Woodside leans on 3D printing to reduce costs

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Woodside leans on 3D printing to reduce costs
One of the Woodside parts produced by a 3D printer.

Targets big savings.

Woodside is eyeing off a big reduction in operating costs by using 3D printers to quickly manufacture spare parts.

In the middle of last year the oil and gas giant partnered with Monash University through a $10 million injection into the university's new innovation centre.

The facility - which forms part of Woodside's FutureLabs innovation program - was established to conduct research into materials engineering, additive manufacturing, and data science, in order to create new innovations for oil and gas facilities.

It boasts advanced tools like a selective laser melting (SLM) 3D printer, which prototypes components for energy plants.

Woodside today revealed it installed its first 3D-printed parts into its operating facilities in the back half of last year.

In one case, the oil and gas giant decided to reproduce a vital electricity switch that had malfunctioned during a maintenance shutdown in its Goodwym A Platform offshore production facility using a 3D printer.

"We needed it repaired quickly," Woodside said in its annual report.

"The hard-to-get part was critical to completion of the shutdown. For every day it was not repaired, the potential impact was an extra day on the end of the shutdown, leaving about 100 workers unoccupied, waiting for power to be restored."

Opting to reproduce the part with Monash University's 3D printer meant the switch was delivered to the site in just three days.

"Such 3D printing enables us to reproduce bespoke spare parts quickly, potentially reducing inventory and sparing," the company said.

"Nuisance parts" - those whose failure can cause plant shutdowns or major inconvenience, but are easy to reproduce on demand - are the most likely candidates for 3D printing.

But the benefits of additive manufacturing aren't limited to speed and convenience, the oil and gas giant said.

It also offers the potential to greatly lower inventory costs; Woodside currently holds around $100 million worth of inventory spares at its Karratha gas plant for itself and joint venture participants, an overhead that could be reduced with the use of 3D printing.

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