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Why use a digital twin in the offshore world?

Vaibhav Parsoya explains how LR is pioneering digital twin technology for FPSOs and other offshore structures.

For the last decade, the offshore industry has been leveraging digital technologies with some specific applications, including defining geo-characteristics of oil fields, to improve the quality of extraction processing.  In recent times we have seen this interest extend into new technologies, such as digital twins, with more industry players realising the benefits digitalisation can bring to their business and the impact it can have on performance, specifically when it comes to maintenance, reliable utilisation and asset designs to tackle bespoke challenges. We are seeing success and failure stories throughout the industry. This emphasises the need to define digital twin technology and investigate its true benefits and opportunities for our customers and establish trust, as we believe the technology has a lot more to offer beyond the hype it has created so far. 

Digital health management and digital twin technology

Digital health management (DHM) is the term used by LR to describe digital technologies and systems that are used to gather data and insights on an asset’s health, which incorporates digital twin technology. Furthermore, we define a digital twin as a ‘multi-physics, data-driven representation of a physical asset, often residing in a cloud-based environment using data streamed from the physical asset’ and has applications varying from designers and operators to autonomy. In other words, a digital twin is a dynamic digital representation of a physical piece of equipment or asset used in a business environment. It is helping operators improve aspects of their operational performance and maintenance regimes through insights generated by the twins as part of the DHM. 

Digital twins for the offshore industry 

The offshore market has a number of technical and commercial challenges including the reduction of operating costs, a growing knowledge and experience gap, competition for talent, as well as trying to prioritise and achieve superior returns on investments. The economic value and environmental stability derived from digital twin technology will be evident from improved productivity, utilisation and efficiency, as well as the increased level of safety, transparency and confidence to users and their clients, which potentially provides an opportunity  to co-create and collaborate.  Digital twins can mitigate the talent and  experience gap given its ability to provide  prescriptive actions to the maintenance  and optimal operation of an asset.  Accurate insights on the health of the  asset, specifically its electrical,  mechanical and structural systems, can  improve operational expenditures such  as life extension, which can positively  influence capital allocation at the  business level.  To realise a digital twin’s true value at a  business level, digital twin applications  would need to integrate business,  economic and technical needs, as the  technology has the potential to generate  economic value out of different facets of  an asset in operation. This is achieved  through managing operational  performance with digital twin technology,  helping operators avoid costly and  unexpected downtime. 

Digital twins for FPSO operators

If used as an integral part of the decision-making process, digital twin technology  can improve a floating production storage  and offloading (FPSO) unit operator’s  competitive advantage when it comes  to traditional ways of working. This can  include revenue protection, increased  operational efficiency and better  customer experience as the technology  gives the operator’s client increased  confidence and transparency on the  asset’s ability to stay productive. FPSO  operators can use digital twins to gather  and integrate existing and new data,  whilst correlating with physics-based  simulation models, to diagnose and  predict structural performance. This in  time can provide operational savings  when it comes to unplanned downtime  and maintenance, and in some cases  can extend the life of an asset.

Digital twin technology can assist  operators with establishing safer  operations by embracing  recommendations taken from insights  learnt from past behaviour across the  fleet. This gives operators more  confidence in human-based operations  as it can potentially reduce human  errors from occurring. 

To sum up, we have realised through  working with industry partners that  digital twins, specifically for FPSOs,  can offer great opportunities through  improved productivity, better utilisation  of assets and increased efficiency.  This leads to a better level of safety,  transparency and confidence, whilst  also helping to diagnose and predict  structural performance, which can  prolong the life expectancy of an asset.  It helps customers to make the most  of their FPSO.  

How can we help?

In addition to our Digital Compliance Framework, which delivers assurance of digital twins against DHM targets (you can read more about this in the previous issue of Horizons), we are also a digital twin solution provider. We are working with leaders in the industry to create bespoke twins, suited to the business solutions of our customers, giving them the ability to understand, manage and optimise their whole asset.

In terms of approach, we believe it’s important to deliver digital solutions that are well-balanced between the technical solution and its business application for our customers. We understand the challenges around data sharing and data ethics in this collaborative digital eco-system and address the value of the data and its contributions to not only our customers, but also their partners.

For LR, our work is about supporting the industry’s digitalisation journey to realise new value. More importantly, we support our clients to build confidence in these technologies so that they can be trusted within the industry to make better, more informed decisions safely.

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Horizons Oct IMO 2020

Read more articles like this in our Horizons magazine.

Horizons brings together insight into current trends and hot topics in maritime, alongside expert views from our people on regulation, technology and innovation.

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