Xodus Group, a Perth-based international energy consultancy company with offices worldwide, supplies engineering and advisory services to clients in the oil and gas, LNG, renewables and utilities industries all over the globe.
With its head offices in Aberdeen, Scotland the innovative firm decided to expand its services down-under to oil-prosperous Western Australia, establishing a Perth branch in 2012.
“The Australian oil and gas industry has a lot of longevity to it,” Andy Jones, Perth’s group general manager explains. “The country is expected to take over as the number one exporter of LNG by the year 2020.”
After establishing a small but steady-sized Australian presence, Xodus quickly developed strong relationships with some of the largest oil and gas operators in Perth and throughout the country. A solid set of capabilities allowed Xodus to land contracts with BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX). Some of its biggest clients include: Woodside Energy (ASX:WPL), Quadrant Energy and Inpex (TYO:INPEX).
“There is clearly a big future for companies like ourselves here due to the advent of the megaprojects such as Gorgon, Ichthys, APLNG and Wheatstone,” remarks Jones. “There is a growing market in Australia whereas in the UK, the North Sea market is fair to say…shrinking.”
Jones has worked for Xodus for a total of eight years. Chemical engineer by degree and experience in the nuclear industry he says his background naturally provided him with the transferable skills to thrive in oil and gas. He has broadened his management skills since starting at the Perth office four years ago, however is still involved with the technical side of projects. The group general manager also notes he has developed a set of ‘digital oil field skills’ over the years, which have allowed him to use technology to increase production, support the business, and optimise plans throughout the company.
Xodus provides an array of over a dozen reliable and feasible services, adding practicality to all client projects. The firm’s experienced engineers and proven successful solutions have kept their order books full despite the current state of the oil industry. These services and tools span from process and facilities, project management, flow assurance, specialist modelling and digital oilfield services, among many others.
The firm’s most recent accomplishment, a gas modelling suite, has provided exceptional operational optimisation to oil giant Origin Energy (ASX:ORG). Its accomplished engineers have also developed a brand new ‘Intelligent Monitoring service’ which allows offshore operators to optimise how their operations are functioning, anticipate unplanned maintenance and avoid production downtime.
Ground-breaking gas modelling suite
The company recently announced the delivery of the ‘world first’ gas modelling suite in March 2016.
Origin Energy commissioned Xodus Group to develop an Integrated Production Modelling (IPM) tool for the APLNG supply chain. The APLNG development takes gas from a large number of coal seam gas wells distributed over a wide area of southern Queensland. This requires a number of gas processing and compression facilities to drive the gas through the high pressure pipeline network to the LNG facility 530km away on Curtis Island. The pipeline network also has several additional take-offs to domestic gas users.
Origin wanted a model that would allow them to analyse and optimise the supply chain network taking into consideration line pack volumes, compression facility electrical power and / or gas usage, compressor operating points, and the full range of potential flow directions given the possible variations in take-off and supply.
Xodus Group has extensive experience in the development of IPM models using a range of commercial software packages. Xodus engineers have also developed many customised solutions for clients where interfaces had to be developed between data historians, facility models and pipeline models using both off the shelf and client specific software packages.
For this project, Xodus developed an IPM model using the AspenTech HYSYS software package with an Excel based user interface. The Excel front end allows multiple operating scenarios to be rapidly developed and simulated and the key results to be immediately available to the user. Importantly, this also allows the model to be used by personnel without a background in HYSYS. Developing the model in HYSYS allows Origin process engineers to make modifications to the model as required and the model can operate using the existing pool of license tokens.
A major challenge with this study was developing detailed models of each gas compression facility in order to have confidence in the predicted compressor performance and energy requirements. In addition, the nature of the supply chain network with flowlines able to operate in multiple configurations of supply and demand meant that Xodus engineers had to develop bespoke software code to detect and manage changes in flow direction.
Intelligent Monitoring Service
The dynamic firm has developed a capability called ‘Intelligent Monitoring’ which enhances engineers’ and operators’ ability to visualise and understand how their asset is operating.
“This service is important because the end user achieves a coordinated visualisation of how their plant is currently performing and what it was doing yesterday and what it has been doing on an average basis over the last week, month or year,” Jones explains.
“Accurate monitoring of oil and gas production is an increasingly valuable tool for operators and surveillance engineers but, until now, visibility of data has been almost exclusively available to onsite and offshore operators,” the firm states.
According to Jones, the only people who typically have had access to these kinds of detailed graphic representations are the people on the assets themselves. The reasoning behind this is historically due to bandwidth availability and software licence costs.
One of the software tools offered as part of the Intelligent Monitoring service is a solution called XPLORE. This tool ‘speaks to simulations and clients’ data historians to provide a real-time view of complex systems.’ Jones explains an example based on a pipeline system, “The best you tend to know is what’s going in at the front and what is going in at the back end, you tend to have little knowledge of what’s going in at the pipeline to any degree of detail.” Certain types of pipelines and equations become complex and if the client wants to track the quality and quantities of these fluids in real-time to make it easier to understand, this tool provides that service.
Other tools offered by Xodus make use of Client-owned software packages like P2 Explorer (Babelfish), Pi ProcessBook, and Exaquantum to enhance operator surveillance of rotating equipment, process equipment, flare systems, as well as overall asset performance. Creation of virtual meters for process streams where no instrumentation exists is an additional way that operators are getting better value out of their data historians.
Woodside Energy (ASX:WPL), an Australian oil and gas company based in Perth has started using these particular surveillance tools for its North West Shelf assets. Xodus has completed around seven to eight projects for Woodside within the last 18 months.
“Most of these companies are harnessing vast amounts of ‘real-time data’ but not really making best use of it, so that’s what we are offering to the client – the knowledge and experience of how best to manipulate and visualise the data in such a way that generates more power to the end user.”
Vibration Engineering Service
The firm’s UK-based ‘vibration team’ are considered to be world experts and clients are taking advantage of these benefits. Vibration-caused failures can cost clients an enormous amount of money and the Vibration Engineering service provides solutions before any of these issues arise.
The team has done almost $2 million worth of work for Origin Energy on their APLNG project. Following some potential problems with large valves on the project, “We figure out how best to mitigate these problems – it could be health and safety issues or threats to production,” Jones explained.
Looking towards the future
Since its Perth opening in 2012, Xodus has performed exceptionally well despite the current oil and gas industry’s position. Jones attributes a significant proportion of the company’s current success on long-term relationships with its current client base as well as the firm’s new Intelligent Monitoring service.
“During a downturn, unsurprisingly a client’s focus tends to shift from new projects to looking at how to save their money on existing assets,” he says. “This is exactly what these tools give the client the ability to do – to focus more on saving money and increasing production from their existing facilities. In addition many of our clients have slimmed down their workforces and therefore there is naturally a greater focus on achieving more with less.”
Xodus has recently become more and more involved with Chiyoda, the company’s largest investor. “There is a drive to become more integrated with Chiyoda and our other sister companies,” Jones explained. “This means we will be part of a greater family of companies that are able to offer a more end to end service to the industry.”
Xodus is keen to expand its geographical footprint, in hopes of servicing New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and possibly the Southeast Asian market. “Despite the current downturn, in five years’ time, I would expect us to be a larger animal than we currently are,” concludes Jones.