Matt Zborowski, Technology Editor
As the offshore oil and gas industry strives to improve the reliability and economics of major projects, seasoned operators are increasingly turning to digital twins to optimize the lifecycle of their assets.
A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset and its processes. In the offshore context, the twin is born during the concept phase of a facility and becomes integral during front-end engineering design work through fabrication, construction, and commissioning. Physical assets can range from process equipment to the entire topside and its components. Processes can range from separation to heat transfer.
When handed over for operations, the twin serves as a real-time data hub for the owner, enabling continuous offsite monitoring. A fully formed twin deployed from the earliest phases of a project to decommissioning improves design quality and serves as a valuable tool for maintaining operations. While the idea of a digital twin has been around for a while, only recently has it been put to work on a large scale on platforms and other big floating structures.
Use cases for the technology are becoming more common in presentations at industry events such as SPE Offshore Europe and the Offshore Technology Conference, where operators, technology firms, and engineering, procurement, and construction companies showcase their ability to develop advanced modeling techniques and combine them with large amounts of data.
Emerging as a proving ground for digital twins is the North Sea. There, operators Total, Aker BP, and Shell have each developed and deployed twins that they expect to pay big dividends. Results thus far, according to recent papers and presentations from those companies and their partners, include fewer commissioning roadblocks, im-proved structural simulations, and better-integrated systems, furthering the industry’s movement toward sparsely manned platforms.