Quantum computers use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. There are many technologies with the potential to build their foundational quantum bits (qubits). However, it may be over a decade before quantum computing crosses the chasm into the commercial mainstream.

Although this technology is still in the research and development stage, its potential use cases in the oil and gas industry are numerous and are likely to expand. Several promising areas of application have been identified and companies are collaborating with technology players to advance their research. Oil majors, such as BP and ExxonMobil, have joined IBM’s Q Network to develop quantum computers that will increase the understanding of subsurface geology. Companies such as TotalEnergies and Shell are also looking at these computers to study molecular modeling and emission mitigation. Besides, the longstanding problems of matching demand with production and optimising supply chains could be solved using quantum computing.

Quantum computing is at an early stage, so the lack of mergers and acquisitions activity is no surprise. Companies are wary of going all-in on unproven technology. Nonetheless, there were significant capital raisings in 2022 by, among others, Origin Quantum, IQM, Xanadu and Silicon Quantum Computing. In January 2023, emerging quantum computing provider from France, Pasqal, raised $108 million in Series B funding. One of the investors in this round was Wa’ed Ventures, the venture capital arm of oil major Saudi Aramco.

The oil and gas industry has depended on traditional computers to tackle their mathematical challenges for decades. The upstream sector has particularly benefited from the use of supercomputers. These systems have allowed companies to process enormous amounts of seismic data to accurately determine the existence of commercially viable hydrocarbon reserves. Such information has assisted companies in minimising the risk of unsuccessful drilling operations, thereby optimising operational costs. Despite the significant improvements in the speed and precision of classical supercomputers, they can sometimes fall short when calculations involve multiple variables. This limitation can be overcome with quantum computers, which, in theory, can perform some of the most complex computations. Further details of oil and gas companies and their adoption of quantum computing can be found in GlobalData’s new theme report, ‘Quantum Computing in Oil and Gas’.