BP plc’s Ventures unit has invested $5 million in a Houston technology start-up to bolster its artificial intelligence (AI) and digital capabilities in the upstream business.

The investment in Belmont Technology’s Series A financing would support the supermajor’s ongoing work exploring opportunities to apply machine learning and cognitive computing in its global oil and gas business.

Belmont has developed a cloud-based geoscience platform using AI, which has a string of unique capabilities including specially designed “knowledge-graphs.” BP experts feed the platform geology, geophysics, reservoir and historic project information, and it intuitively links the data together, identifying new connections and workflows, and creating a knowledge-graph of subsurface assets. 

Similar to data searches available in the consumer domain, BP experts may interrogate the data, asking the knowledge-graph specific questions in natural language. The technology then uses AI neural networks to interpret results and perform rapid simulations.

“This AI-based platform, which we’ve nicknamed Sandy, is expected to unlock critical data for our subsurface engineers at a much accelerated pace,” BP’s David Eyton, group head of technology, said. “Our experts will ask it questions about our reservoirs like, ‘What factors control production in the Chirag field?’ Sandy will then interpret our data, including mapping out many more scenarios than are currently constructed, helping us make faster, better informed upstream decisions.”

Aimed at accelerating project lifecycles, from exploration or reservoir modeling, the technology is targeting a 90% time reduction in data collection, interpretation and simulation.

BP’s investment would enable Belmont to expand its workforce, extend Sandy’s capabilities and accelerate deployment.

BP’s investment “is a validation of our approach and technology,” Belmont CEO Jean-Marie Laigle said.  “Our technology enables real-time thinking for subsurface engineers, helping transform the way teams work, analyze data, understand situations and generate novel ideas.”

The Belmont investment follows BP’s previous deals in cognitive computing, including $20 million in California-based AI company Beyond Limits. That investment is helping deploy AI technology previously used in deep space exploration missions in offshore exploration, accelerating operational insight and process automation across operations.

Belmont’s scalable knowledge graphs also may be interrogated by Beyond Limits’ technology for new insights.

BP Ventures was set up more than 10 years ago to identify and invest in private, high growth, game-changing technology companies to accelerate innovation across the entire energy spectrum. Since then, BP has invested more than $450 million in technology companies across more than 40 entities with more than 200 co-investors.