After the financial sector that is disinvesting fossil fuels, is it the digital industry’s turn to turn its back on it? Google has just announced that it will no longer develop artificial intelligence tools for oil and gas extraction projects. A decision welcomed by Greenpeace, which is part of the general movement of Tech for Good, technology for good.
Google announced in May that the company will no longer develop artificial intelligence (AI) tools for oil and gas extraction. A decision welcomed by Greenpeace who is not for nothing. The announcement comes after a report by the NGO on the links between digital companies and the fossil fuel sector.
Artificial intelligence is widely used by the oil and gas sector and is expected to play a key role in their development, according to Accenture. Advanced analysis and modelling of exploration projects could generate up to $425 billion in value for the oil and gas sector by 2025, increasing production levels by 5%.
Fossil fuels, a market coveted by digital giants
Partly because Total was convinced that AI applied to the oil and gas industry was “one of the ways forward to optimize” its performance that the tanker had reached an agreement with Google in 2018 to experiment with machine learning solutions in geosciences. If Google does not abandon its existing contracts, the company will not sign any more. For the digital giant, however, the abandonment of the market remains more symbolic: solutions for the fossil sector account for less than one percent of the turnover of its cloud service (online IT services).
Its competitors are more invested in the sector and, logically, are dragging more to keep up. The market is a source of interest: despite the collapse in the price of oil, BloombergNEF expects oil companies to increase their spending on cloud computing and advanced analytics solutions six-fold over the next ten years (from $2.5 billion in 2020 to $15.7 billion planned for 2030), mainly for their exploration and production activities. Microsoft offers AI solutions in all phases of oil production for Schlumberger, Exxon or Chevron. And the fossil fuel market is also heavily targeted by Aws, the web services part of Amazon, a cloud leader.
However, these markets are incompatible with the climate ambitions displayed by companies, Greenpeace denounces. Microsoft will never be able to achieve its Carbon Negative goal while continuing to help the oil and gas sector. Its contract with ExxonMobil alone could result in emissions of more than 20% of Microsoft’s annual carbon footprint, the NGO says. And this type of double discourse is increasingly struggling to pass, even with their own employees. Last year, they called on Amazon’s management to terminate these contracts with oil tankers.