SHELL’S Prelude floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) project has been the focal point of a number of recent innovations, with collaborations being key to many of them.

A key example of this is in the creation of the Access TCX tropical cyclone model, developed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in collaboration with Chevron, INPEX, Shell and Woodside.

Speaking at the Australasian Oil & Gas Exhibition & Conference, Shell Australia lead metocean engineer Jan Flynn said the group had come together to address the shortcomings of current tropical cyclone forecasting methods.

“As a forecasting centre the Bureau (of Meteorology) is one of the best in the world and in terms of cyclone genesis it is doing as well as any other cyclone warning centre,” she said.

“We are really just pushing the state of the art here and one of the advantages of coming together was to try and put some seed funding towards making that easier.”

While there had been a sustained improvement in track forecasting, predicting cyclone formation was difficult, particularly in the areas such as the Browse basin and further north which operators are moving into, she said.

“The other difficulty we have is the forecast horizon,” she said.

“We are reasonably good at forecasting out to 72 hours ahead but our critical decision- making in terms of response needs to be taken in that sort of three to seven day window.”

Working together, the companies helped to improve the Bureau’s tropical cyclone prediction model, creating Access TCX – the X standing for “extended”, Ms Flynn told attendees.

“We have extended the domain, we have increased the resolution and we are initiating it earlier so we get earlier information and
we improve the model resolution,” she said, adding that this should lead to better tracking intensity forecasting.

“The next step of the process is to interface it to a wind and wave model so we can make a decision based on winds and waves rather than based on cyclone category, which is a proxy for what actually drives our response.”

Ms Flynn said as the system moved into operational use, these forecast procedures would need to be implemented on bureau systems and forecasters would need to be trained on their use.

“We are about to go into a deployment project and the four partners have agreed with the Bureau that we will support them in deploying this into their operational businesses as usual systems,” she said. “One thing we have learned is don’t change the terms and conditions unless you absolutely have to, so we are going to try to use the existing contract.”

But project operators would also need to update their standard operating procedures as these new methods came into effect.

Ms Flynn said moving to a probabilistic forecast instead of using the previous methods of watch circles had been a more challenging adjustment than she first anticipated, with the need for Bureau personnel to work with rig managers and other staff to ensure clarity.

While the parties to the agreement made no attempt to restrict intellectual property over the innovation, it had taken a long time for the legal teams of four different operators and the Australian government together.

“It took nearly two years to get the contract in place, so I would definitely recommend that you bring your legal teams in early,” she said. “I see the key benefits in innovation and collaboration is really in improving the understanding on both sides, so you are reducing the risks of the project not delivering but you are also leveraging your resources.”

“We’ve had research and development outcomes which are really clearly aligned to our business needs and we have identified early the changes we need to make in our business practices and procedures ahead of the deployment of the service,” she said. “So you have got service providers and users working together on how you are going to realise the benefits, and hopefully as soon as the benefits of the research become available, which will be at the beginning of the forthcoming cyclone season, we will be ready to implement some of these changes.”