Is the oil & gas sector seeing the beginnings of an AI investment boom?
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Is the oil & gas sector seeing the beginnings of an AI investment boom?

09 Jun 2021 (Last Updated June 30th, 2021 07:42)

AI deals, jobs and patents have been booming in the last few years. But is the oil & gas sector keeping up?

Is the oil & gas sector seeing the beginnings of an AI investment boom?

The oil & gas industry is seeing an increase in artificial intelligence (AI) investment across several key metrics, according to an analysis of GlobalData data.

AI is gaining an increasing presence across multiple sectors, with top companies completing more AI deals, hiring for more AI roles and mentioning it more frequently in company reports at the start of 2021.

GlobalData’s thematic approach to sector activity seeks to group key company information on hiring, deals, patents and more by topic to see which companies are best placed to weather the disruptions coming to their industries.

These themes, of which AI is one, are best thought of as “any issue that keeps a CEO awake at night”, and by tracking them it becomes possible to ascertain which companies are leading the way on specific issues and which are dragging their heels.

According to this method, Shell, Gazprom, Rosneft are classed as dominant players in AI in the sector, with an additional seven companies classified as leaders. Nine companies are considered to be vulnerable due to a lack of investment in AI.

One area in which there has been some decrease in AI investment among oil & gas companies is in the number of deals. GlobalData show that there were 11 AI deals in oil & gas in the first quarter of 2019. By the first quarter of 2021, that number was one.

Hiring patterns within the oil & gas sector as a whole are pointing towards an increase in the level of attention being shown to AI-related roles. There was a monthly average of 478 actively advertised-for open AI roles within the industry in April this year, up from a monthly average of 333 in December 2020.

It is also apparent from an analysis of keyword mentions in financial filings that AI is occupying the minds of oil & gas companies to an increasing extent.

There have been 390 mentions of AI across the filings of the biggest oil & gas companies so far in 2021, equating to 9.9% of all tech theme mentions. This figure represents an increase compared to 2016, when AI represented 7.5% of the tech theme mentions in company filings.

AI is increasingly fueling innovation in the oil & gas sector, particularly in the past six years. There were, on average, 61 oil & gas patents related to AI granted each year from 2000 to 2014. That figure has risen to an average of 131 patents since then, reaching 245 in 2020.