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Exploring Data Management, Robotics, and AI in Oil & Gas with Mark Stansberry

What do robotics, data, and AI have in common? In the oil and gas industry, they're driving transformative change.

Tune in as Todd Bailey, VP of Partner & Strategic Relationships at Ripcord, joins Mark Stansberry on the National Energy Talk podcast.

Mark Stansberry is a luminary in the energy sector, serving as a strategic energy strategist, international negotiator, and corporate advisor. With a distinguished career that includes roles as Chairman/CEO of The GTD Group and CEO/President of The Oklahoma Royalty Company, he is also an Emmy-nominated film producer and author of six energy-related books. As the host of the National Energy Talk podcast, Mark brings a wealth of knowledge on business development, strategic planning, and new technologies in oil and gas. His contributions have earned him induction into multiple Halls of Fame, and he has led energy projects worldwide, testified before the U.S. Senate, and served on numerous university boards.

Don't miss this insightful conversation – listen to the full episode below.

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Episode Transcript 

Mark Stansberry: Welcome to another episode of National Energy Talk. I'm Mark Stansberry, and today we have this special guest, one that we're to talk about on data management. We're going to talk about data storage and AI and robotics and a whole list of things. Before I do that, I want to thank our sponsor for today's program. That's David A. Guest, certified mineral manager. Again, David A. Guest. Thank you, David. Today we have with us Todd Bailey. Todd, welcome to National Energy Talk!

Todd Bailey: Thanks, Mark. I really appreciate the opportunity in working with you. This is awesome.

Mark Stansberry: I've been looking forward to this because you have a lot of expertise. People that I've talked to that you're surrounded by have unbelievable expertise. And you have such a unique product or products that we talk about.

Mark Stansberry: Before we do, I always like to look at your journey. You've had a journey of life. We all do. But yours is special. We want to hear about your journey of life and what is in the future as well.

Todd Bailey: Sure. I appreciate that.

Mark Stansberry: Yeah.

Todd Bailey: No scripting here, huh?

Mark Stansberry: That's right. It's our open territory.

Todd Bailey: Nice, I like it! So I'm a technologist. I've always been fascinated with technology and what it can do and how it can serve people. I was in product management for quite a long time in my career, you know, from hospitality to corporate finance. And then I got into the public sector and really [started] trying to innovate there and came across a company called Ripcord, who I worked for today. And really, it's the intersection of AI and robotics, where we're innovating organizations, helping them to achieve more with what they have and realizing what they actually have, which is, in my opinion, gold data, which really fuels innovation and it fuels, you know, the decisions that we're trying to make. So, you know, for me, I always look for an optimal solution to problems and novel solutions. And it was just a natural sink for me to kind of sink my teeth into Ripcord and get involved with oil and gas and energy. And I think that's why you and I get along so well with our conversation.

Mark Stansberry: No question. I have a lot in common in regard to especially the energy industry. One thing is that when we're talking about the energy industry, it's pretty broad, as you and I know, but for the audience that was listening today, we're talking about a very broad sector. Because not only in energy, your company also helps other industries as well, so we talk about that as part of this dialogue. We'll start off with the energy industry. We have some great opportunities to help as far as the energy companies and the energy sector. Might tell us about, first of all, where did Ripcord begin and why did it begin?

Todd Bailey: Sure. It's actually a pretty interesting story. So back in 2015, it was actually a joint venture with NASA, actually at Moffett Field, really close to our California headquarters, which is in Hayward, just outside of the Bay Area. And we started innovating in robotics. And really the impetus was that we're losing history as there are floods happening, fires happening – that we're losing part of our history as these occur – and could we make a better product or a better solution to be able to digitize physical documents at a faster rate and provide that as a service? And really, we came into creating our first robotic product, the Gen1, as we call it internally, which you can see on our website. And it removes staples, it does all of the prepping that is necessary to digitize materials [and] physical documents at scale. It even does well logs, if we're talking about oil and gas industry. And on top of that, we put what we call Document Intelligence as a Service, really providing this as a managed service. So we can digitize, but then really, I think the secret sauce is how we're extracting metadata, the actual data that's on those pieces of paper. 

