Woodside Energy announced on Tuesday it has signed a multi-year collaboration deal with IBM to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing to help it reduce operation costs and develop a "plant of the future" that can run itself. Speaking at IBM's Cloud Innovation Exchange in Sydney, Woodside Energy CEO Peter Coleman said he believes AI could help the company significantly reduce current plant maintenance costs -- an exercise that the business spends AU$1 billion on annually. "Because of the products we produce, our plants are covered in cladding and everything is insulated, so it's a huge cost for us to chase corrosion. Of course, AI will help in that. We really think AI will reduce that cost by 30%," he said.
The chief executive of technology giant IBM has urged Australian business leaders to plan for dramatic changes to their organisations and the workforce caused by artificial intelligence and advances in quantum computing. Ginni Rometty, who has run the $US120 billion company since 2012 and is in Australia to sign an AI deal with Woodside Petroleum and attend other customer meetings, said business leaders must change their approach to hiring or risk being left behind. Ms Rometty gave a keynote address at a cloud computing conference in Sydney on Tuesday, alongside Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman who told the event he expects AI technology to slice maintenance costs in its plants by 30 per cent a year - or around $300 million. Mr Coleman said this is one of several applications being developed with IBM that also include automating production and improving cybersecurity. Westpac Banking Corp chief executive Brian Hartzer also spoke at the event.
Mr Coleman announced a partnership with IBM which includes Woodside becoming a member of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, a collaborative industrial-academic laboratory focused on advancing fundamental AI research. Mr Coleman said Woodside had used AI to try to differentiate itself since 2013. The CEO recalled he "looked around the industry and saw people making money who shouldn't really be making money." The Woodside chief said every ten years Woodside builds a "mega project" worth more than $US10 billion ($14.6 billion). "The seminal moment was when I got my management team around the table, I said: 'Look, we just built this mega project, it cost $15 billion, it was about 40 per cent over on cost, give me five lessons learned'. And they couldn't do it."
Energy company Woodside is partnering with NASA and Cisco to trial network edge and robotics technologies that can be used to operate machinery in remote and harsh environments. Western Australia-based oil and gas extractor Woodside provides 6 percent of all global LNG supply. Operating two floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities, it awarded Cisco after a competitive tendering process with the contract to provide it with collaboration tools and networking between Woodside's on-land offices and offshore facilities. Webex provides the company with the capability to have video-call meetings with "no delay" no matter which facility workers are located at, Woodside CTO Shaun Gregory said -- but the customer relationship has gone beyond the norm and into the experimental. "A lot of our facilities are hundreds of kilometres offshore in hostile areas," Gregory explained during Cisco Live 2019 in Melbourne.
Three years ago, Woodside Petroleum kicked off an initiative to determine if it could use analytics techniques to predict the failure of a particular piece of plant equipment. As a cheap and quick test was promising, Woodside's foray into analytics "exploded" from there, setting up an internal team comprising engineers, asset specialists, and others to focus on the opportunities data science presented. It was important to the company to have the team built from business leaders, rather than technical specialists. Woodside's chief digital officer Tom Ridsdill-Smith told the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on the Gold Coast on Monday that this team straight away turned to open source tools, and partners that were excelling at data-driven platforms, as Woodside was aware of its capabilities. Working with IBM Watson, Woodside built a customised tool that allowed its employees to find detailed answers to highly specific questions -- even on remote oil and gas facilities.