Woodside Energy’s Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility was built from the ground up on digital technology. The Western Australia facility, which has processed natural gas from offshore fields since 2012, is outfitted with 200,000 Internet of Things (IoT) sensors monitoring operations minute-by-minute 24/7.
The Perth-based company runs more than 6,000 algorithms on the vast quantities of sensor data to provide deeper insights and optimize operations. For example, Woodside used sensor data to build an algorithm that allows it to predict and prevent foaming in its acid gas removal unit, a critical part of the production process that cannot be monitored directly.
The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, according to Shaun Gregory, senior vice-president and chief technology officer at Woodside, made Pluto’s remote operation capability possible. By connecting the IoT sensors to the cloud, “we’ve been able to optimize the production and maintenance in a way that we were never able to do in the past.
“The cloud has enabled a culture of tackling bigger problems,” Gregory said. “Our innovation mantra is to think big, prototype small, and scale fast. And the cloud has really helped us do that.”
The cloud has allowed the company to work in a much more iterative fashion, added Shelly Kalms, Woodside general manager. “We can instantly start working on a problem and build a minimum-viable product that allows us to test key assumptions rapidly."
One of the keys was unlocking data silos. Previously, analytics were performed in deep silos of expertise. To further promote digital and cultural transformation, Woodside formed a Data Sciences Group after migrating to the cloud to unravel these silos and find insights by sharing data across the organization.
“If we need to deliver an insight to the business to make a decision, they need that insight now. When we first started out, delivering a new analytics algorithm would take us three to six months. We’re now seeing that turnaround in a matter of weeks or sometimes in a matter of days,” said Kalms.
Operating from the AWS Cloud gave Woodside the flexibility to choose the architecture that it wanted to solve a problem, to chose it in a short space of time, and to prototype very quickly, said Lauchlan Wallace, Woodside data science manager.
Additionally, “the architecture itself in the cloud allows us to do things we couldn’t do [on the ground]; we can design our platform for data science such that it is optimal for the execution of algorithms. That is not something we think we could do efficiently and cost-effectively on premise.”
Flexibility and the freedom to experiment are important aspects of Woodside culture. People are the organization’s most valuable asset, and they shouldn’t have to wait for algorithms to run, he said.
The company’s digital transformation continues. It aspires to become more predictive using artificial intelligence (AI), Gregory said. “The next step on our innovation cycle is to merge AI and IoT to really augment and inform better decision-making.”
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