'Data is the new oil': UAE says energy executives should embrace A.I. to improve profits

  • Speaking at the ADIPEC oil summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, the UAE's minister of state for AI technology said: "Data is the new oil."
  • "The opportunities are endless — some estimates say AI can have a $2.85 billion contribution in the energy industry by 2022. That's a start, but the impact is going to be much bigger than that."
Oil field workers tend to a pump jack.
Ken Cedeno | Corbis News | Getty Images
Oil field workers tend to a pump jack.

Big Oil should do all it can to embrace fast-improving Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the energy industry, according to the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) first minister dedicated to fostering the technology.

Speaking at the ADIPEC oil summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, the UAE's minister of state for AI technology said: "Data is the new oil."

"Any company, any government that merges data and oil is going to get yields that we have never seen before. We are going to see lower costs, with profits that cannot be found elsewhere."

The oil and gas market represents around 50 percent of the world's energy demand at present, Al Olama said, before adding data, blockchain, AI, the internet of things and other emerging technologies would radically change the industry over the coming years.

He argued technological developments would soon make the energy sector more sustainable, as well as making it easier for executives to make better decisions on nearly every domain.

"The opportunities are endless — some estimates say AI can have a $2.85 billion contribution in the energy industry by 2022. That's a start, but the impact is going to be much bigger than that."

'Complex and difficult'

Many oil companies are generating more free cash than they did at $100 a barrel before the market crashed four years ago. This is largely because of deep cost-cutting measures taken during the downturn.

It means that these same oil majors can make a healthy surplus even as oil prices fall further away from triple digits.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, dipped below $70 a barrel Tuesday morning, as the U.S. dollar hovered close to 16-month highs.

But, for international and national oil companies to really excel over the coming years, the UAE's state minister for AI said they must take steps to ensure they are capable of adapting to technological improvements.

"Blending human and machine has been a more complex and difficult journey that many had envisaged. Naturally, we have hit a bit of a brick wall at times but this is still a journey well worth taking," Andrew Smart, managing director of Accenture's energy practice said at an industry event at ADIPEC on Tuesday.