Exploration is in Urgent Need of Innovation: New Talent and AI Will Lead the Way


Paul Genberg


October 25, 2023

As digital transformation propels the energy landscape forward, one segment of the industry is ripe with opportunities: exploration.

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Studio X, powered by Shell, recently launched in Austin, Texas as a first-of-its-kind innovation studio to take bold ideas further with people, data, and technology as the core components. In fact, we feel that the word “studio” best reflects what Studio X is: an open innovation collective of scientists, engineers, creatives, and entrepreneurs combining their skills to develop solutions for exploration challenges. The “X” in our name represents the unknown variable we are solving for beginning with energy exploration.

While unlocking clean energy is vital to our future, the global energy transition will span decades. To pave a sustainable road forward, the industry must invest in emerging technologies and collaborative tools that will open new pathways for working faster, smarter, and more efficiently in the immediate term.

Ushering in the next generation of exploration is no longer an option in the current global economy, it’s an imperative. The World Economic Forum agrees and says fostering collaboration between oil and gas industry companies and its ecosystem is the path forward. How do we do it?

Studio X is using the present moment of social distancing and fluctuating demand as an opportunity to break down silos, welcome fresh talent, and look outwards for groundbreaking ideas, and technological advances like AI solutions that empower and augment, rather than replace, the current workforce.

The opportunity: empowering new talent through open data and exploration

Embrace automation + expand data analysis. Leveraging automation and cloud computing can streamline these processes significantly — and doing so should be a top priority. The way we can connect data using future AI processes could transform business paradigms and how geoscientists work across the world, moving subsurface evaluation and characterization into a global knowledge framework where it belongs, with potential new insights from unexplored data connections. By using this technology, the data can be analyzed and harnessed to lower operational expenses, decrease risk, and even help the oil and gas industry reduce its environmental footprint by drilling fewer wells, more accurately.

Foster collaboration. Embracing these tech-driven changes will demand even more that companies break down silos, increase data sharing, and foster stronger collaboration among diverse thinkers in order to create tangible, forward-thinking solutions. For instance, that could include making historical seismic data available during the acquisition, exploration and development phases or using artificial intelligence to help drive the energy transition by enabling renewable energy to be deployed and managed in a more efficient way.

Create truly flexible work. COVID-19 has fast-tracked the transition to flexible and distanced working that was already underway in many industries. This now more-widely accepted way of working can serve as an accelerant for innovation and bring even more lateral thinking to exploration. The future of exploration will likely be defined by more flexible work opportunities and greater investment in new startups by legacy companies, who must provide startup talent with access to the trove of data the industry has at its disposal, funding, mentorship and other resources to breathe life into their ideas.

Tap new global talent. Now is the time to welcome new voices into the conversation. Fueling the next generation of exploration means bringing together geologists, entrepreneurs and data scientists using AI and machine learning to solve the industry’s greatest challenges and improve outcomes across the energy value chain. By tapping into younger, tech-focused and digital native talent and expanding data capabilities, the energy industry can pave a more intelligent and resilient path forward for exploration.

As the oil and gas industry faces ongoing challenges in exploration, we must embrace new solutions. Open innovation is necessary to reimagine the future of work in exploration, find efficiencies in operations, and meet the global energy challenge. We are starting to do this in exploration with our first three products: Xeek, XCover and SixLab

  • Xeek is the home for crowdsourcing revolutionary geoscience ideas. We unite data scientists and geoscientists from all over the world in a community dedicated to tackling complex problems with brilliant solutions and develop tools the community can then use.
  • XCover is a global talent network for virtual exploration projects. We match specialized geoscience talent to a variety of rewarding exploration projects run from state-of-the-art virtual workstations, enabling you to execute projects from anywhere in the world at any time.
  • SixLab is a no-strings attached incubator, based in Austin, Texas, that provides exploration entrepreneurs with access to world-class mentorship, resources, and facilities to help shape the future of energy.

By offering software tools, on-demand work, prize-winning challenges, mentorship opportunities, and more to energy innovators, we believe we come together from around the world as an ecosystem to transform the way we work and successfully plot the map for energy’s future. We are looking for the next change agents with ambitious ideas, emerging startups, experienced professionals, and more to join our community today to start shaping what the energy industry will look like tomorrow.