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Weather prediction software helps $40 trillion industry

Software developed in New Zealand will help the $40 trillion global oil and gas industry prepare for severe weather conditions.

The Offshore Motion Forecast delivers reliable hour-by-hour predictions on how wave, current and weather conditions will affect floating offshore facilities.

The predictions are calculated for a specific location and vessel, and will help offshore operators to plan for any possible weather disruptions.

New Plymouth oceanography and meteorology company MetOcean Solutions teamed up with the University of Auckland’s Dr Ian Milne to undertake the six-month research and development project, part-funded by a Callaghan Innovation grant, to develop the Offshore Motion Forecast (OMF) software.


“It was a good opportunity to use some of my engineering background and gain some new skills in the numerical modeling to collaborate with an industry I hadn’t worked in before and to build career contacts,” Milne says.

Milne says there is a strong demand in the industry to help prepare operations for harsh weather conditions.

“There’s nothing out there like this product, so a lot of interest has spun out from operators that want safer processes and reliably predicting how these weather patterns will affect it.”

Harsh conditions often require an offshore field to close, stopping the production of tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil costing millions of dollars in lost production.

“A lot of these ships are moored out at sea for 25 years without coming back into shore, so the software allows you to forecast very accurately and at the push of a button,” Milne says.

Safety of crew and the environment is also a major concern for operators in severe weather.

British-owned energy company Salamander announced in January that during bad weather conditions a vessel drifted into an exclusion zone and damaged key infrastructure. Production was halted for nearly a month and  the company contained a relatively minor leak of around 20 barrels.

MetOcean Solutions, Dr Peter McComb says there has been strong support for the product from a large New Zealand oil and gas operator.

“They have allowed us to use their facilities for rigorous testing and validation trial,” McComb says.

Multi-national companies have also registered interest but McComb says releasing the names is still commercially sensitive.

“The product will strengthen the service we provide to our clients and we hope it will lead to more opportunities to grow our client base,” said McComb.

The company has a team of scientists and services a mixed client base, including offshore operators, oil and gas, regulatory authorities, navies and coastguards.

Last year,state-owned weather forecaster MetService paid $3m for a 49% stake in privately-owned MetOcean Solutions last year.

“Joining forces with MetOcean helps us accelerate our development in the energy sector and springboards us into the rapidly-growing marine sector – a potential market of over $10 million – with established products and world-class expertise,” says MetService chief executive Peter Lennox.

McComb says the OMF software will be released later this year.

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