the cloud is done through the implementation of four steps:

Creating new value through AI-powered Virtual Power Plants

The increased usage of solar energy and wind turbines, in addition to batteries and other dispersed renewable energy resources, has necessitated a new strategy for energy management. Older systems, which were created for unidirectional energy distribution and centralised power production, are no longer viable, incapable of managing bidirectional energy flows, and insufficient for evolving societal demands. To tackle this energy paradigm, VPPs (Virtual Power Plants) – which utilise machine learning and AI capabilities – prove indispensable.

Honeywell is a major player in the realm of VPPs, namely with its Experion Energy Control System, which uses advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to analyse data and identify opportunities for efficiency improvements.

“Honeywell's VPPs can optimise the aggregation of DERs across large areas by using digitalisation and deploying grid assets more efficiently. Technology such as ours enables resource owners to utilise every renewable energy resource at their disposal, they are contributing to the global energy transition,” says Honeywell’s Director of Energy Storage Solutions, Prudence Hoffman. 

“Additionally, renewable sources such as solar are becoming more popular, particularly due to increasing company, local, and global sustainability goals. Through the remote management functionality within the Experion Control System, users have autonomous control to help them choose when they buy and deploy energy reserves regardless of the weather conditions.”

Next-gen technologies for a green future 

Technological innovation has total potential to transform how the world produces and consumes energy. Developing and integrating the next generation of AI-fuelled technology is key to the future of environmental sustainability. For energy giant Schneider Electric, this takes the form of what the company calls ‘electrification’ by leveraging energy with automation and an integrated supply chain. Together, the company believes that they can reduce waste at every step in industrial processes by up to 20% or digitally connect organisational silos, freeing up innovations from the shop floor to management levels. 

“One such digital technology that embraces an open automation architecture is Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ Automation Expert, a software-centric industrial automation solution with IE61499 at its core. It takes an event-driven, decentralised, and open approach to automation engineering, decoupling hardware and software to make an industrial system agile, simple and future-proof,” notes Schneider Electric’s President of Process Automation, Nathalie Marcotte.

Marcotte believes that next-gen automation will facilitate IT/OT integration and therefore unleash value creation on the shop floor, enabling advanced use cases that easily reach the next level of performance, efficiency, and resiliency. 

“Next-gen automation will facilitate IT/OT integration, therefore unleashing value creation on the shop floor, enabling advanced use cases that easily reach the next level of performance, efficiency, and resiliency. These software-centric technologies paired with new energy methods (like biofuels or carbon capture) that fundamentally address carbon emissions and other harmful greenhouse gases are magnifying step change improvements to the industry.”

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