BP Ventures Sinks Investment Into AI Startup

Beyond Limits, a Caltech startup looking to commercialize artificial intelligence technology developed for space applications, has secured a $20 million outlay from BP’s investment arm.

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As artificial intelligence (AI) and its capabilities advance, there are opportunities to be had for any industry. The energy industry certainly has much to gain with increased visibility into the decisions it makes and the risks it takes.

Oil major BP is embracing its digital future through a partnership with Beyond Limits, an AI and cognitive computing startup out of Caltech, which could enable a step change in the way BP locates and develops reservoirs, produces and refines crude oil, and markets and supplies refined products.

Beyond Limits announced that it has secured $20 million in Series B funding from BP Ventures, BP’s corporate investment arm. The investment into Beyond Limits—launched in 2012 to commercialize technology developed through 20 years of work for NASA—will accelerate the delivery of industrial-grade AI software.

The technology could be relevant to every aspect of BP’s business and technical operations, noted Meghan Sharp, managing director of BP Ventures—Americas. “Our global operations generate huge amounts of data; this data can be from the bottom of a well through to our production platforms and subsea pipelines,” she said. “Anywhere there is data and knowledge, there will be a possibility that AI, and particularly Beyond Limits, can play a role.”

In the oil and gas industry, Beyond Limits’ AI software could support improvements in the speed and quality of decision-making, manage operational risks, and harness the collective knowledge and experience of its team. “Our goal is to create automated solutions that can think like humans and augment human capability,” said AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond Limits.

BP has two proofs of concept running currently with Beyond Limits—one related to upstream exploration, and another general effort around information management, according to Sharp. The partnership expects to develop more demonstrations to support BP’s downstream business as well, she added

BP is looking to identify new technologies that it can deploy on assets and throughout its businesses, said Sharp, who will join the Beyond Limits board. “We not only invest in our core businesses like upstream, downstream and alternative energy, but also we are investing more heavily in adjacent areas that meet the growing heat, light and mobility challenge,” she said. “These adjacent areas include advanced mobility, bio and low-carbon products, carbon management, power and storage and digital transformation.”

AI is part of a larger digitization strategy for BP. “Our strategic cooperation with Beyond Limits is a perfect fit with BP’s vision of using digital technology to help transform our organization,” said Morag Watson, chief digital innovation officer at BP. “We believe artificial intelligence will be one of the most critical digital technologies to drive new levels of performance across the industry.”

Sharp also commented, “Digital transformation is a huge space for BP, and AI is just one facet of that. There is a lot of investment focus on digital within BP, and this can be anything from monitoring and gathering information downhole to using sensors, drones and AI.”


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