How do we extract that and provide meaningful outcomes for customers across many different verticals? And we're dealing with [the] public sector from the Internal Revenue Service – one of our biggest customers – to Coca-Cola Bottlers to Cantium. So we run the spectrum across the board, but we're outcome-based, which is one of the reasons why I came to Ripcord, and that we're always looking for what's the outcome that the customer needs. Are they looking for another system of record? Are they looking to feed a data lake? Are they trying to make better choices [and] decisions [or] trying to automate processes? And then we craft document intelligence to be personalized for them, whether we're scanning or ingesting both physical or ingesting digital material, how we're extracting that metadata from those actual images. You know, the PO number could be the drill log number. It could be any kind of data. And then how are we presenting that back to the customer? Is that an interface or are we presenting it within the UI?

Mark Stansberry: That's wonderful. We want to talk in a few minutes about some case studies, at least one or two case studies you might have with Ripcord. I think that'd be important for those who are listening, especially considering using Ripcord. You're based in California, as you mentioned, but you have those from across the US that are represented in different regions. So, if you have a client, I guess, in New York or Dallas, you can serve them as well as in California, it sounds like. And you're looking at what size of companies. Give us a background of the ideal candidate or candidates for Ripcord.

Todd Bailey: Yeah. So, we're nationwide across the US, and we actually have two facilities out in Japan that we're running as well. We run for the fifth largest bank in the world, MUFG, which we're pretty proud about, under a paid PoC for the Japanese Defense Ministry. So, kind of interesting aside there. You know, across the organization, it's anybody that's dealing with paper or digital and trying to gather that intelligence. One agency that we're working with out in California, it's actually a sheriff's office, where they're dealing with a deluge of personnel and background files. It's a fairly large agency, and they're looking to wrangle that. And so we're able to digitize those records, but we can also provide them with a day-forward perspective where they actually do the digitization for day forward. So, we caught up their backlog with our robotics which we can do really fast. But day forward, they actually use the scanners on-prem within their agency to be able to scan those documents up to our cloud. We extract the intelligence and provide them with a system of record to be able to look at that information.

So that's an agency, all the way to Coca-Cola Bottlers, which is another great customer of ours, which, they were dealing with an issue of bill of lading to PO (purchase orders) to delivery slips. So, how do you create that unified record? Using large language models that we have inherent within the Ripcord platform, we're able to find that needle in the haystack to be able to book those records together to give them a single pane of glass as far as what they're looking at, and then they can optimize their business accordingly. They actually found about a million dollars worth of savings by using Ripcord to be able to find that, to be able to optimize their business. So those are just a few examples.

Mark Stansberry: Well, optimization is so important. If you remember, I'd written a book back in the 90s acquisition process, due diligence, minimize risk, maximize return. And one of the chapters was on conversion of the properties that we were purchasing when it came to the files and conversion of files back then meant data management only. I mean, it was a matter of really just making sure the land department and each of the departments had their data correctly converted over to our files or the files they're going to be using on a daily basis. But really, what was missing was the interpretation and analysis of each of the files that each of the departments had. And when you think about trying to develop property, if the land doesn't match up with the geological, the geophysical, engineering, all the different departments, then some of the items that we're looking for, items being drawing a well, don't occur because an example was we had one property in Oklahoma, it was a field, and there was a depth clause of 10,500 feet. But nobody paid attention to that for many years until natural gas came into being, and the location of the formation it is was around 12,000 to 15,000 feet. So they had to come back – “they” being the oil and gas companies – and lease the deep rights back, and that cost a fortune of actually missed opportunities as well. So I'm encouraged by what you're saying is that there's so many out there that still cannot just look at storage and come up with opportunities. You talk about hands-on, million-dollar savings, million-dollar opportunities, and more. Tell us about some of the oil and gas industry as far as the case studies that can be a good example.

