When we talk about artificial intelligence (AI) today, it can often be spoken of with a dystopic undertone.  However, there are three ways, according to the Harvard Business Review, in which AI can support a business: automating processes, analysing data, and engaging with customers or employees.

In the oil and gas industry, the first two examples are most immediately relevant.  Machine learning in energy trading is not a novel concept – with a fluctuating and volatile market, the ability to predict price trends using complex coded algorithms, for example, has been part of the trading strategy for many large oil producers and traders.

Beyond the usefulness of AI in a trading office, there are also benefits to deploying AI in the upstream and midstream.  One of the avenues through which investments are being made in AI is for the prospection of oil.  This is technology where robots can assess drilling sites and predict well performance, saving time and capital expenditure.

AI can also be used to predict the duration of refinery shutdowns thereby reducing millions of dollars that unplanned outages tend to cost the oil industry.  Refiners can also take advantage of AI analytics to anticipate potential mechanical failures before they even occur.

There is also the optimistic outlook that the use of AI methodologies can increase efficiency in the chain, thus indirectly reducing carbon emissions in the long run.

In the natural gas industry, AI is being used by producers to lower methane emissions.  One such data company is Project Canary which differentiates gas.  Natural gas that is produced with lower emissions can be labelled differentiated, low-carbon, or responsibly-sourced, which makes it more appealing to environmentally-conscious consumers.

Having the right AI capabilities, however, is instrumental for companies to reap the benefits of machine learning.  Companies must also redesign their day-to-day operations and be equipped to implement the automation.  Ultimately, cognitive technology will change the landscape in which we as an industry operate.


Beaman, Jeremy. “Power of AI: Oil and Gas Sector Drills down into Methane Emissions Data.” S&P Global Commodity Insights, S&P Global Commodity Insights, 24 Oct. 2023, www.spglobal.com/commodityinsights/en/market-insights/latest-news/natural-gas/102423-power-of-ai-oil-and-gas-sector-drills-down-into-methane-emissions-data.

Sharma, Gaurav. “How Multibillion Dollar Investments in AI Are Driving Oil and Gas Sector Innovation.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 Oct. 2023, www.forbes.com/sites/gauravsharma/2023/08/14/how-multibillion-dollar-investments-in-ai-are-driving-oil-and-gas-sector-innovation/?sh=1f18c4a71ff7.

The global population is facing a critical time in climate policy. Climate change has evolved from being a distant and abstract concept to a tangible reality. In 2023, we experienced the highest temperatures in 120,000 years. The world also saw the worst wildfires in recorded history, the most notable being in Canada, Greece, Spain, and Hawaii.

The existing energy framework we have was built for a different climate. Today, this system is no longer sufficient because of rising temperatures and more extreme weather – very hot summers and blistering winters. Hence, the world needs to find a balance between managing the existing levels of climate change and trying to hold off the rate of global warming.

The last few decades have seen the world rapidly develop clean energy technologies like wind- and solar-generated power. Electric cars are also accessible. We also have international frameworks in place like the Paris Agreement and the annual United Nations Climate Change Conferences which we colloquially refer to as COP. Energy transition has become a major talking point but, aside from being a popular topic, it is something the energy industry has come to take seriously.

In fact, oil and gas companies have been investing in renewables since the 1980s. Today, oil companies are committed to investing billions of dollars in energy efficiency. These companies are actually very well placed to lead the energy transition: they already have experience with large-scale projects, storage and transportation, and a deep understanding of the energy needs of consumers.

What we as the global population also need to consider is the affordability of clean energy for poorer countries. Roughly US$1 trillion is needed in investments in the power sector for developing countries to meet their climate goals. Demetrios Papathanasiou, Global Director of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank, says that “poorer countries are stuck in a vicious cycle where they pay more for electricity, cannot afford the high upfront cost of clean energy, and are locked into fossil fuel projects. In essence, they are paying a triple penalty for the energy transition.”

Furthermore, many of these countries do not have the strong governance that is so fundamental to signal to investors that the country is suitable for private investment into its clean energy transition.

