Lloyd's Register's new Virtual Reality Safety Simulator and gaming technology raises awareness in critical areas of safety and risk in the oil and gas industry for visitors to SPE Offshore Europe.

Lloyd's Register (LR), a leading global provider of engineering and technology-centric professional services, is showcasing its commercial-ready Virtual Reality (VR) Safety Simulator to help further support training and knowledge transfer in the energy industry. Through the application of the latest VR technology advancements, which now includes Augmented Reality (AR) add-on modules, LR has built a virtual environment to help illustrate the need for a continued focus on safety and risk assessments in the industry.

Smart VR investment is growing

Europe's booming virtual reality market accounts for about a fifth of the market which is expected to reach €150 billion in 2020. This makes it an interesting market for LR's latest technical innovation and it services.

"We are on the cusp of an upward trend in VR and AR technology tools used to train people," highlights Alasdair Buchanan, Director of the Energy business at Lloyd's Register. "Video, online communications, and virtual learning are growing rapidly as training tools. While people still need formal classroom-based training and education, we see significant growth in new virtual learning environments and our VR Safety Simulator is just the beginning as it allows mentors and trainees to come together far more easily than a traditional conference or training course."

The value to a business using VR technology is immense and helps to reduce the costs of non-productive time measured in hundreds of millions of pounds annually across the industry due to operating down-time and inefficiencies.

Real-life experiences taken in to the digital world

"Using the latest technology we enable users of the Safety Simulator to experience real-life challenges which the industry is exposed to, and in a non-threatening environment, thereby enhancing their own knowledge and understanding of the key issues the industry faces in the offshore environment," says Buchanan.

LR's VR Safety Simulator simulates real-life situations with a high degree of interactivity for the user. Its training allows both young and experienced trainees at its Global Academy Training Centres and here in Aberdeen, to explore training possibilities by building on the remote training solutions being developed by LR's training centre experts.

Luis De La Fuente, Global Academy Training Manager at LR, says: "We developed this high-tech VR Safety Simulation to help educate oil and gas workers in dealing with complex equipment and environments, in harsh climatic conditions and with serious emergency risks. Scenarios are created from real-life experiences and incidents."

Enriched learning

LR's VR tool provides interactive simulations that close the gap between the abstract experience of a lecture and the experience of navigating and handling actual objects on-site. "They enrich the learning experience by providing opportunities for trainees to interact with equipment and environments, gaining a better understanding and improving knowledge retention, orientation and safety training," highlights De La Fuente.

It also enables new employees to explore scenarios in different sites and experience standard operating procedures in advance. LR believes this level of preparation means that workers are ready to hit the ground running and keep up with the demanding pace of oil and gas extraction and processing work once they've arrived on site.

LR is also using a new concept of AR add-on modules to support trainees in the VR experience. This provides groups of trainees a new way to engage collectively during the VR experience to respond and resolve problems to the scenario training including changing the 'what if' scenarios that were first being explored by the trainees and the trainer.

Practice makes perfect!

"Entire plant crews must communicate and cooperate in order to execute a flawless start-up or a precise shutdown," says De La Fuente. "Human nature, communication, decisions and reaction times mean that trainees very rarely get it right the first time, or even the second time, but the consequences of a team's or individual's correct and incorrect decisions are sent immediately back to the trainees on our VR Safety Simulation programme, which gives them the opportunity to directly learn from their mistakes."

De La Fuente continues: "They can practice until they are near perfect and the entire procedure becomes second nature for the entire plant crew before they undertake it for real, whether onshore or offshore. Workers can gain familiarisation with the rig, plant or pipeline layout, equipment operation, walking paths and evacuation routes and memorise the location of safety devices."

The company is quick to point out that leveraging VR Safety Simulation models to improve time-to-competency in critical areas such as safety and environment protection systems is a must-do.

Shaping the future. Delivering solutions today

Offshore rigs, refineries, and other processing plants are some of the world's largest, most complex facilities, operating around the clock at peak capacity under some of the harshest conditions on the planet. Many upgrade, refurbishment and maintenance projects involve hundreds of workers who must be thoroughly trained – especially in safety-related operations such as handling fires, toxic chemicals, high-pressure leaks and other emergency incidents. Scheduling requires precise choreography to ensure each step occurs on time and in proper sequence.

"Companies and their employees can benefit from exposure to VR technology as a working tool," says Buchanan. "Organisations are increasing productivity and lowering costs by better planning operations and maintenance procedures, maximising workflow and utilisation of resources with detail and coordinated scheduling, and making plants safer and more efficient with comprehensive VR and simulation-based training.

"What once was seen as "something of the future" is now here to stay. VR and AR are key themes for us, along with blockchain, smart power generation, unmanned inspection and the future of Industry 4.0."

Experience the VR simulation and meet our experts at SPE Offshore Europe 2017event in Aberdeen, Scotland – UK, 5-8 September at Booth #2C121.