Todd Bailey: Yeah, Cantium is a great example, a great customer of ours in which they had just purchased an oil field from Chevron and needed to decipher what was going on below the ground. They purchased this, but they didn't know what they had. They had the well logs, but it took time and the technology that we have to be able to use, for example, generative AI, they needed it digitized. And so we were able to do that at scale. They actually found one billion – that's one with a “B” –  of untapped value in the existing fields that they had just leased. I'm sure Chevron knows about this, but Cantium is able to leverage it. A direct quote from the CEO of Cantium was around the fact that with a lot of industries, it doesn't really matter what happened back in 1973, but the ground doesn't necessarily change that much. So for them, it was finding new resources that they could tap into. So we were able to accelerate their process. Instead of manually reviewing things, we digitize them. And then they were able to use analytic tools to be able to mine the data. So they were able to get a decrease in analysis time, I think it was around 80%, 87%, somewhere around that. We completed the project in three months and accelerated time to money. And that's what it comes down to. And it really helps all of us, right? More of the companies and organizations are spinning their wheels trying to find data, it's just costing all of us. So our idea is accelerated data capture; how can we accelerate that whether it be physical or digital and provide meaningful outcomes?

Mark Stansberry: So if we come to you and we're an oil and gas company in any part of the world, you've said, any part of the United States, how does this operate? Do you take the files? Do you go on location?

Todd Bailey: Sure. We start our engagement really with two questions. We'll say, what do you have, physical or digital? Because we can do both. And then we'll say, what is the outcome? What are you looking to accomplish? Are you looking to integrate this with a BI tool, a system of record? Once we do that, we'll create what we call Document Intelligence as a Service where we'll figure out the logistics of getting your documents to our facility, because the robots are [located at] our facility. And we have plans to open up a second facility as well, for your listeners on the East Coast. So we'll ship those documents to our facility and [get them] into the production line where we have multiple aspects of security covered. Remember, we're doing work for the Internal Revenue Service, which is ultra-secure. We'll go through it. We'll work with the customer to make sure that we're matching the outcomes. We're so customer-obsessed. It's great to be within Ripcord and see that aspect. And then we start cranking it through. And some projects can be a couple of weeks long. Some projects, like for MUFG, we're going to be finishing a project in five years that would have taken them 70, based on their own words. So it really depends. But we use that feedback loop with the customer to make sure that we're matching the outcomes. So it really depends. But we use that feedback loop with the customer to make sure that we're matching the outcomes.

Mark Stansberry: Do you go and actually train those that are in-house to continue the process, or do you maintain future development?

Todd Bailey: Well, we work with the customers for future development. Certainly, the customers themselves are going to be involved as much as they want to be. And the way we look at it as a managed service, they're running an oil company or a gas company. That's their domain. Our domain is document intelligence. That's what we know. We've got over 100 years of combined experience within Ripcord. And so as much as they want to be involved in the process, whether it be human loop validation and crafting, we welcome that. But we'll keep on innovating. And as a matter of fact, we're coming out with new robotics. They're going to be released later this summer. The new robots are third-generation equipment and are optimized to run oil and gas content.  We're super excited about bringing those to market. They're smaller, they're faster, [and] more nimble. You've seen the videos and we're super excited. I was just out in California last week taking a look at the rough designs and seeing the prototype. It's pretty cool to see the robots run.

Mark Stansberry: Well, I'm seeing more and more activity when it comes to AI. I mean, that's one giant leap for your company in that you've got a handle on AI in a big way. And tell us more about the AI, even though you've discussed a little bit already, but it's something that's just beyond comprehension, really, it is.

