Oil company BP plans to use quantum computing to help it reduce emissions and neutralise its carbon footprint by 2050 or sooner. By the end of this decade, it aims to have developed about 50GW of net renewable-generating capacity – a 20-fold increase on what it has previously developed – increased its annual low-carbon investment 10-fold to about $5bn and cut its oil and gas production by 40%.
To help it reach these objective, BP has joined IBM’s Quantum Network, which gives it access to IBM’s 65-qubit quantum computer. This is currently IBM’s largest universal quantum, but there are plans to have a 1,000-plus qubit system ready by the end of 2023.
The energy company will work with IBM to explore using quantum computing to solve business and engineering challenges, and help drive greater efficiencies and a reduction in carbon emissions.
According to IBM, quantum computing has the potential to be applied in areas such as modelling the chemistry and build-up of various types of clay in hydrocarbon wells to improve efficiency in hydrocarbon production, analysing and managing the fluid dynamics of wind farms, and optimising autonomous robotic facility inspection.
“BP’s ambition is to become a net-zero company by 2050 or sooner and help the world get to net zero,” said Morag Watson, senior vice-president, digital science and engineering at BP. “Next-generation computing capabilities such as quantum computing will assist in solving the science and engineering challenges we will face, enabling us to reimagine energy and design new lower-carbon products.”
The IBM Quantum Network is a global community of Fortune 500 companies, startups, academic institutions and research labs working to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications. In 2019, ExxonMobil, Cern, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory joined the community.
At the time, ExxonMobil said quantum computing offered the potential to provide it with capabilities to simulate nature and chemistry that are not possible with existing technology.
IBM said the Quantum Network will help BP to understand quantum advances and applications as they emerge and then influence how those breakthroughs can be applied to its industry and the energy transition.
“BP joins a growing number of clients working with IBM to use quantum computing to help address real-world issues,” said Dario Gil, senior vice-president and director of IBM Research. “Energy is an exciting industry with the potential of quantum computing to identify solutions for today’s biggest challenges, including the advancement of next-generation energy, such as new types of batteries that are more powerful, longer lasting and cheaper than what is currently available.”