The geoscientists are the winnersKine Johanne Årdal, geologist with passion for digitalization Photo: Halfdan Carstens

The geoscientists are the winners

The workflow for the exploration geologists is about to change. The reason? Digitalization.

«Oldtimers» – or should we call them veterans – started their careers with analogue data. The first 20-30 years of exploring the Norwegian continental shelf was dominated by paper, seismic, logs or maps. In the Norwegian TV-series «Lykkeland», this is very well illustrated. Long seismic lines are unfurled on the floor of a gymnastics hall, and a structural map is dramatically burnt around the edges to illustrate a point.

The following 20 years, through the 1990’s and the 2000’s – we entered the first phase of digitalization. Geoscientists are using computers to interpret seismic, and when good areal understanding is achieved, some even take the entire team into a «cave». Nothing can compare to a walk through the reservoir.

Now, things are changing again. The analogue geologists are entering the age of retirement at the same time as new technological innovations, in combination with increased machine power through the cloud, are presenting the new generation of geoscientists with game-changing opportunities. For them, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the new buzz-words.

#DigEx 2019-The Digital Subsurface – a success

The first ever #DigEx-conference was held at Gardermoen outside Oslo, Norway on January 30th-31st (The next conference, #DigEx 2020 will take place at the end of January 2020). A total of 170 geoscientists and professionals from the digitalization field attended, including Jan Grønbech, country manager of  Google Norway and Kimberly Lein-Mathiesen, General Manager of Microsoft Norway and shared their visions for the digital future in the oil & gas industry. The program committee for #DigEx 2019 – The Digital Subsurface  consisted of  Kristin Dale (Dig Science), Kine Årdal (Pandion Energy), Kristian Brandsegg (Exploro) og Are Magnus Bruaset (Kalkulo).

– The effect of digitalization is that geologists and geophysicists can do more and achieve better results by applying new methods, new tools and access to more data. I call this «the augmented geoscientist», Kine Johanne Årdal, Digitalization Manager in Pandion Energy says. She is responsible for transitioning the company into the new digital age. Årdal held one of the introductory presentations at the conference (The augmented geoscientist – fiction or future?).

What we are left wondering is what will the new work-day look like for the future geoscientist?

– In the intersection between humans and machines, we must seek new digital competencies and new work methods, and not only acquire new technology for the sake of technology, Årdal holds forth.

For this purpose, it is important to see which strengths humans and machines possess, separately.

– The human strengths are judgement, intuition, emotion and creativity, whereas machines are good at taking instructions, following routines and being objective, in addition to having large work capacity and being able to handle enormous amounts of data.

Årdal references to the first chess game where IBM’s «Deep Blue» won over grand master Garry Kasparov. That was 22 years ago. After being defeated, Kasparov decided to work with the machines and explore the cooperation human-machine in chess. Now it is the «geoscientists turn to lose».

No.

It is time for the geoscientists to win. The are going to map the subsurface and find more good prospects through using machines to do what they are good at, and apply their own abilities where these exceed the machine’s.

– The geoscientists will become better at finding oil and gas by taking advantage of the qualities of the computers and changing the workflow. This is what I mean with «the augmented geoscientist», Kine Johanne Årdal continues.

She believes in the theory that our future is not linear, but exponential, which allows for vast opportunities. At the same time, it can be hard to envision the changes ahead of us. But to see the opportunities, we have to dare to step into the unknown, and Årdal will, with certainty – not just take part in the digital journey going forward – but go ahead and lead the way.

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