Todd Bailey: Yeah, we got started in AI many, many years ago before it was a thing. And now it's the biggest thing when you come to GenAI, but it's built within the Ripcord platform. We've made some acquisitions along the way as well into the technology, and of course, we've developed our own, but it handles some of the image classification. We use a combination of AI and machine learning for that to be able to extract that data, and AI is really what helps us determine if we're hitting accuracy levels. From what I know of the industry, we're the only vendor that will go into an SLA of 99% accuracy, meaning that we're that careful with the data that we're that precise. And if you think in terms of the Internal Revenue Service and what we're doing for taxpayers today – we're digitizing tax forms and actually filing those – we have to be 100% correct. We can't make mistakes there. And I can tell you by our vendor reports from the IRS, we're accomplishing that. But back to the technology, AI and ML, it's all part of the process, the Ripcord platform. And what we provide as the output is really the culmination of all of that development. These guys are super involved in the latest innovations, especially when it comes to GenAI. And there's a time and a place for GenAI. We actually released a product not too long ago called Docufai that has GenAI built-in along with our Canopy product as well, which provides question/answers and summaries of documents. And we're starting to use that also on the data extraction portion, where it might not be intuitive to an AI engine, but when you get into GenAI, you're into a whole new territory of understanding. Now, that being said, with GenAI, you need to validate the results, and a human has to be involved, and that's where either the customer can participate in that human-in-the-loop validation, or we've got experts on our team that can do that as well.

Mark Stansberry: Where is the most work that you have been focused on when it comes to energy? And I know you could go anywhere in any sector of the energy industry, but where have you seen most results? And where do you want to see results?

Todd Bailey: Yeah, it's a blessing and a curse. The fact that we can touch so many parts of the business. But within energy, I see the resources and being able to visualize those and bring them to the surface as being key to that business, and also making sure that we're not repeating mistakes, going to places where it just doesn't make sense, based on what was found before. So oil and gas, well logs, is definitely something that’s of interest and that we're very successful at, but it doesn't stop there. We were talking to another company in the oil and gas [industry] that’s around M&A, and it was funny you brought up the M&A story, mergers and acquisitions. But aside from the well logs, there's a ton of paper that is there, and you have to understand what you're getting involved with. So one of the companies we're working with is doing the due diligence, to be able to digitize, to make sure that they're making a sure investment. So it is oil and gas, but it's actually on the M&A side of making sure that we're making the right investment.

Mark Stansberry: It is huge. The analysis is so vital. I know that I have worked on some mergers and acquisitions where the date of the acquisition to begin with, [as] far as the leases and development side, starting in the early 1900s. And then there are some areas where it became very complex as time went on, where there are all different clauses. And in a lease alone, not counting all the different complications when it came to different formations, the new every area of the sectors was being expanded when it came to science. And we went from vertical wells to going the horizontal route, as you know, for hydraulic fracturing. And all that means making sure that we have the proper data. I found the challenge, especially because of all the different areas in the oil and gas sector, that land doesn't always know what geology is doing. Geology doesn't know what engineering is doing. And I found this attachment of each other, by having what you have to provide, brings everybody to the table. Instead of just taking care of the land department, you really need to make sure that all the departments are working together on this. I find it more valuable if the C-suite and the board would see this as an opportunity for gains.

And at the bottom line, you already mentioned a billion-dollar gain by one company, a million-dollar gain from another company, because of data. And that's the future. Data management. Either companies jump in and look at companies like Ripcord, or they'll be left behind, because the scientific data, the interpretation of the data, where you step in is so very, very vital. And so I know I'd given a talk at Petroleum Data Management Association, down in Houston at their annual convention a few years ago. And what I found afterward, I had several people come up to me and said, you know, you know, you're exactly right, that we need to look at really educating the board and the C-suite as to what we need. So a lot of times when you're trying to enter, say, the energy sector, you're looking at not the CEOs or the board, you're probably looking at those that are in need within the other management of land or geology or whatever, and try to help them. By helping them, then you wind up having this client, but it'd be great if the C-suite and the board were shipping, say, “No, we need it for all the different areas to be the most costly and efficient and effective.” Are you seeing pushback by boards and C-suites, or are you seeing more acceptance of what you're talking about? It seems like you would hear more and more, but where's the best point of entry is a better question.

