How aviation experiences can affect change in the gas industry

Oil and gas projects can benefit greatly from the aerospace industry and save millions of dollars in the process, according to Ernst and Young State Category Entrepreneur of the Year, former Air Force fighter pilot and co-founder and CEO of Nova Systems Jim Whalley.

Mr Whalley believes the knowledge and learnings from 50 years of the aerospace industry – using the example of the Boeing 747 aircraft in particular – can be applied to the oil and gas industry.

“The aerospace industry has matured a lot since the 1960s and continues to evolve,” says Mr Whalley. “It took the development of tools, expertise, metrics, processes, standards, training, benchmarks, suppliers, data, as well as the tools and systems to get it to where it is today.

“What’s been learned in these years of perfecting aircraft can be applied to oil and gas to help them bypass the mistakes and inefficiencies that aerospace made when it was at the same stage in its lifecycle.

“It sounds simple, but 37 per cent of general project problems can easily be tracked back to the requirements of the project not being rigorously analysed, being incorrect or simply missing altogether. The end result is a solution which provides only partial levels of desired performance, imposing a tension on operational costs for the balance of the product life-cycle,” he says.

“Oil and gas production is a linear process resulting from the integration of thousands of parts – just like a passenger aircraft. The weakest link in the process can slow or even prevent the entire process from executing. Not only do all the parts have to work correctly to contribute to production, they have to work together in the right way.

“We see a lot of synergies and alignment between the oil and gas and aerospace industries, where even small actions and changes to thinking can result in major cost savings.

The Jumbo is arguably the safest and most optimised form of transport in the world. It has carried more than 3.5 billion passengers since 1969. Each aircraft comprises approximately 6 million parts sourced from 33 countries. Over the past 50 years, the Boeing 747 has continued to drive technological innovation and industry collaboration initiatives to remain competitive.

Winglets (upturned wingtips of aircraft) are an example of ongoing optimisation in aerospace. This change to the wing design saves approximately 3 per cent of the fuel consumed over a long haul flight. These incremental improvements in efficiency support profitability and deliver the reward of large savings over the long-term.

“It’s this cross-sector knowledge and expertise that’s now helping oil and gas to become more efficient by pinpointing highly specific optimisation solutions” said Mr Whalley.

“This paves the way for the Australian oil and gas sector to truncate its development programs and gain significant efficiencies far more rapidly than the aerospace industry was able to do at the same stage of its lifecycle.”

Part of what’s needed to make this happen is data – a lot of it.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology is helping in the collection of data for oil and gas.

“The type of data UAVs and other remote sensors can collect in the field is huge – weed growth, sounds, heat and cold, failures, leaks, materials, parts, locations, distances.

“The key is to then take information from all those sources and solve the problems that mean most, by finding the needles in the haystack as it were that deliver true value,” said Jim. “Coupling data analysis with learnings from aerospace alongside innovation and ingenuity can get the job done cheaper, faster and better – and that benefits the oil and gas industry as a whole.”

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