Testing Industry-Government partnership concepts

With expanding offshore development near the Pilbara, the decision to test a bold concept to share the load, and cost, of observing and modelling metocean conditions that would improve operational decisions, especially around severe weather events, has proven timely.

Initial results show there is support across Government and industry for the Pilbara Regional Observing System for Prediction and Enhanced Research (PROSPER).

The concept being investigated by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) and the WA node of the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) would provide improved regional monitoring to enhance confidence in models and risk assessments through a shared network of monitoring and data. 

The initial findings clearly leaves the door open for a continuing conversation in this area identifying that a range of factors are aligning that will make a more collaborative approach to data, modelling and observing a real possibility in the near future.

The concept was tested late last year by an independent consultant, alongside a representative of WAIMOS, through face to face interviews with key industry.

“The independent interview process was important to establish the genuine willingness of industry and others for this concept, or to consider alternative approaches to better partnerships in this area,” Professor Chari Pattiaratchi, then node-leader of the WAIMOS said. “Of course the research sector is already sold on the idea of shared costs for modelling and better access to industry data.”

The major outcome of the PROSPER project was that it was perceived to be too soon for the many stakeholders in the Pilbara region to see the benefit in supporting a collective operational ocean observing and prediction system in the Pilbara. The concept of sharing real-time data collection infrastructure was fresh but reservations quickly crept in about sharing of broader historical data sets and sensitive company knowledge.

Most interviewees agreed enhanced monitoring and predictive capacity was important.  But while the concept was supported in principle, industry was not ready to commit to the full PROSPER framework at this time.

“The PROSPER concept in its entirety was always ambitious and the interviews show there is genuine support for certain parts of the concept around data sharing and modelling, that means we’ll continue to work with industry and government to grow collaboration in this area,” Professor Pattiaratchi said.

WAMSI CEO Patrick Seares said the process has provided a lot of useful feedback that needs to take seriously but two things stand out.

“Firstly, our colleagues in the offshore industry are suffering ‘concept fatigue’ from all the various ideas proposed by different groups in the research sector. I think we need to be more coordinated to manage this,” he said.

“Secondly, while this wasn’t the right time, a number of different factors are converging that may make something akin to PROSPER feasible in the northwest soon. So we need to take on the advice about being a little more focussed and specific about operational implications but keep the conversation with operators and Government going in this area.”

The good news is that even now operators in the oil and gas industry are voluntarily exploring ways to make some of their information more accessible. WAMSI partners are assisting in that effort.