quantum computing

Quantum Computing: Fueling Oil and Gas Supply Chains

Rebel Brown

Quantum computing is a critical technology for oil and gas companies. With steadily increasing global demand, it’s optimization becomes more critical and more complicated.

As disruption becomes more prevalent, optimizing supply chains becomes more challenging.

We see it all around us today. As supply chain crises have increased, it’s become apparent that the planning and rapid replanning of sourcing, production, and logistics are integral to the stability of our energy supply chain.

This requires a shift from optimizing individual areas of the supply chain, where we analyze diverse actions independently – to an integrated single supply chain, optimized and re-optimized quickly as diverse factors rapidly change due to global events.

The focus must be on speed of response, aka being highly adaptable in our dynamically changing market to assure that we can deliver effectively, at reasonable cost and continued profitability.

As we all know, the challenge is that our classical computing systems are reaching their limits.

As data volumes increase geometrically, and the interdependence of our supply chains grows increasingly complex, the computations required to optimize our supply chains are outpacing our ability to accurately and efficiently solve them. Especially in the highly compressed timeframes demanded by today’s on-demand and dynamic economy.

Quantum Computing: The Future in Oil and Gas Supply Chains

Effective supply chain management increases the efficiency and competitiveness of a petrochemical plant and its supply as a whole. A company is linked to its upstream suppliers and downstream distributors as materials, information, and capital flow through the supply-chain.

Effective supply chain management, then, requires coordination and continuous improvement of a diversity of upstream, midstream, and downstream operations. Which is complex at best in a static environment.

In today’s dynamic world, a lack of either threatens the identification and delivery of effective oil and gas supply chains.

Quantum computing is key to the complex computations demanded as part of the supply chain of the future.

As evidence, at the recent KPMG Global Energy Conference in Houston, oil and gas executives named quantum computer technology as the next big breakthrough for the oil and gas sector.

How can quantum computing contribute to lower cost and efficient energy delivery while simultaneously maintaining bottom line results for oil and gas companies?

Quantum computing is an entirely new paradigm for solving complex problems,  such as defining the best possible supply chain operations. These complex problems, or computations, require extremely large amounts of data to be analyzed to find the optimal components of intricate supply chain operations. These operations range from planning and sourcing to production and logistics scheduling to assuring deliveries avoid out-of-gas situations.

Quantum computers are ideally suited for such computations because:

  • Predictive and prescriptive analytics are key components of such optimization computations and are therefore the core of today and the future’s optimal supply chain.
  • These analyses are driven by optimization algorithms. Different optimization models are applied in various fields, yet the fundamentals remain the same. As the complexity and amount of data involved continues to increase geometrically, and classical computing reaches its limits, we need better ways of solving these problems.

Here’s an example of how such optimization problems scale in the form of a routing optimization example:

  • A route with 10 destinations = 3,628,800 possible options or 3.6288·106
  • A route with 40 destinations = 815,915,283,200, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible options or 8.159152832 ·10 33
  • A route with 300 destinations = 2300 a number that is larger than all the atoms of the universe.

As you can see, the volumes of data scale geometrically. Which is one reason classical computers are struggling to solve these critical computations.

This is where quantum computing comes into its own. They are designed to solve problems through an entirely different process than classical computers. They process far larger volumes of data, with more complex algorithms that apply a diversity of constraints and goals across all the facets of the oil and gas supply chain.

Additionally, quantum computing delivers a diversity of solutions that meet all the requirements of the stated optimization. Classical systems only identify the single most optimal solution. The one best answer.

Yet often, an answer that is only different in its results by .0004 may be the better solution given a specific situation. Quantum computers give business experts the chance to review multiple options to select their best option.

This also aids in assuring that the answers are indeed the best possible results, increasing accuracy.

The Bottom Line

Understanding how best to effectively attain and leverage quantum power is critical to oil and gas companies. Specifically, organizations need to begin now to identify which computations or problems  are the best quantum-possible options, which QPUs should be evaluated, how to evaluate a diversity of hardware options, and then defining  the path to unlocking quantum computing value.

That’s why so many oil and gas companies are already investing in exploring their best path to quantum. Those who start now will gain significant competitive advantage, as in years, over those who wait until quantum computing matures to its full power.