Industry insights: How AI will revolutionize mining

Deborah Sacrey of MCF Energy details how the company’s tech could change the industry.

Photo supplied.

As AI continues to make headlines, it’s been fascinating to see how it applies to various industries. Charts, both medical and data-driven, are two notable examples. AI is now also being used to help write presentations and even write the news (we here at Vancouver Tech Journal are human-produced of course, if you’re curious).

But where AI applications may seem a bit more abstract is the natural resources sector — an industry that is very important to the province’s economy. So, we shoulder-tapped Deborah Sacrey, an advisor to Vancouver-based MCF Energy, to detail how AI is transforming the mining industry.

The conversation has been condensed and edited lightly for clarity.

VTJ: Can you describe an average miner's relationship with technology?

Deborah Sacrey: It’s simple, really: geoscientists would not be successful at finding oil and gas deposits without technology.

In some sense, geologists and geophysicists are referred to as "miners.” But, in truth, oil and gas are not found in a mine but rather within tiny pore spaces within rocks. Therefore, it takes a complex mix of sophisticated technology to identify what rocks can produce oil and gas and which cannot. All geoscientists typically use powerful imaging tools like seismic data to understand the layers of rock in the earth.

Our industry has been using technology since the beginning of time, but as technology has advanced, not all companies have chosen to advance their practices as rapidly as we have at MCF Energy.

VTJ: Why do you think technology is so tied to geoscience?

DS: Over many decades of looking for oil and gas, geoscientists have been working to improve methods to help curb the risk of drilling dry wells. By reducing this practice, minimal to no harm is caused to the environment. Technology has played a huge part in helping geoscientists identify “safe spots,” which is paramount.

You could say that at this point in the history of petroleum exploration, most of the "easy" stuff has been found. This has increased the need for more advanced technologies to help find the reserves that are left in the ground. And it’s not just finding the reserves that are important. What’s equally important is finding oil and gas in an environmentally safe way. Despite common belief, this has been important from day one. Hydrocarbon extraction technology has vastly improved, and today's "modern" hydrocarbon extraction industry has grown with ever-improving technology at the forefront. This has allowed current reserve demands to be found and used efficiently, safely, and in an environmentally sustainable way.

VTJ: Can you describe what MCF Energy does?

DS: We are a publicly-traded company that was formed in 2022 by concerned energy experts and a technical support team to help find oil and gas reserves in Europe. There are vast reserves of hydrocarbons in Europe that were never thought to be tapped into, because, until February 2022, Europe relied and depended on Russia’s gas supply to fuel its economy.

With the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, much of Europe started boycotting Russian imports, which, as we know, put many countries in an "energy deficit" for generating electricity and limiting manufacturing capabilities. At this point, these countries have now deemed natural gas as "green” and are supporting the development of energy resources within their boundaries to replace what they are not getting from Russia. This is critical in order to help move the European population out of “energy poverty” and to restabilize the continent’s economy.

MCF Energy was established to strengthen Europe's energy security through responsible exploration and development of natural gas resources within the region. It has secured interests in two significant natural gas exploration projects in Austria and Germany and is evaluating additional opportunities. The company's leaders have extensive experience in the European energy sector and are working to develop a cleaner, cheaper, and more secure natural gas industry as a transition to renewable energy sources.

VTJ: How are you incorporating AI and machine learning into the business?

DS: One of the ways we are using machine learning is through the processing of seismic data and interpretation. Using available 3D and 2D seismic data, we are applying cluster analysis and pattern recognition techniques to help visualize the subsurface in ways that have not been seen before.

This process involves breaking down the conventional seismic interpretation method — what’s referred to as wavelet analysis — and looking statistically at seismic data based on sample analysis, which goes way beyond what the human eye can discern. Sounds complex, we know! We use technology to analyze and review all of this data.

This process gives us insight into where the oil and gas in the rock really are, as opposed to making assumptions. Not only does this help reduce the risk of drilling poor wells or dry holes, but we can calculate the volume and the types of reserves that are in the ground.

VTJ: How has the industry felt about these integrations?

DS: Overall, the industry is ecstatic about new advancements. The sector has grown exceptionally over the last few years, and the adoption of industry-specific technology has really accelerated economic and operational activity. The type of machine learning we are using is new to the industry. So, we are truly breaking some new ground.

VTJ: In many industries, AI is set to take away jobs through automation. How do you envision AI will affect mining?

DS: AI can help to automate many of the activities that take place in oil fields; everything from handling fuel gauges to monitoring pipelines can benefit from AI. However, oil and gas exploration is one of those very special industries where experienced geoscientists will always be necessary. They are needed to interpret what the computer has generated, and in that respect, we do not see AI or machine learning replacing geoscientists.

VTJ: How have investors received your tech?

DS: We believe the company’s investors have embraced and recognized the value of the technology we are using, coupled with our mission and seasoned leadership team — many of whom have been in the industry for three to four decades. Beyond passion, we have an immensely knowledgeable team that has seen, experienced, and been a part of change in the global energy industry.

On the topic of technology and investors, our many investors see the value in how we’re choosing to go about our operational activities. Our practices are ultimately helping to drastically reduce risk in drilling wells and puts MCF Energy at the forefront of the application of technology designed to improve upon successes and make better use of our capital.

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