Data analysis on the cloud enables faster natural gas exploration

Energy industry players such as Australia’s Woodside are looking to the cloud to cut exploration time and optimise facilities.

Exploring for oil and natural gas resources relies on analysing enormous amounts of data.

Large sets of seismic data have to be processed and analysed so that an explorer can determine the likelihood of natural resources being present. This data informs decisions on further investment and where to conduct exploration drilling programs.  

Until recently, the processing and analysis of that data took months, sometimes even years, to complete. Energy companies had to wait for the data to be processed and made available in the right format for analysis. Large scale analysis and simulations would also take a long time to execute, typically limited by finite compute resources.

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Energy industry players such as Australia's Woodside are looking to the cloud to cut exploration time and optimise facilities.

Seeking innovation

Woodside is the pioneer of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in Australia, and Australia's largest natural gas producer. Woodside applied that pioneering spirit in its approach to technology, embracing cloud computing initially as part of its data science program and then more broadly across the organisation.

Woodside recognised the opportunity to leverage cloud technology and have focussed on solving key challenges in the exploration and production of natural gas. In exploration, the opportunity is to dramatically reduce exploration time by speeding up the processing and interpretation of large seismic data sets. The goal across Woodside's LNG facilities has been to maximise production and ensure optimum reliability.

To deliver solutions to these business challenges, Woodside recognised it needed a cloud platform that was agile, flexible and secure at scale and to build this required collaboration with the right partners to supplement their own expertise.

Finding the right partner

Woodside's approach to technology innovation is to collaborate with the right partners. For their cloud journey, Woodside chose AWS and AWS premier consulting company, Versent.

Before building out their platform, Woodside engaged Versent to provide a detailed analysis of Woodside's existing cloud landscape and understand the respective maturity and opportunities for improvement. This 'Yellow Brick Road' assessment laid out a plan to build an enterprise native cloud platform that would enable Woodside to rapidly build new cloud solutions and migrate and transform existing data and applications.

To do this, Versent had "boots on the ground" in Perth as well as in Sydney and Melbourne. Its engineers were embedded on-site and remotely with Woodside's teams working with and guiding through the transition.

Building the cloud platform is only one part of the equation, the other part is being able to run that platform efficiently and securely at scale.  For this, Versent provided a unique tool, called Stax, that enabled Woodside to have full visibility across all workloads and accounts in its cloud platform. This meant Woodside could better manage its cost, risk, wastage, compliance, and security.

The cloud changes everything

With the cloud platform in place, Woodside has been able to build solutions that solve key business challenges. Thanks to the nearly limitless compute power of the cloud, large seismic data sets can be processed and interpreted at a much faster rate. Data loading, processing, and simulations now take weeks instead of months and years like in the past. This has been a game-changer for Woodside's exploration teams.

"Going cloud-native has allowed us to do so much. We have unlocked a whole new set of possibilities for our business, delivering pace, speed, agility, time to value and innovation," said Vilma Faoro, Woodside's Digital Strategy and Capability manager.

"We are able to deliver more insights to make better decisions," she added.

The people, not the technology

One key success factor for Woodside was its focus on people. While the technology was a crucial enabler, finding the right partner to work with and deliver a solution was important from the start.

Being in the energy industry which is seeing transformation globally, Woodside's move to the AWS cloud is a story that brings important lessons. It shows that great results can be achieved quickly, by collaborating with the right partners to drive the benefits of innovation while mitigating risks such as cybersecurity threats. 

If you want to explore the common challenges of moving to the cloud, and the importance of adapting existing operating models to embrace new ways of working, you can read more on Versent's "Yellow Brick Road" to success with AWS.