Woodside targets innovation and growth to meet ‘fierce’ competition

Pluto LNG Plant. Image: Woodside Energy

Woodside Energy has revealed its ambitious growth plans including an intention to ramp up liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply and innovation in response to emerging global competition.

Chief operating officer Meg O’Neill delivered a speech detailing the booming demand for LNG and how Woodside intends to meet it.

Woodside’s plans feature development of the Burrup Hub, which comprises 20 to 25 trillion cubic feet of gross dry gas resources from the Scarborough and Browse fields through the Karratha gas plant and Pluto LNG plant in northern Western Australia.

O’Neill said the company was at a “crucial stage” in the project’s development, having started front end engineering and design activities on Scarborough ahead of a final investment decision next year.

Work is under way on the design of a second LNG train and a domestic gas plant at Pluto, according to O’Neill.

At the Browse fields, O’Neill said early engineering works were under way on a development that featured two floating production storage and offtake units, connected by 900 kilometres of subsea pipeline to the North West Shelf’s Karratha gas plant.

Woodside is also proposing to build a pipeline linking the Pluto and Karratha plants, creating an integrated seven-train LNG production centre on the Burrup Peninsula.

Economic consultants ACIL Allen have estimated the economic activity associated with the Burrup Hub could create an average of 4000 full-time equivalent jobs per annum over a 40-year time frame.

O’Neil was quick to point out the “stiff competition” Woodside faced from new LNG projects planned in Qatar, Mozambique, Canada, Russia and the United States.

She said Woodside was competing on timing and costs, saying it was essential the company remained innovative to ensure its projects were ahead of the curve.

“When I started at Woodside last year, I knew this company had a reputation for being a global technology leader in our industry. That sounded promising, but I wanted to see evidence of the uptake of technology in operations,” O’Neil said.

“I’ve got to say: what I have seen in the past year has convinced me that Woodside really is at the forefront of a new way of doing things in LNG production, applying advanced data science and robotics to improve the way we run our facilities.”

As such, O’Neill revealed new technology being trialled at Pluto that has “gamechanger” potential at operations in the industry.

She describes the technology as “intelligent assets,” involving installing a data-driven digital nerve system at its operating facilities that capture, analyse and make use of all available data to enable better decision making and operations.

“This approach supports the simultaneous reduction of costs and risk whilst improving reliability and production performance. We aim to make things work harder so that people can work smarter,” O’Neil said.

The deployment of 120 smart sensors at the Effluent treatment plant at Pluto has trialled the ability to constantly monitor and relay a variety of real-time data about plant performance.

When starting the project, the cost of wireless senses were around $30,000, with the company’s tech team getting the price down to $300.

The need for a tool to visualise the data has led to the creation of a 4D ‘digital twin’, which is a spatially referenced virtual replica of Woodside facilities with embedded real-time data analytics related to conditions and performance.

Operators are able to sense conditions in the plant by accessing real-time data from all relevant sources and can be given insights on what the sensed data means through results from machine learning and other analysis.

It also allows them to be presented with a list of what actions to take, or perhaps what actions have been taken.

“We’re on an exciting journey, here. Pluto is already a very high-performing facility. There are quarters where it runs at 100 per cent reliability,” O’Neill said.

“Very few plants in the world run at that level. The technologies we are pioneering now will ensure it retains that world-leading position.”

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