Implementing hazard-proof data systems at Ichthys LNG field
Ichthys is a liquified natural gas field located off the northwestern coast of Western Australia. It’s currently one of the largest LNG projects in the world with an initial start-up cost of US$34 billion. The gas field is presently operated by a well-known oil and exploration company who became a client of Advanced Technology Products (ATP). The client required our support in establishing consolidated safety and tracking solutions from the ground-up. As operators of an LNG facility our client would need to mitigate a few choice hazard concerns, including gas leaks, explosions, cyclones, electrical faults and high-pressure environments. We at ATP were identified as the best-fit from a range of pre-engineered solutions as part of the client’s open tender process for the Ichthys project.
Simplifying crisis response
Our client aimed to set cutting-edge world occupational health and safety standards from the very beginning of the Ichthys gas exploration project. It was crucial the client would be able to account for all of their staff in real-time, both for general operational purposes and to simplify their crisis-response process. That’s not an easy task when time is of the essence. Without a sophisticated tracking system in a hazardous (and explosive) atmosphere, our client would have been risking staff safety and operational efficiency onsite. It’s also worth noting that tracking is not an occupational health and safety requirement in oil and gas – it’s a voluntary world-class safety feature.
Utilising Active RFID in a hazardous environment
During the design phase, we learned that we needed to provide an active radio frequency identification (RFID) system operating on a wireless network. Under this framework, personnel and assets are allocated a personal tracking device that is responsive to a set of receivers (or access points) around the plant premises. That’s a pretty familiar project for us – but the Ichthys RFID system would be the first-ever designed and implemented on a live gas plant.
As such, we designed an RFID system that would:
This last point was key to ATP. We opted for iWAP107 Zone 1 Universal Access Point Enclosures – these are explosion-proof marine-grade steel wireless access point enclosure systems with a certified temperature range of -40 degrees to +60 degrees Celsius.
Long-term implementation and training
ATP implemented the Ichthys RFID project over several years. We began with the design and procurement phases in 2014 to determine the specifications of the gas plant, and then proceeded to design an appropriate number of access points to hit the desired level of accuracy. All RFID infrastructure requires at least three access points to determine the geolocation of a tag in any given area, and the tag’s radio signal in turn allows location pin-pointing between 10 and 30 meters. This is what we call ‘triangulation to get the location’. The design phase also required sketching out a wireless network for tags to function optimally and for servers to collect information and store data.
Implementation began onsite in 2016 and was geared toward fitting personnel and assets with tags, fitting the Ichthys site with exciters to pick up the signal, and setting up wireless receivers to integrate with and function as an extension of core Cisco infrastructure. During the design phase, ATP set up a satellite project team with three staff operating out of the client’s office for nine months. Senior Systems Engineer Cory Louis project-managed the additional team ensuring the design, documentation and drawings were produced the high standard required by ATP and the client. For the implementation phase on site, ATP staff worked with contracted labour to physically install and configure the explosion proof access points and associated infrastructure.
Of course, no mass-scale project goes without its challenges. Access points are often tightly limited by clients because more access points in the field require more power, fibre and networking. This often means compromising on the level of accuracy, but we actively worked to navigate client needs and ultimately installed a cost-effective and location-precise RFID system. We also had to mitigate the challenges of working on an active, commission-state gas plant, with both commissioning and operations permit systems in place. Standard implementation procedure had to be adapted to suit all hazard precautions at Ichthys.
Once the RFID system was up and running, we conducted onsite client training for three days. This training prepared our client to confidently use AeroScout software once we moved offsite.
Outcome & future planning
The wireless RFID tracking system was implemented in full at Ichthys by 2016. Although it was a long lead-time project, we managed to avoid the all-too-common timeline slip of multi-year projects by ensuring all equipment was procured, stored and activated years before RFID implementation.
In the words of ATP Senior Systems Engineer Cory Louis, ‘everything turned back on and everything went according to plan.’
Our client is now a world-class leader in oil and gas industry safety and has enjoyed the added benefits of smoother operations, asset tracking and Wi-Fi access in the field. Our ongoing relationship with the client has flourished since 2014 – we now have a service and maintenance contract. Plus, we have already contracted a provider to upgrade the Ichthys RFID system in 2020.
Technology evolves at an ever-quickening rate – and so does ATP.
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