Google says it won't build AI tools for oil and gas drillers

Ruben Fields
May 23, 2020

Google says it will certainly no more build custom-made expert system tools for accelerating oil and gas removal, dividing itself from cloud computer competitors Microsoft and Amazon.

Google's 2019 revenue from oil and gas came out to roughly $65 million, which accounted for less than 1% of the company's total revenue in that period, the spokesperson said.

The report called out Google, Microsoft, and Amazon use AI and warehouse servers to help the likes of Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil to locate and retrieve oil and gas deposits from the earth. Moreover, Google also noted that oil companies will be allowed to use its cloud computing for data storage and general IT operations.

A Greenpeace report released on Tuesday claimed that oil and gas is becoming increasingly dependent on cloud technology to discover oil and that Google, Amazon and Microsoft's contracts with these companies might be in contradiction with their independent climate pledges.

Greenpeace applauded Google's decision.

While Google still has a number of current contracts it says it will honor, a company spokesperson said that moving forward it will no longer build custom AI or machine learning algorithms 'to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry'.

As such Google Cloud's business with upstream oil and gas is just a tiny fraction of a bigger picture.

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A statement from the company Tuesday followed a Greenpeace report that documents how the three tech giants are using AI and computing power to help oil companies find and access oil and gas deposits in the USA and around the world.

Accenture estimates that advanced analytics and modelling could generate at much as $425bn in value for the oil and gas sector by 2025.

Between the lines: Microsoft and Amazon have said that working with the oil industry isn't at odds with their climate commitments.

Greenpeace's report says Microsoft seems blazing a trail with one of the most oil and agreements, "offering AI capabilities in all phases of oil production".

"We agree that the world confronts an urgent carbon problem and we all must do more and move faster to reach a net zero-carbon future", Microsoft wrote in the post.

Amazon, which has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040, had not replied to a request for comment ahead of this article's publication. The organization called tech companies to end these relationships and Google was the first to answer that call.

Correction: This article was amended to reflect the fact that Google's commitment to no longer build custom AI tools for oil and gas was made in early May, not yesterday as previously suggested.

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