ASX-listed oil and gas company Woodside has become the first commercial organisation in Australia to join the IBM Q Network, which is focused on the development and use of quantum computing.
Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman announced the move today on stage with IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, at the vendor’s Cloud Innovation Exchange event in Sydney.
Woodside is interested in the depth that quantum computing can potentially add to plant simulations.
“Ninety per cent of formulas are empirically derived,” Coleman said.
“You've got this beautiful amount of physics and chemistry up front, and then there will be a factor on the end that is a five or a six, because it says ‘We actually can't get it right, the physics doesn’t work but we know if we had five or six to the end of each equation, it always comes out about right,’” the CEO said. “And that's the truth of engineering.”
Woodside hopes quantum computing will help it build super-accurate simulations “from the bottom up”. The resources company is also interested in understanding the cyber security implications of quantum computing, Coleman said.
Woodside will also join the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab as part of a “multi-year collaboration,” Coleman said. The company has been a high-profile user of IBM’s cognitive computing platform.
The CEO said that Woodside now has around 25 million documents loaded into Watson, and some 80 per cent of its employees interact with the platform on a daily basis.
Coleman said that in the future Woodside is hoping to use AI technologies to slash its US$1 billion a year maintenance bill by 30 per cent. A second driver for increased use of AI is materials in its major projects: Woodside plans to spend around $40 billion on major projects over the next six years, the CEO said.
“One of the biggest issues in our business and major projects, of course, is materials; it's actually making sure you get the right materials that you've asked for.”
AI is going to ensure Woodside has “positive material identification” in those projects and help manage logistics, including through the use of drones to monitor worksite movements.
The final area where Coleman expects AI to feature at Woodside are its efforts to build “the plant of the future”: The concept of an AI-driven plant that “basically runs itself”.