News & Insights for the AI Journey|Friday, April 26, 2019
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Lebanese Oil Experts Call for Data and Talent 

As Lebanon prepares to usher in a number of oil and gas giants that will bid on drilling contracts next month, a growing party of experts are voicing support for big data in hopes of making the country a bigger player in the global oil sector.

These representatives from energy and IT alike gathered on Friday at the “Big Data, Big Computing and the Oil Industry: Opportunities for Lebanon and the Arab World” conference, which topped off a three-day oil and gas summit at the American University of Beirut.

“There’s a growing importance of technology in oil and gas—in sensors, storage, connectivity, processing, and performing dangerous and high-cost tasks,” said Stefano Martinotti, a partner at McKinsey & Co. Abu Dhabi, during the event.

As Martinotti and others stressed, as more oil sites that have been reliable in the past dry up, these tools will only play a growing role in determining the most plentiful places to drill.

Royal Dutch Shell is already spending $1 billion annually on big data to this end, while British Petroleum is sporting what it claims to be the world’s largest supercomputer dedicated solely to commercial research. The super, which focuses on seismic research the intersection of geology and physics, is housed in a 100,000-square-foot facility, and can reach 2.2 petaflops all in the name of oil.

As the conference’s keynote speaker and director of the Center for Computational Science and UCL, Peter Coveney, pointed out, big data is already worth $300 for U.S. healthcare, and $400 billion for Europe’s public sector administration, offering what is perhaps a glimpse into what has driven the two oil giants to invest so heavily in IT.

But with IT infrastructure comes a need for expertise. “It’s about the real-time use of data executed on the front line,” Martinotti said. “But the most important success factor is human judgment.”

Specifically, Coveney noted a need for between 140,000 and 190,000 analytics-centric jobs to be created with an additional 1.5 million jobs for data-oriented managers “to take full advantage of big data in the United States,” which carries through to Lebanon for oil and gas as well.

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