Todd Bailey: Yeah, I think if boards understand the value of what the endeavor is about, that's where they get excited. It's usually people in the trenches that drive innovation. That’s been my experience – the people who are feeling the pain. So when you were talking about geologists, those people are optimal for understanding what the future could look like versus the current present today. And that's where we're seeing the innovation. People who are willing to think a different way about this instead of saving files to a K drive. Let's make them usable, grab the details out of those, and surface it into a system of record for analytics purposes. So I think the board needs to be educated as far as there's more data that's available to them to make educated decisions along with the CEO of the company. But it's also the frontline people who are having to deal with us. And I'm sure they realize the conflicts. I certainly have experienced that in my past life. Working in software companies across the board where you've got one group that's on one page of music and the other is on a different page of music, and things aren't quite sounding the same way as they should. And bringing the data forward for both groups to be able to take a look in action, they'll make the right actions and prioritize.

Mark Stansberry: What's the minimum size of a company or project that you'll take on? It sounds like your capacity is for a very large company. Is that the size of how much you can handle? What's the minimum you'll take on? 

Todd Bailey: Yeah, we'll take on any size project. It could be one banker's box worth of documents or a drive full of files. It really comes down to the economics for the customer and what they're trying to leverage. I'll give you one example. We were working with a manufacturer of electronic parts and they were going through schematics that they wanted digitized and they literally wanted to pull hundreds of fields from those schematics. And there's not that many schematics that they want digitized, there's only a handful, [and] the rest are digital. But for them, it made sense in a small quantity to be able to do that. So really, there's no size. We're willing to talk to anybody who has the issue and sees the vision of how they can access their data and preserve it in a thoughtful way.

Mark Stansberry: What about right-of-ways and easements? You already mentioned you're working with the government. I would think there are many opportunities that way that really fall also under the energy or oil and gas.

Todd Bailey: Yeah, we're working with the Department of Energy, one of their sub-agencies in the US. Part of the electronic records mandate that came out from the federal government many years ago is before COVID-19 as part of that process and trying to get them into compliance before the mandate, the deadline, but also to give them to surface this information so it's usable across where they're focused on within that sub-agency. [The] IRS is another example. Another example is the Office of Special Investigations under the Air Force, DoD. We started engaging with them last year on a new case management tool migration they're doing. And a lot of the cases that they work on are paper-based because of the regional offices. And they wanted to utilize Ripcord to be able to consolidate all of that information and feed it into a new case management system called Orion. And I was in Quantico not too long ago talking with them on the plans and how this could help that agency accelerate its efforts and really help our service members in a better way, providing them with the tools that are necessary. So it runs the gamut as far as all kinds of use cases.

Mark Stansberry: What's your website? How do those who are interested reach out and get in contact? I know you can contact me and I can get them the information, but at the same time, what's the best way to research Ripcord so they can be up to date with what's going on?

Todd Bailey: Yeah, it's really easy. It's just ripcord.com, R-I-P-C-O-R-D, just like the Ripcord. And we've got a great section on our website, thanks to our Marketing team, that goes through various use cases and solutions. Again, it's a blessing and a curse. We go across all different verticals. Anywhere there's paper or digital [documents], we're able to extract metadata from those with that SLA of 99% accuracy, human in a loop, and provide meaningful outcomes. So, happy to have the conversation. We're a bit different in the fact that we look for outcomes. We're looking for an outcome, and we'll be the first to say, doesn't look like there's an outcome that we can fulfill here. But more often than not, when it comes to documents, we can do it.

Mark Stansberry: Be sure, if you will, audience, to reach out to Todd at ripcord.com. But also, I want to mention I've written at least two articles that talk about Ripcord, the data management and the importance of Ripcord services. And it's only a magazine that has published both articles in that magazine but we'd love to share those with anyone interested. But we have some new things going on since that time. It's amazing how fast data management is, especially with Ripcord involved. What's next with Ripcord? I mean, you're doing some research and you already mentioned something that's coming out this summer. What else do you look for when you're talking about advances ahead in the next five years?

