DIGITAL TWINS FOR SMARTER DRILLING
Digital twin technology could reshape the way operators perform maintenance, training and, ultimately, the way they understand their complex operations.
Visualisation has long been an integral part of the upstream oil and gas sector. With improving technology, its importance is only growing. One visualisation technology being leveraged by operators is the digital twin.
Digital twin technology creates a digital version of a physical asset, or a whole operation. Visible and interactible in 3D, digital twins make it far easier for operators to understand their operations and see what is working. More importantly, it allows them to see what is not working.
Although this technology has existed for around a decade, it has become much more sophisticated in recent years, and with the oil and gas industry’s push towards digital technology and artificial intelligence, digital twins have found themselves in the spotlight.
It is ultimately a visual means of data analytics, and Siemens’ Mindtwin Portal mixes standard data analytics with digital twin technology.
“The Mindtwin Portal is a combination of two systems,” says Joachim Eilers, sales manager of oil and gas plant engineering software at Siemens. “On the left side of the screen it’s a visualisation of the 3D operating environment, the rig, on the right side you see operating data.”
Data is collected through typical automation systems like SCADA, as well as engineering systems and document management systems. The data is collected and displayed in real time. It is presented as a series of KPIS, which “you can interlink and contextualise into the 3D world.”
Put simply, if a KPI is clicked, the 3D visualisation goes to the asset in question and provides a full view of the part and any issues it might be encountering.
“You have a very good, special view, you could add some CCTV cameras to it that would allow you to see exactly what is happening on site and that raises the efficiency of the operation,” Eilers adds. “It is really efficient if you are in an operating case and need to operate away from the environment.”
For maintenance and inspection teams, it could allow a better understanding of the asset, the issues it has, and how those issues might be solved.
The system allows users to ‘walk through’ the site, and check different assets. Once an asset is clicked in the 3D visualisation screen, all of its data appears on the right side of the screen, so operators and maintenance crew alike can hold virtual inspections much like they would on site.
The addition of a live video feed could further reduce the need for on site inspection; something which startups and large companies are actively trying to do using artificial intelligence-enabled drones.
“The benefit of the digitalisation is that it really contextualises the information, and the next step is you write algorithms to predict things,” Eilers says. “This is the foundation, that you grab all of the information that you require to do a comprehensive data analytics study and maintenance.”
But he is quick to concede that this is only a first step, and says that the true value of digital transformation lies deeper still.
“if you would like to predict that failure will occur with a particular asset, then you need to have the information from all the sensors and all the other information stored in different locations, you need to collect them, aggregate them, contextualise them, and then write smart algorithms to make predictions,” he says. “That is the future, and then you have the true benefit of digitalisation.”
Companies are already unlocking the value of digitalisation, and these types of solutions can be used in conjuction with existing sensors in the field, which operators have relied on for a long time.
“In the past, everyone talked about digitalisation,” Eilers says. “Now it is reality.”
“YOU NEED TO COLLECT [THE DATA POINTS], AGGREGATE THEM, CONTEXTUALISE THEM, AND THEN WRITE SMART ALGORITHMS TO MAKE PREDICTIONS. THAT IS THE FUTURE, AND THEN YOU WILL HAVE THE TRUE BENEFIT OF DIGITALISATION.”
Digital twin technology is already being used to improve operations
The Mindtwin Portal allows users to simulate being on a rig, with an immense amount of data making remote inspection and repair easier