Newly launched Future Digital Twin demystifies technology

Source: press release, 1 June 2021

illustration: Cavendish Group International Ltd.
illustration: Cavendish Group International Ltd.

The inaugural Future Digital Twin 2021 conference, organised by Cavendish Group International, gathered more than 1,000 oil, gas and energy professionals from over 600 organisations in 75 countries around the globe on 26–27 May 2021.

The latest Future offering from Cavendish, Future Digital Twin, was launched as a direct response to the high level of delegate interest generated during the digital twin technology streams at Future Oil and Gas in December 2020 and Future Downstream in March 2021.

During the 2-day conference, an incredible line-up of operators – including Shell, Equinor, Petrobras, Aramco Overseas, bp, Chevron, Eni, and Repsol – suppliers, technology companies, and digital experts offered insight and guidance on incorporating a digital twin and ensuring best practice throughout the product lifecycle.

With 12 incisive panel sessions, 11 informative presentations and 11 workshop breakout sessions, Future Digital Twin examined how a company creates a digital twin identity, the behaviours required in exploring innovation, and implementing a collaborative and productive working culture. Stories were also shared on how adopting a digital twin can drive decarbonisation and help combat cyber-attacks, extracting value, and most importantly, how to get started.

In his welcome address, Adam Soroka, Managing Director of Cavendish Group, said: “The aim of Future Digital Twin is to break down the communication silos and offer transparency on the challenges, opportunities and value that digital twin technology brings to an oil company. Developing the digital twin concept is complex, but the facts suggest that the financial rewards make it a worthwhile investment.”

“I think we can all agree that digital twins are here to stay throughout the exploration and production journey. It is clear, though, a digital twin is only as good as the value that we want to get out of it or the effort we put into it,” Soroka continued.

In the opening keynote speech, Shell’s Vice President of Upstream Digital Transformation, Lee Hodder, set the tone for the 2 days by taking delegates through the company’s digital twin journey. He focused on what the technology means for Shell’s upstream business as it approaches the challenges and opportunities of COVID-19 and the double transformation the upstream industry is going through: digitalisation and the energy transition.

For Shell Upstream, the digital twin will become the centrepiece of the asset, enabling everything from early-stage concept selection through simulation to production optimisation and predictive maintenance. But the company is still in the early days, he said.

“We’re monitoring more than 6,000 pieces of equipment in real-time across our upstream-downstream integrator gas businesses, and we’ve enabled over 5,000 workers on the front line with iPads with our connected worker programme. We’ve ingested about three trillion rows of data in our data lakes.”

Sharing lessons learned, he encouraged companies starting or that have already begun their digital twin journey to “be outcome-focused. Think how can digital work end-to-end? How can it help data move from an end-to-end workflow perspective?”

With complex data flows, he stressed the importance of getting the right data in the right hands at the right time to enable better decision-making. Partnerships and collaboration are a must. And technology is vital, he said.

“I believe digital twin will be the game-changer that it has a promise to be. But that can’t happen in a technological bubble. It has to be linked to how it will change the way people work and how we improve the capability within organisations like Shell. It really is a case of culture beating strategy.”

Advisory Committee member and Senior Vice President for Digital Energy at Kongsberg Digital, Shane McArdle, said: “The Advisory Committee aimed to intrigue and inspire those people wanting to deepen their understanding of a digital twin and also to positively challenge those people in organisations already familiar with the concept to continue to innovate around what a digital twin means.

“Future Digital Twin dived deeper to bring clarity on where we see the impact of digital twin today and what our intentions are to leverage the digital twins to navigate a very fast-changing future.”

At Kongsberg Digital, “we see four main pillars playing a prominent role in digital twin today and in the future: digitalisation, scalability, collaboration, and decarbonisation”, he said. These four words resonated throughout the conference and breakout sessions both days, with many conversations focusing on interoperability and data standardisation.

He said: “Digital twin is no longer a tool for incremental improvement but a transformative technology with powerful potential. But it’s no magic silver bullet that will solve all our problems – it is the cumulative effect of lots of use cases that will provide real value today and tomorrow.”

Other keynote presentations punctuating the event were delivered by Equinor’s Vice President of Low Carbon Solutions, Steinar Eikaas, who talked about the role of blue and green hydrogen together with carbon, capture, and storage (CCS) in enabling a net-zero carbon energy system. And Robert Da Silva Bressan, Subsea Automation and Digital at Petrobras, who explained how digital twin models for subsea systems can be improved through computer vision models, boosting mutual benefit.

Equinor’s impressive CCS and hydrogen portfolio for hard-to-abate sectors includes Net Zero Teesside, Northern Lights, Northern Endurance Partnership, Zero Carbon Humber and NortH2. Steinar Eikaas said: “There’s a lot of exciting industrial developments in the North East of England. We aim to fully decarbonise the Humber region by 2040, which is a huge step as it is the UK’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide.”

It’s clear that digital technology is a key enabler for Equinor to develop into a broad energy company. And projects like Norway’s Northern Lights believe data sharing can play an important role in building trust in the technology and unlocking value and innovation potential in the clean energy industry.

Robert Da Silva Bressan said: “Computer vision already has a big role in the maintenance of surface assets, but not yet in subsea systems. In the end, the question is not whether we will build a digital twin, use IoT, or use a neural network. The point is that the development of these solutions is always connected to varying degrees. It is useless to think of building these decision support tools as isolated fields. We will lose a lot of value in our solutions if we are not able to see the mutualism that occurs between them.”

At the end of 2 days of lively and stimulating debate, Philip Black, Global Emerging Solutions Lead, Digital and Technology at Wood, joined Adam Soroka to close the first-ever virtual Future Digital Twin conference.

Philip Black said: “It’s been a great conference; I’ve learned about digital twins I didn’t even know existed: security twins, urban twins, even 8D twins. I was blown away by that one. That’s a great concept!

“I predict digital twin will not become a technology; it will become an ecosystem. When it becomes an ecosystem, you won’t have to question do I buy it or build it? Because it’s an ecosystem, it won’t have to be one or the other. It can be both. That will make the decision and the implementation process so much easier.

“But before that, digital twins have to be able to share data. When standardisation, and the ability to not have to lock data all in one twin happens, that ecosystem will be achieved. And then you’ll get the most value. It won’t matter what your approach is; adopting a digital twin will bring value.”