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Quantum Computing Potential Draws ExxonMobil into Partnership with IBM

ExxonMobil Corp. is partnering with IBM to advance the use of quantum computing to develop next-generation energy and manufacturing technologies.

With the partnership, formally announced during the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, ExxonMobil became the first energy company to join the IBMQ Network, a community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions and national research labs working to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for science and business.

“The scale and complexity of many challenges we face in our business surpass the limits of today’s traditional computers,” said ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co.’s Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development. “Quantum computing can potentially provide us with capabilities to simulate nature and chemistry that we’ve never had before.”

Quantum computing, still in its infancy, is different from binary digital computing, which requires data be encoded into binary digits, each of which is always in a definite state of 0 or 1. Quantum bits, or qubits, can be in superpositions of states. Governments worldwide, along with military agencies, today are funding research for business, civilian, environmental, national security and trade purposes.

“As we continue our own research and development efforts in the areas of energy and chemical manufacturing, our agreement with IBM will allow us to expand our knowledge base and potentially apply new solutions in computing to further advance those efforts.”

Advances in quantum computing could provide ExxonMobil with an ability to address computationally challenging problems across a variety of applications, including the potential to optimize a country’s power grid, as well as perform more predictive environmental modeling and use highly accurate quantum chemistry calculations to enable discovering materials that could lead to more efficient carbon capture.

“The advancement of new breakthroughs, coupled with the creative application of current technologies available to us from outside the energy sector, will be critical in addressing the dual challenge of producing energy to fuel economies and meeting consumers’ needs while managing the risks of climate change,” Swarup said.

“Much of the success in our own ingenuity is facilitated by the innovation of others outside our industry, from three-dimensional printing to quantum computing. The many partnerships we lead or participate in around the world provide us with opportunities to exchange ideas and collaborate, applying our own unique experiences, knowledge and strengths toward a potentially successful breakthrough in lower-emission energy production or a more efficient manufacturing process.”

The partnership also expands ExxonMobil’s collaborative efforts with other companies and academic institutions that are working on an array of energy technologies, that among other things are aimed at improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The supermajor now works with about 80 universities in the United States, Europe and Asia to explore next-generation energy technologies.

 

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