Batteries beat oil and gas as AI startup pivots to critical minerals exploration


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There’s been a lot of talk about how the energy transition could cost jobs in key sectors of the economy like oil and gas. But what often goes unmentioned are the number of jobs that could be gained in the process.

Take one Canadian startup as an example. GeologicAI started life under a different name, serving oil and gas clients. Those clients would drill core samples from deep underground and send them to its facility in Calgary, where it would use sophisticated equipment to scan samples and offer its assessment on whether the client was homing in on a significant reservoir.

“It’s very easy if you’re a high-end professional who’s good at data to make a consulting business and do research for big oil companies,” GeologicAI’s co-founder and CEO Grant Sander told TechCrunch+. “That’s what we did.”

But as many people in the startup world know, consulting businesses don’t scale well. They can make good money, but they don’t have the sort of potential that a truly scalable business does.

“Then we got involved in Creative Destruction Labs, which is an interesting accelerator that came out of Toronto,” Sander said. The company began to explore other ways to apply the technology, including scaling its sensor suite and machine learning algorithms to process a large quantity of core samples.

Oil and gas companies, though, scan relatively small amounts of rock, and they were willing to pay handsomely to have it evaluated in great detail. That’s fine for a consultancy, but not for a startup looking to scale. Very large mines, on the other hand, drill 400 kilometers of core every year. That’s just for one mine. “The world has 75 million meters of rocks that we need to go scan,” Sander said.

Problem was, miners weren’t interested in paying the same rates that oil and gas companies were. “So we reevaluated what cost works and we lowered the cost so it was a no brainer,” he said.

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