A utility company remotely observes that a tree is growing into its overhead lines, a robot makes a repair in a dangerous area of a refinery, and an oil company is alerted to a maintenance issue about to occur at a remote shale well. These are the type of activities that once were done solely by humans but are increasingly done using technology and analysis in the cloud.
The energy industry has always relied on data to make decisions, but in the last several years the industry has embraced cloud computing, discarding some of its massive data centers and looking to Silicon Valley for support.
"It's a rapidly escalating evolution. We've been talking about digital oil fields for 20 years. We've been working on these things. The thing that's changed is the databases and the way we can process those databases with analytics," said Jeff Shellebarger, Chevron's president of North America Exploration and Production.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are being applied to everything from maintenance to exploration, and at the annual IHS Markit CERAWeek energy conference this week in Houston, companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet, Salesforce and other technology giants had a much larger presence then they've ever had before.
Amazon Web Services CEO Andrew Jassy addressed the conference and said the cost savings is the "conversation starter" and the cost savings are compelling.