Can machine learning help unlock the full potential of the North Sea?

The industry is facing tough decisions about end of field life and the decommissioning of key infrastructure.


The North Sea has a long and successful history of exploration and development. However, oil and gas companies along with the industry regulator, the Oil & Gas Authority, are now having to grapple with tough decisions about end of field life and the decommissioning of key infrastructure.

It would be helpful in these deliberations to have a greater understanding of remaining hydrocarbon potential in an area. The good news is that there is a large volume of data, built up over decades of successful exploration and field development, that can help with that.

However, it would take a large team many months to compile and assess the significant volumes of structured and unstructured data. Also, some of the data is in unlicensed areas that is not currently being worked.

The Technology Centre believes that sophisticated analytics algorithms, such as machine learning, can help with this challenge and a ‘Call for Ideas’ has been launched to test this out!

The Technology Centre is working closely with the Oil & Gas Authority, Common Data Access Ltd and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate to make available to successful companies for the first time a large volume of well data from the Northern North Sea.

There are two parts to the challenge. Firstly, to create a coherent data volume from the various vintages and formats of available data. Essentially, the OGTC are looking for techniques that condition the data so that analytics can be run. Secondly, to design an algorithm. trained from existing discoveries, to look for other occurrences of potential hydrocarbon zones in the data. Think of this as a big data, machine learning project.

If you’ve got an idea that addresses both challenges that’s great, and equally submissions that address just one aspect will be welcomed. Commercial organisations, academic institutions, innovators and entrepreneurs from inside and outside the oil and gas industry are encouraged to submit their ideas.

There’s c.£1 million up for grabs, which will be invested in a portfolio of projects with successful companies from this challenge. The Call for Ideas closes at 10pm on 2 February so don’t miss out!

If you’re interested, click here to register on the ideas portal for the full technical information and to submit your idea.

If you have any questions then please email

Good luck!