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How digital twins will drive innovation in the energy sector

08th August 2019

Anne-Marie Walters, industry marketing director, oil and gas and manufacturing at Bentley Systems explains how digital twins are coming of age within the energy sector

Anne-Marie Walters, industry marketing director, oil and gas and manufacturing at Bentley Systems explains how digital twins are coming of age within the energy sector

digital twins
Digital twins are coming of age within the energy sector

Digital twins are taking center stage – advancing rapidly beyond building information modelling and enabling asset-centric organisations to converge their engineering, operational, and information technologies for immersive visualisation and analytics visibility. A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system, as well as the engineering information that allows us to understand and model its performance.

Typically, a digital twin can be continuously updated from multiple sources, including sensors and continuous surveying, to represent its near real-time status, working condition, or position. A digital twin enables users to visualise the asset, check status, perform analysis, and generate insights to predict and optimise asset performance.

In the energy sector, digital twins are used to optimise the operation and maintenance of physical assets, systems, and production processes. Many organisations are already using digital twins on projects to prove their value. An excellent example is Shell Chemical’s use of a digital twin on a very large construction project in Pennsylvania. Shell is surveying its plant with drones as it is being constructed on a twice weekly basis.

The reality model is combined with other asset data to update the project’s digital twin. The digital twin is used to track construction and identify issues by visualising change over time. This capability enables the team to immediately respond to onsite changes. Shell is also capturing the asset’s digital record as it is being constructed for use in operations and maintenance of the plant, such as the precise location of underground utilities. The digital twin is enabling the organisation to make better sense of its data, both now and in the future.

Embracing digital twins in the energy sector
The energy sector is well placed to take advantage of digital technologies. Whether it is simply adding a vibration sensor to a piece of rotating machinery or creating a full digital twin of an entire plant, digital twin technologies can reduce costs and streamline maintenance and operations processes.

Digital twins are a hot topic, and many energy organisations are keen to work out how they can best benefit from their use. Most companies are looking for advice on where to get started. Our advice is to start with the good asset data that you already have, get it in a position to be shared, and grow from there. Quite often, the good data is buried in systems that are inaccessible to the people who need it. One of the biggest benefits of digital twin technology is that it makes trusted, up-to-date information more widely available.

Bentley provides an open, connected data environment, which is a set of cloudprovisioned or on-premises services that support digital context, digital components, and digital workflows. By enabling an open, connected data environment, energy firms can better manage and access consistent, trusted, and accurate information. Owneroperators and project delivery firms also can share the benefits of an open, integrated, and connected framework.

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