Open AI Energy Initiative Partnership Formed

Shell, Baker Hughes, Microsoft, and C3 AI fuse their expertise to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence (AI) for energy sector applications.

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The energy industry is no stranger to digital transformation with examples ranging from the adoption of digital twin technology by oil and gas company Shell Global to the outfitting of power generation sites with internet of things (IoT)-enabled devices. After all, the growing drive for sustainability that is increasingly common in so much of industry is often considered even more vital in the energy sector itself. As such, increasing asset performance and finding ways to squeeze new efficiencies out of production are of the utmost priority.

Following from these trends, Shell recently partnered with energy technology company Baker Hughes, cloud-services provider Microsoft, and software company C3 AI, which provides enterprise-scale artificial intelligence (AI) applications to accelerate its IoT projects. The partnership, which has been christened the Open AI Energy Initiative (OAI) aims to build an open eco-system of AI-based offerings that can improve operational efficiency for both energy and process industry operators. There’s much ground to be covered by this partnership, with Shell estimating that currently 92% of all shutdowns and process upsets are unplanned and 40% of those unplanned shutdowns are caused by legacy software failures.

Functions and applications planned for the OAI include AI and physics-based models, monitoring, diagnostics, and prescriptive actions, all of which will be powered by C3 AI’s BHC3 AI Suite via Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

By pooling large quantities of data from many disparate sites in centralized cloud servers, the companies hope to more rapidly train machine learning models than would otherwise be possible while also providing end-users with greater system interoperability and ease of deployment.

“Taking energy forward requires new approaches to technology that leverage collaboration, open data standards, and cutting-edge AI capabilities,” said Uwem Ukpong, executive vice president of regions, alliances, and enterprise sales at Baker Hughes. “Working alongside our alliance partners at C3 AI, and together with industry leaders at Shell and Microsoft, the OAI will help address the persistent industry challenge of non-productive downtime.”

While additional applications will continue to be developed and made available over time, the first set of OIA modules will be provided by Shell and Baker Hughes, and will focus on improving uptime and performance of energy assets and processes. More specifically, Shell will offer predictive maintenance modules for control valves, rotating equipment, and subsea electrical submersible pumps. Likewise, Baker Hughes will provide OIA interoperability for existing technologies, including its iCenter advanced digital services software, its Bently Nevada System 1 condition monitoring software, and its Valve Life Cycle Management software.

“The Open AI Energy Initiative is an early but clear reflection of the direction the market is heading,” said Kevin Prouty, IDC group vice president of energy and manufacturing insights. “With this already-established alliance of leading organizations, including C3 AI, Shell, Baker Hughes, and Microsoft, the OAI is poised to single-handedly establish the ecosystem of enterprise AI for the energy industry.”

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