Technology is evolving faster than ever before: what used to be incremental steps is quickly becoming leaps and bounds. And, as digitalization spreads throughout the industry and new digital tools emerge, no industry or market can avoid the march of progress.
Digital technologies have transformed the way we work by solving some of the biggest challenges today’s market faces such as how to cut-costs while optimizing performance, and boosting production.
Markets are more fluid and susceptible to fluctuations than ever before, a state exacerbated by the recent global pandemic. GlobalData analysts reported in a recent review of industry contracts that the number of global oil and gas contracts decreased by 28% between 2019 and 2020.
While oil prices are tentatively recovering post-Covid, hitting a session peak of $77.84 for its highest since October 2018, other external pressures are still squeezing the industry to find better and cheaper ways of doing business.
Transformative digital technologies, like digital twins, can help operators solve these key business problems by enabling them to unlock an enormous amount of hidden value in their assets. Digital technology is already at work for the oil and gas industry in areas such as flow assurance, digital subsea mapping, IoT sensors to name just a few. However, we’re still missing a trick when it comes to data integration and data unity.
The challenges to unlocking value
Offshore oil and gas assets are highly complex facilities with very expensive equipment, numerous processes, and multiple digital applications. On top of that, they operate in a high risk environment that is physically difficult to access. Scoping, planning, building, operating and maintaining an asset requires a whole host of people from across various different disciplines e.g. engineers, specialized system experts, project managers, and maintenance crews to work together in sync to ensure it’s a smooth journey to profitability.
Facilitating project teams collaboration, optimization of planning, and a more holistic understanding of the asset in a real-world context is where disruptive technologies can create value and support operators in reaching key milestones quicker. By creating an identical digital copy of an asset in a virtual environment, project teams are able to make faster and better decisions. When the quality of planning, execution and operation is increased so too is the value generated by the digital twin.
It’s worth noting that digital twin technology isn’t the new kid on the block. In fact, digital twins have been used in oil and gas operations for a while. However, what the industry has been failing to do is use them to their full potential and, as a result, are missing out on the true value they could create. Too often when a digital twin is used, management fails to secure buy-in from the end users within the company and the twin sits there under utilized. When a tool sits there creating no value, management may then blame the tool and view it as a bad investment.
Another problem can be company culture and the historic way projects have been carried out before. Department, data and application silos hinder value creation, and again leave the twin unable to reach its maximum potential. Everyday work hours are lost when people have to access multiple, most likely, isolated systems just to do their job.
The limited data interaction between these applications makes this process even more time consuming and could lead to inaccuracies. Gathering data from different disciplines or production activities also eats into work hours that could be better spent on other aspects of the project and can delay decision making.
Digital twins create value through optimization
We have seen in our customer use cases that digital twins can help oil and gas companies to create value in the following ways:
- Reduce time-to-first-oil
- Accelerate production
- Reduce capital expenditure
- Enhance health and safety
- Reduce need for revisions
- Increase recovery rate
- Reduce operating costs
- Eliminate bottlenecks
By allowing companies to accurately simulate and optimize an asset in the virtual environment before creating it in the real world, a digital twin reduces both guesswork and uncertainty of executing an oil and gas project.
This digital twin allows planners to test risky what-if scenarios onshore thereby minimizing the likelihood of the unexpected happening in real-life. These simulations will help improve concept selection, increase accuracy in cost-weight estimations, reduce the time needed to determine project parameters and to identify opportunities to optimise asset value against capital expenditure.
Digital twins also drive value through enhanced collaboration between disciplines, project life cycle stages, operators and contractors. Housed in the cloud, teams from anywhere in the world can access tools and data, update models and collaborate with each other using a digital twin platform. The virtual environment helps break down traditional barriers to collaboration and communication.
Identify both opportunities for optimization and potential obstacles
A centralized and integrated digital twin platform like FutureOn’s offerings creates an open ecosystem of applications via an API-driven integration; that is, based on an open approach to the standardization of data. This means our end users do not have to login to multiple systems and can access everything they need from one central and secure online hub. Centralized data will help to ensure project continuity and to identify the resources needed for each asset.
Legacy systems and new upstream projects can both benefit from the application of digital twin technology. Companies can use a digital twin to gain a deeper understanding of a legacy asset enabling them to assess the asset’s maturity and identify opportunities and obstacles as to where optimizations can be made to improve production. Similarly, for new projects, the digital twin enables planners to invest capital more efficiently and accelerate the time to first oil.
Gartner predicts that half of major industrial applications will be using digital twins by 2021, potentially increasing their operational effectiveness by 10%. So, it’s safe to say that it’s only a matter of time before the industry starts realising the full value of digital twin technologies.