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June 9, 2021

Quantum computing beginning to make inroads in the oil and gas industry

Many companies such as ExxonMobil, Total, Shell and BP are opting for quantum computing, which offers the opportunity to improve operations and curb emissions.

By GlobalData Energy

GlobalData’s latest thematic report, ‘Quantum Computing in Oil & Gas,’ provides a comprehensive overview of the emergence of quantum computing as a theme and its potential applications in the oil and gas industry.

Quantum computers are machines that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. Theoretically, these machines can complete a task in seconds that would take classical computers thousands of years. The company (or government) that owns the first at-scale quantum computer will be powerful indeed.

Quantum computers are proving extremely difficult to build and fully-fledged commercial computers are not expected for ten, 20 or even 30 years. However, within the next five to seven years, intermediate quantum computers are likely to become available that can offer a quantum advantage over classical computers in optimisation applications across several sectors, including space warfare, logistics, drug discovery and options trading.

Oil majors ExxonMobil, Total, Shell and BP are among the few industry participants to venture into this technology. Although these companies intend to use the technology to solve diverse business problems, quantum chemistry is emerging as the common focus area of research in the initial phase. These majors are seeking to develop advanced materials for carbon capture technologies. This could potentially lower the operational costs of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, enabling companies to deploy them on a wider scale to curb operational emissions.

Quantum computing is a very specialised field requiring niche expertise, which is not readily available with oil and gas companies. Hence, they are opting for collaborations with technology payers and research institutions having expertise in this subject. IBM is at the forefront in providing these tools to a host of industries, including oil and gas. The company has brought on board leading oil and gas and chemical companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, Woodside, Mitsubishi Chemical and JSR to facilitate the advancement of quantum computing via cross-domain research. Besides IBM, oil and gas companies have also collaborated with other quantum computing experts, including D-Wave, Microsoft and Atos.

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