Quantum Summit Austin 2022: BP Showcases Quantum Benefits

Successful quantum programs need to set expectations, monitor the quantum ecosystem
Berenice Baker

November 22, 2022

BP's Clena Abuan addressed The Quantum Summit AustinBerenice Baker

Global energy company BP is an early adopter of quantum computing that has already started deploying use cases that could make a significant contribution to the company’s shift toward sustainability.

Speaking at the Quantum Summit Austin earlier this month, Clena Abuan, a senior digital science associate within BP’s digital science and engineering team, delivered a session explaining how BP has integrated quantum computing into its IT infrastructure and offering advice to organizations planning to do the same.

“Some people want to understand the journey that you go through when they’re investigating these types of technologies,” she said. “We're not at the point where we're seeing commercial value, but there's definitely an understanding that quantum computing is going to have an impact. We need to understand what applications it's going to have an impact on.”

Abuan said her team investigates nascent technologies to be able to inform BP’s long-term business strategy, and they do that from

the technology perspective rather than application-specific areas. That approach helps them understand the broader disruption the technology could introduce rather than being siloed into a narrow application.

“We started investigating quantum technologies late in 2016 and it was very early days,” said Abuan. “Our first question was, is this even going to be a technology that’s going to impact BP? We did some research with a few different universities, Oxford University being one of them, and we identified areas where we could potentially see a very big change in the way we do business.”

The team then investigated whether they should start developing an approach immediately or wait until the technology became commercially available. They looked at potential use cases for chemistry and seismic imaging to understand the potential resources required in terms of types of quantum computer, expertise and time.

“If you're hoping to be able to leverage some of the noisy, intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ – current quantum computing technology) era quantum devices, you’re likely going to be able to need to understand what parts of your overall problem are going to be able to leverage quantum computers and the rest of it might potentially run on a classical computer,” said Abuan. “It became very clear to us that we need to be able to understand the full spectrum of the problem and what parts of the problem might be impacted by quantum.”

BP set up a small quantum center of expertise that looks at potential applications for quantum that could help accelerate its goals as it grows into an integrated energy company. It focuses on the problems that are of the highest value in the spaces of renewables, hydrogen, bioenergy and other green energy solutions.

However, the team has not abandoned using state-of-the-art classical computing and, in some cases, uses it as a benchmark for the quantum approach.

“We might have explored a quantum approach and in doing so, we also inform the business with something that we can do today by doing a classical benchmark and using it to compare with our quantum benchmark,” explained Abuan. “We can ensure our leaders expect that this is research to understand the technology and start to prepare ourselves to be able to use it, versus saying we've reached quantum advantage.

“While that would be very exciting, the likelihood is slim, and I say that just to be practical about the approach. We've had instances where people read articles and, while it’s a very exciting space to be in, at the same time, we have to make sure that our leaders’ expectations are tempered with the fact that this is still very much a research area.

“We need to help, not just participate. Share data. Look for areas where in a pre-competitive way we can engage with others that have similar interests. Ask how we can help stimulate and encourage the quantum ecosystem.”

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