Digital Twins Mature in the North Sea
- _ JPT staff
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 41 - 43
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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 life-cycle 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 off-site 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 com-bine 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, improved structural simulations, and better-integrated systems, furthering the industry’s movement toward sparsely manned platforms.
Getting in Front of Commissioning Issues
Successful commissioning of a large offshore project requires anticipating all the things that can go wrong when it finally comes on stream. Often getting in the way of a smooth startup: inadequate personnel training and substandard testing of the integrated controls and safety system (ICSS).
Total teamed with Emerson to overcome these challenges as it worked on its 100,000-BOE/D Culzean ultrahigh-pressure/ultrahigh-temperature gas condensate development in the UK central North Sea. The project, which eventually was delivered ahead of schedule and under budget in June 2019, consists of six wells, three bridge-linked platforms, and a floating storage and offloading unit.
Total attributes much of the project’s operational readiness upon startup to development of a digital twin. The twin’s main function was to train engineers, technicians, supervisors, and operators to increase their competency to manage normal and abnormal situations in the lead up to first gas.
The multipurpose twin was used to verify the process design and the ICSS and safety instrumented system (SIS), pre-tune controls, and validate operating procedures. Vicky Athanasiou, Emerson business development manager, presented the companies’ approach during this year’s SPE Offshore Europe conference in Aberdeen and later spoke with JPT about the project (SPE 195766).
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