Petronas establishes AI COE to accelerate efficiency, sustainability, expects ROI within first year


  • First round collaborations, involving Baker Hughes, BCG & Microsoft
  • AI will revolutionise the energy sector in this decade, say experts

PETRONAS is formally establishing an Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence (AI COE) in Kuala Lumpur to accelerate the advancement in AI solutions that support energy delivery, operational efficiency and sustainability, through collaboration with a network of global partners.

The company tells DNA its AI COE is currently running on existing internal resources of data scientists, data engineers, software engineers and subject matter experts, mostly based in Kuala Lumpur, and consisting of between 150 and 200 people. “And we will also engage our collaboration partners based on value proposition and need,” a spokesperson said. Petronas sees this as a step forward in its continuous journey in advocating usage of AI to improve the efficiency, reliability, and safety of its energy value chain. 

As an energy company focused primarily on oil and gas, the spokesperson clarifies that, “This AI COE will focus primarily on all current and future business interests of Petronas, but we will also evaluate the potential of scalability to other industries.”

The first round of collaborators involve Baker Hughes, Boston Consulting Group and Microsoft, with the partnership formalised recently via three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) 2022 that ran from Oct 31 to Nov 3. Petronas is deepening its relationship with Baker Hughes with whom it already has a partnership inked in Feb 2021 to apply the latter’s AI solutions into its digital transformation programs.

The MoUs were signed by Petronas Chief Digital Officer, Aadrin Azly; Baker Hughes Vice President of Asia Pacific, Graham Gillies; BCG Managing Director, Senior Partner and Head of Southeast Asia, Jaime Ruiz-Cabrero; and Microsoft Malaysia Managing Director, K. Raman. Also present was Petronas Senior Vice President of Project Delivery and Technology, Bacho Pilong. 
Aadrin said, “With the culmination of this and our other collaborations, we are excited for greater achievements in our AI journey as we join forces in understanding customers’ needs and uncovering significant outcomes across key areas such as operational resilience, human safety, and energy sustainability.”
He added that, “the AI COE will leverage diverse expertise from our internal resources and other industry players to grow an ecosystem that both accelerates value delivery and cultivates AI talent.”

While no academic partners were announced, Petronas points out that is has ongoing AI-related research projects with its own university, the Perak based Universiti Teknologi Petronas and plans to include more partners, including academic institutions moving forward.
According to Baker Hughes Vice President of Industrial Asset Management, Judit Prieto, “The complex challenges of the energy transition require new forms of collaboration. Digital technologies will be an important part of the answer in driving efficiency, safety, and performance of industrial assets. This agreement with Petronas marks a step forward in our growth strategy to provide differentiated solutions for industrial assets.” 
Ruiz-Cabrero said, “AI will revolutionise the energy sector in this decade, and we are excited to partner with Petronas to transform the energy industry and beyond. This partnership will bring together BCG Gamma’s deep AI expertise and Petronas’ deep experience on applying AI use cases in the energy value chain. Together we will accelerate the use of AI to unlock significant value for Petronas, the energy sector, and Malaysia. This is an important step for Malaysia to become established as a hub for top AI talent in the region.”
Raman said that as part of Microsoft’s “Bersama Malaysia” commitment to empower the nation’s inclusive digital economy, this collaboration will bring Petronas’ AI COE to the next level.
He added that, “Research showed AI could potentially create up to six million new jobs in Malaysia by 2030, and this presents a need to nurture and equip Malaysian talents with future-ready AI skills. As a technology partner for the AI COE, we believe its establishment has the power to drive innovation and accelerate value creation not only within Petronas but for the overall energy sector.”

In terms of measuring the outcome from the COE, the Petronas spokesperson says the company has established a framework to evaluate ROIs from such initiatives and is confident of seeing quick impact. “As we have already realised value from our current AI technologies, we are confident that we would be able to accelerate this value delivery in the very first year itself.”

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