Brian Carey, net zero lead at Kongsberg Digital talks to operators all along the energy value chain to look at the challenges of integrations and the opportunities that digital twins offer to deliver a full and integrated view for all stakeholders.
As the world moves through the transition towards the low carbon future, that energy landscape is changing dramatically. Where once the focus was on optimising the performance of individual assets or local systems, the future low carbon world will be more interlinked and relying on a holistic optimisation.
The future power grid will be accepting more electricity from macro and micro renewable sources as well as green hydrogen generation. When you add into the equation energy storage (both as electrons and hydrogen molecules), carbon sequestration/storage, and managing the supply/demand balance of renewable capacity, all the while maintaining energy supply quality and availability, the complexity and interconnections become apparent.
Kongsberg Digital’s heritage comes from the oil and gas sector where we have successfully deployed digital twins with NOCs such as Shell. Our digital twin solution, Kognitwin, is alive and reflects the behaviour in real time and integrates both the real-time data that describes the action of the facility and simulation capabilities, but also the complete information architecture surrounding the asset. Beyond being a virtual replica of the energy facility, it delivers a rich framework for advanced digitalisation and analytics, including a range of solutions that can be customised to attend needs.
Integrated digital value chain
The oil and gas industry are traditionally part of an integrated value chain. It may be more singular in terms of the direction of flow “from well to wheel” than the future integrated systems, but it is still an integrated set of solutions. For example, Kongsberg Digital have delivered digital twins that integrated reservoir, subsea, and onshore process facilities into a single digital twin solution.
While there is value in the individual solutions to drill down to specific work processes and use cases, when you integrate different assets together from a macro side, without having to spend time drilling down deeply, you get significant value at the conceptual stage. This integrated digital twin offers a lot of value through all the different phases of an energy project from initial stakeholder engagement, particularly regarding planning, and forming a robust business case right through to decommissioning.
Evaluation financial viability
Exceedence is an Irish software company specialising in the renewable energy sector. Developed by experts, Exceedence enables optimisation of levelised cost of energy (LCOE), bid prices and margins across portfolios of projects. “Our solution is a high performing due diligence and scenario analysis tool that greatly reduces project risk, shortens delivery times and increases profitability. We are, in essence, a financial digital twin,” Georgina Foley, chief commercial officer at Exceedence, says. “We are very much involved in the digitalisation movement; it is the cornerstone of our business.”
“We have been working with companies across the value chain since 2015. We are lead partners in the flagship EU Green Deal project, EU Scores where we are looking at exactly this. It is an integrated approach, a EUR 45 million project looking at an integration platform and how the different actors will work together. From our perspective it is extremely important to use digitalisation for not only assessing but developing and demonstrating good projects and not so good projects. Determining what is commercially viable and what is not. It is about getting that evaluation done with reliable tools. This is what will get us on the fast track to climate action,” Foley adds.
Adding hydrogen to the energy mix
EIH2 is an Irish company led by environmental advocate and entrepreneur Pearse Flynn. It is Ireland’s first green hydrogen company and is taking leadership in the country’s climate change battle. “When I think about the role for digitalisation, I just get so excited,” Catherine Sheridan, chief operating officer at EIH2, says. “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, just changed from one form to another, so, we need multiple ways of explaining and telling that story in a way that all our stakeholders can understand.”
“At the moment we are looking at a project in the East Cork area – a 50 MW green hydrogen production facility. Last night I was at the local tennis club, who are the project’s nearest neighbours. We had a BIM model and video put together to tell them the story. But then there were questions such as where the pipelines would run. It would have been fantastic for us to be able to tell that story and zoom in and show them their house and explain that is why we are building a ten-metre barrier around us. We can layer in information that is interesting to the different stakeholders,” Sheridan continues.
“For me, the energy transition, is not just about molecules and electrons working together, it is about the entire energy sector, working together in a way that we have not done before, and creating new tools for communication, to share stories with each other. And digitalisation is the key enabler for that,” she concludes.
Counting the storage in a digital twin
dCarbonX is a pioneering geo energy company established to develop subsurface assets that facilitate the Energy Transition. As John M O’Sullivan, founder and chief operating officer explains, they are like an oil and gas exploration company, without the oil and gas. “We used to do hydrocarbons, now, we do hydrogen and carbon,” he says.
They assess sites and develop sites primarily offshore for the storage of hydrogen and hydrogen carriers, and the sequestration of CO2. The team behind dCarbonX are all veterans from the oil industry where digitalisation has been applied for many years, with integrated digital twins at the reservoir level being the basis of building models for reservoirs. “In the North Sea we have worked on projects where we built reservoir models using artificial neural networks, convolved with 3D time lapsed seismic to build predictive models and looking at different scenarios and probabilistic outcomes,” he adds.
A current project they are engaged on is storing hydrogen and hydrogen carriers in a gas field, purely a storage business. “We do not do wind turbines, we do not do electrolysers, we are purely a storage player,” O’Sullivan continues. “On one level, we will build digital twins around the reservoir performance. Then that will need to be integrated into a wider digital twin. This will need to factor in such things as when is the wind blowing, when have we got power, when have we got excess power and when have we got hydrogens to go into these reservoirs?”
Normally, a single operator will build a digital twin and analyse the twin and work with their partners within a project. For that project, dCarbonX have diverse stakeholders with possibly different agendas, which complicates the calculations. “From a storage perspective, where we see value in a digital twin and an integrated digital twin is testing some of the predictability around performance of an asset and optimisation of an asset,” O’Sullivan explains. “Because again, we are dealing with weather related hydrogen production, which will be intermittent.”
In addition to the weather aspects there are commercial contracts in terms of offtake capacity for hydrogen or hydrogen carriers in storage, which brings in the commercial aspects of physical storage, virtual storage, and trading.
Opportunities and risks of integration
When developing these digital twins, one challenge is alignment. Some projects will be more progressed than others in terms of the level of data and detail that is available to go into the twin. Then there is the outcome alignment. Because you have different stakeholders with different objectives, what outcome are you optimising the digital twin for? Different visualisations of the twin will provide different outcomes for different stakeholders, be it the storage operator, wind farm operator, or hydrogen production company.
Finally, to truly add value you need to get all the major stakeholders within that project – the electricity network operator, the gas network operator, the power producers in the area all involved, otherwise the twin has less value. Integration, whether it is commercial or technical, that alignment piece is important and getting enough data into the twin is what adds value. If you do not have everybody, you do not have something that describes the potentiality outcomes.
When it comes to the electricity grid, we have a digital twin that we are working with the network operator in Norway. Speaking as an electrical engineer, one of the big challenges with the grid is how do we increase the penetration of renewable assets onto the grid within the capacity restrictions that we have? Managing your physical assets through digital monitoring and digital optimising is one of the ways you can get more from your grid. The operator has not reported officially yet, but the percentages increase they have obtained from the grid through the information in the digital twin is very interesting.
So, while asset based digital twins can provide value, the big wins in the integrated future will come from network wide digital twins that incorporate all the different facets that encompass the future, low-carbon, power network.
Brian Carey is net zero lead at Kongsberg Digital has extensive experience in sustainable energy, engineering, technology, and finance.