Todd Bailey: Well, the next five years are going to be a really interesting time. I mean, it's always been interesting. But with GenAI being the hottest topic, we're of course in the forefront of AI and GenAI releasing a GenAI tool last year. We're in talks with all of the CSPs, the cloud service providers – the Amazons and the Googles of the world – making sure that we're providing for that. If you look at where we came from, from a robotic standpoint [and] the hardware standpoint, we're innovating this year. We're coming out with the new third-generation robotics [that are] faster, nimbler, and it's easier on the pocketbook for our customers. Although we’ll be extremely competitive with the robotics because we don't have the labor. I would imagine that you get into a situation where you actually have the humanoid robots working within our factory, that would be kind of where I'd like to see the company go. And certainly, some of our investors are in that frontier, so we're in the right area to innovate. It's an exciting time to be at Ripcord and I'm just excited to see how we can innovate and help organizations.

Mark Stansberry: I love what you said, “We're on the frontier” because it is a great future ahead for those that, I think of those in the workforce, they're looking for a future. Are you looking for students? Are you looking for, not just only young people, but different ages across the United States to help you in this effort? Even though we're talking about robotics and that side of it, I know that STEM is a big part of my life, has been as a regent, and as involved in developing STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math – as a foundation. I know I was involved with a facility at the University of Central Oklahoma – a $26 million STEM facility – and it's getting some good results from that effort. But where do you see the future when it comes to getting support from higher education and students' involvement?

Todd Bailey: Well, we're already pursuing avenues of that. We’ve been working with the DoD on some innovation funding which involved some education organizations to help us with that from a robotic standpoint. So we're all about partnering, whether it's working with interns, bringing people on board for innovation. We like to have fun around here and if somebody's interested in getting into Ripcord, feel free to drop me a line. I'm happy to have the discussion and hook you up with the right people. There are much smarter people here at Ripcord who are dealing with some of those topics, and we'd love to talk to them.

Mark Stansberry: That's wonderful. What are [the] final summary or final words that we didn't cover, or if we did cover, reiterate those, Todd, because this is an important time in our lives when it comes to data management and the services you provide in the future of data management. Please comment on what you see and what final words are from you.

Todd Bailey: Yeah, I think, you know, the status quo of where we were just storing things into boxes or into drives was okay before when we didn't have the technology to really leverage that information. The times have changed, especially with GenAI and all of the advancements where, now, you can actually look at history in a different way and you can actually make heads or tails of, you know, how things happened, and you can start to not predict the future, but you can start to anticipate and see trends. And I think the time is exciting now to preserve that history as well because that's another piece that, you know, back to the founding of Ripcord about preservation. If you have a flood or a natural disaster, especially where you're located, tornadoes happen. What happens to people at that point? Or even the digital? Do you have a secure backup? But it's now the time that you can actually leverage that gold that you're sitting on, as I like to say, and put it to use. You could find $1 billion worth of oil reserves under your foot.

Mark Stansberry: No question. Well, you've been great to visit with today, Todd. I know there are those who are thinking about, “Well, I may need to get ahold of Ripcord. I need to change the way we're looking at things, from taking it from just the storage to using robotics to the AI,” maybe even digitize as well if they have not done so already. So the future is great for us, but those who don't step up will be left behind. I really believe that in the next five years especially, those who want to get ahead and interpret certain data and analysis can have a great stepping forward opportunity. So I hope they will do that, those that are listening. You've been listening to Todd Bailey with Ripcord. And Todd, I hope to have not only you back, but really also, we've mentioned talking about having other expertise or experts come on the show from different levels of management on, so I hope we can do that on a steady basis, because I'm excited about talking about STEM, and talking about the future of our country and the world, when it comes to modernizing our way of data management. And you're leading that effort, so we're excited about that.

Todd Bailey: Well, I appreciate the opportunity, and absolutely. I think having some of the people that are actually developing the robotics, I think you'll find it really fascinating. I spent some time with them last week. Just amazing people, super smart but very approachable. And I think that would be the next follow-on topic for us to talk about. 

Mark Stansberry: That would be wonderful. We appreciate your conversation. We'd like to keep it conversational. I know the audience, from the feedback [we’ve received], like it that way. And so we've covered quite a bit today, hope to cover more very soon. Again, you’ve been listening to Todd Bailey from Ripcord. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes of National Energy Talk. Thank you.

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