The investment arm of BP plc is taking a $20 million bet on a California-based artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing company to enable transferring industrial-grade software now used in deep space exploration to the oil and gas sector.
The partnership with Pasadena, CA-based Beyond Limits could enable a step change in the way BP locates and develops reservoirs, produces and refines crude oil, and markets and supplies refined products, executives said.
Beyond Limits plans to develop AI software to combine human knowledge with machine learning, helping the energy sector reach "new levels of operational insight, business optimization and process automation across all operations," it said. Software could support improvements in the speed and quality of decisionmaking and manage operational risks.
"BP Ventures is excited to help Beyond Limits grow into new verticals, as we bring forward the pioneering work they have developed with the space program to our industry and throughout our businesses," said BP Ventures Managing Director Meghan Sharp.
"Our investment...is an example of BP's ongoing support of entrepreneurs and innovators not only inside the traditional world of oil and gas but those looking toward a new energy future."
BP's Morag Watson, chief digital innovation officer, said the partnership "is a perfect fit with BP’s vision of using digital technology to help transform our organization. We believe artificial intelligence will be one of the most critical digital technologies to drive new levels of performance across the industry."
Launched in 2012, the Beyond Limits team has spent more than 20 years supporting NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense with technologies developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. It now is taking that knowledge to tackle industrial and enterprise challenges on Earth.
"Our goal is to create automated solutions that can think like humans and augment human capability," said Beyond Limits CEO AJ Abdallat. The AI company "provides solutions for problems that cannot be solved using traditional approaches."
The BP Ventures portfolio primarily is directed to emerging oil and natural gas exploration technologies and downstream conversion processes. In addition, it focuses on bio/low carbon products, carbon management, power/storage, advanced mobility and digital transformation. Since 2006 BP Ventures has invested more than $325 million to accelerate innovation in the energy industry, and today it has 41 active investments. In the past year the unit has invested in eight companies, committing $100 million-plus.