Woodside takes the controls of its gas plants with connected sensors

Woodside currently runs 3 million data calculations per day at its Pluto LNG Park with the help of 200,000 sensors.

Oil and gas giant Woodside is looking to further roll out the use of sensors to collect additional data from six of its other plants, following the successful prototype trial at its Pluto LNG Park.

Speaking at the AWS Summit Sydney on Thursday, Woodside CTO Shaun Gregory explained that when the company acquired Pluto LNG Park for AU$10 billion in 2012, the plant was installed with approximately 200,000 existing sensors that were used to measure temperature and pressure.

Gregory said the company saw an opportunity in the information that was being collected through the sensors.

"We had this concept of: 'How on earth can we use all of that data?'" he said.

Before making the decision to connect all of the plants' sensors to Amazon Web Services, Woodside ran a six-week trial that homed in on one piece of equipment. However, that piece of equipment, Gregory pointed out, had the potential of shutting down the plant for weeks or months due a problem known as "foaming".

"We went about with data scientists to analyse these small number of sensors -- and in this piece of kit there were 10,000 sensors -- to see whether or not we could detect foaming," he said.

According to Gregory, by bringing on board data scientists to help analyse the collected data, the company was able to create up to a one-week forecast that informed when foaming would occur.

"So not only did we just get the data collection and analysis, but we got insight about an incident that was coming and we could take action to keep that plant running," he said.

Since the initial trial, the company activated all 200,000 sensors at Pluto.

"We now stream those sensors into over 6,000 analytics models doing all sorts of things from monitoring a valve -- and whether that valve is likely to fail in the next month or two and whether we should send a maintenance tech out -- through to protecting that big piece of kit. It runs over 3 million calculations per day tackling all sorts of problems," Gregory said.

Gregory said the decision by the company to adopt the mantra of "think big, prototype small, scale fast" has brought on a culture change in the way technology is used.

"We had a culture where evolving would take years -- now it's in months and weeks. It has had such a positive impact on what was a heavy industry to one that is pushing the boundaries of IoT and making a difference," he said.

Given the success of the trial, Woodside is looking to apply the same practice to its six other plants, as well as expand it to its offshore facilities including its vessels.

"We have a lot of infrastructure with a lot of sensors on them that aren't connected yet and we're looking to get those to analyse the next generation of problems. AWS lets us to scale that really easily," he said.