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How 'digital assets' can help develop mature fields

Monday, July 23, 2018

Having a 'digital asset', or up to date digital model of a real offshore asset, can be very helpful when trying to run offshore fields cost effectively, particularly when unmanned operations are involved. We interviewed AVEVA's CTO Trond Straume.

When producing from mature offshore oil fields, having a digital version of your assets can make a big contribution in helping you reduce operating costs, particularly when unmanned operation is involved, said
Trond Straume, CTO of oil and gas engineering software company AVEVA.

The company sees that oil companies are starting to take digitalisation much more seriously in their efforts to improve safety and reliability.

Having a digital version of the asset can be a very useful tool when managing maintenance and modifications, particularly if the asset will be partially or completely unmanned, or if it is highly complex.

AVEVA uses the slogan 'digitalise, visualise, realise,' to show the pathway companies go through, of getting their assets in digital form, being able to see the assets on data (visualising them, perhaps in 3D), and then using that to improve decision making.

AVEVA recently merged with automation and energy management company Schneider Electric in September 2017. Schneider Electric has software to manage process flows and control systems. By bringing Schneider's software together with AVEVA's, it becomes possible to have a far richer digital asset, incorporating the electronics and fluids as well as just the structure.

Get it right to start

The easiest way to get a 'digital asset' is to take the data from the company which designs or builds the asset, since they usually have rich models of the asset in digital form, which they used in the design. But this rarely happens.

Typically data is delivered to a new customer in a range of different formats, supplied as files, and the customer has to work out how to make use of it, Mr Straume said. 'We see that as a lost opportunity,' Mr Straume says.

Today design data, like many different types of company data, can be stored on cloud servers, and handing the data to another company can be a much simpler matter of giving them the password, rather than a complex box of files and documentation, as it was in the past.

'We believe the handover in the future looks much more like a physical handover, you get the keys or log in credentials to the digital representation. There would be 2 handovers, one of the physical asset and one of the digital representation,' he says.

Having a 'class library' standard, which states what information you should have about different components, and being able to understand if you have what you need, is 'pretty important,' he said.

If you start operations with a rich digital model of the asset, you then have to make sure you maintain it over time, updating the digital model as the physical asset changes. Otherwise they will gradually diverge and the digital model will be useless, he says.

Unmanned operation

If you want an unmanned operating facility, it is 'absolutely critical' to have a full digital library of all of your information, so you can make sure that any decisions you make are based on the correct information, Mr Straume says. You also need to understand the 'context' of the information - what it is all about.

The same applies for when you are aiming to reduce the number of people on a continually manned platform. Some platforms have a crew for 2 weeks, then operates unmanned for the other 2 weeks of the month. The new crew can be fully familiarised with the asset before they arrive.

'Having less people means centralising more of the day to day and maintenance planning activities,' he says.

There are lessons which could be learned from manufacturing industries. In food and beverage industry, it can be common for one maintenance crew to be in charge of looking after several manufacturing facilities. So being able to understand a manufacturing facility in digital format before going there can be very helpful.

'Having a digital representation of the plant, wherever you are on any device will allow you to understand the behaviour of the plant,' he says. 'These are things that we see customers are really serious about'.

Merger with Schneider

Last year, AVVEVA merged with Schneider Electric, a company involved in a wide range of automation and energy management systems, including software for simulating flows on process equipment in real time.

There could be some good opportunities to link Aveva's digital twin software which describes the asset structure, and Schneider Electric's 'Wonderware' real time operations software, which can describe the flows and the actual control operations.

By taking live operations data and mapping that together, 'you can get a fantastic view of how the asset is performing, in a virtual world,' he said. 'That is extremely powerful.'

'The combination of the virtual world - as we provide it, and the real time operational coming through sensors and IOT, is that the secret sauce from this transaction.'

As well as control systems, the Schneider software can be used for process design and simulation of the control systems and flows, real time operations, and maintenance management.

A digital asset which includes control systems and flows would be a big help in decommissioning. You could try out different pathways for taking the asset apart, including removing some equipment earlier or increasing maintenance intervals, safe in the knowledge that you will not be taking any vital services out of action. You could also visualise the decommissioning task, and check it could be easily performed.

The data can be used to make decisions about whether it is worth replacing something or letting it run until it fails.

Gathering data

Another benefit of a digital asset is that it makes it easier to compare performance of different physical assets.

Typically, the oil and gas industry has separate teams running each of its offshore platforms, with very little data sharing between them, Mr Straume says.

But if you have digital versions of the offshore platforms, you can easily make comparisons.

'If you have a pump on one asset that has got worn out bearings
or unexpected downtime, maybe ahead of the predicted lifespan, it would be quite interesting to know if you've got a similar pump on some of the other assets,' he says. 'You would make the case to proactively replace the pumps.'

'You can bring your asset information on your whole fleet together, you can learn across the assets. That's an area where technology really can help.'

Associated Companies
» AVEVA Solutions Ltd


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