Even in developed countries at the household level, high upfront costs of clean energy solutions make them inaccessible for those with lower incomes. Despite the long-term promise of electricity bill savings, making that switch can cost two-thirds of someone’s yearly salary.

The global move towards clean energy therefore requires solutions from governments and large corporations to uplift those who cannot afford it. At Cathay Petroleum, our teams are consistently researching our options to invest in clean energy with a view to support the global energy transition.


Jacob, Julia, and Dan Peck. “Record-Breaking Wildfires Have Occurred All over the Northern Hemisphere during 2023, New Report Finds.” ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/US/record-breaking-wildfires-occurred-northern-hemisphere-2023-new/story?id=103169036. Accessed 19 Dec. 2023.

“‘I Wasn’t the Obvious Choice’: Meet the Oil Man Tasked with Saving the Planet.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Oct. 2023, www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/oct/07/meet-the-oil-man-tasked-with-saving-the-planet-cop28.

International Energy Agency (2023), World Energy Outlook 2023, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2023, License: CC BY 4.0 (report)

Kienzler, Clemens, et al. “How Oil and Gas Companies Can Be Successful in Renewable Power.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 27 Feb. 2023, www.mckinsey.com/industries/electric-power-and-natural-gas/our-insights/how-oil-and-gas-companies-can-be-successful-in-renewable-power.

“Breaking down Barriers to Clean Energy Transition.” World Bank, World Bank Group, 18 May 2023, www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2023/05/16/breaking-down-barriers-to-clean-energy-transition.

In the last four decades, the number of people in China with incomes below the international poverty line has fallen by almost 800 million.  That is almost 75% of the total decrease in the number of people worldwide who live in extreme poverty.  Over the same period, China’s GDP per capita increased more than sevenfold as it moved from an agrarian economy to a more industrialised one.

By any measure, China’s growth has been rapid and unprecedented. Not only has it eradicated extreme poverty, it has also made large improvements in access to healthcare and education. Its post-COVID fiscal policy is expected to remain expansionary. On the energy side, more than half of global demand growth in the last ten years can be attributed to China.

There are several factors that account for this growth in China’s energy demand: High-tech manufacturing in clean energy areas like photovoltaic systems and electric vehicles continues to grow. In 2022, revenue for listed manufacturers in these two sectors alone amounted to US$300 billion. China is also on track to add on the same amount of capacity as the combined capacity of all OECD countries in Europe and Asia so there continues to be a strong demand for petrochemical feedstock. Finally, hydroelectricity production has been inhibited by droughts which further contributes to its energy demand.

China continues to be one of the largest oil consumers globally. Its oil imports in this decade are correspondingly set to increase. It is also the world’s largest coal consumer, producer and importer and the world’s largest natural gas importer.  Around 70% of China’s electricity is still generated from fossil fuels fuels and China accounts for 27% of annual global carbon dioxide and a third of greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite China being the largest consumer of fossil fuels, it is also the leader, spending US$650 billion annually on several clean energy technologies. It dominates the solar panel supply chain and has brought down the price of solar components to the lowest it has ever been.

By the end of 2026, China is expected to have 1,000GW of solar power alone. Globally, 11,000GQ is needed to meet the 2030 targets of the Paris Agreement. Given China’s size, the world’s environmental problems cannot be resolved without its engagement. The future of energy is undoubtedly very much influenced by China’s growth and energy transition.


World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council, the People’s Republic of China. 2022. Four Decades of Poverty Reduction in China: Drivers, Insights for the World, and the Way Ahead. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-1- 4648-1877-6. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO

International Energy Agency (2023), World Energy Outlook 2023, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2023, License: CC BY 4.0 (report)

Howe, Colleen. “Explainer: The Numbers behind China’s Renewable Energy Boom.” Reuters, 16 Nov. 2023, www.reuters.com/sustainability/climate-energy/numbers-behind-chinas-renewable-energy-boom-2023-11-15/.