Takeaways from Future Digital Twin Conference 2021

From technology to eco-system: Digital twin as a transformative tool

At the Future Digital Twin virtual conference on May 26-27, industry leaders from the entire length of the energy industry value chain met to discuss how to incorporate a digital twin and ensure best practice throughout the product lifecycle. Over 1,000 professionals from companies such as Shell, Petrobras, Aramco Overseas, Chevron and many more had open and frank discussions, debates and presentations seeking to bring clarity on the impact of digital twin today and how to leverage the digital twin technology to navigate a very fast-changing present and future.

  • Text:Shane McArdle

For us at Kongsberg Digital, it was amazing to see how much ground was covered by our thought leaders heading the panels. Insights into data-driven foundations and nuts-and-bolts discussions on how to drive value from Digital Twins at scale helped enhance everybody’s knowledge of the technology. Debates about achieving maximum value through unification of digital twin and machine learning and AI and what considerations should be made to combat cyber-attacks touched on aspects that merited more thought and focus. And with this, we could go further and consider how a digital twin could accommodate and reimagine how people work today in the heavy asset industry and transform the behaviour of a company before laying out how a digital twin can help reduce the carbon footprint of an organization through emission transparency, advanced predictive methodology and sophisticated data analytics.

VALUE

As the concept of a digital twin becomes clearer, the focus is shifting from exploring the technology to focusing on how to capture value from it across the asset lifecycle and across different areas, from predictive maintenance to safety, operational performance to fundamentally changing how people work. Obvious value indicators include accelerated return on investment, increased automation, improved predictive maintenance, and production process optimization.

Part of the value is of course in determining if the twin should be custom-made within the company, developed based on a close partnership with a partner, or a combination. In short, build or buy? A hybrid “build-buy” approach will bring operators the best of both worlds with a strong focus on the values the operator brings to the project coupled with the opportunity to leverage partner expertise to accelerate the journey and bring strength and maturity to the solution.

“At the core of this, I think it is important to recognize you need to leverage partners and standard platforms that are available under industry standards. You need to integrate them and you need to scale them quickly. I think all of that requires a hybrid build-buy approach," said Dan Jeavons, Data Science General Manager at Shell.

Moderated by Seth Taylor from Chevron, Kongsberg Digital joined the session “The production of a Digital Twin: Buy versus Build” together with other industry experts such as Dan Jeavons from Shell, Benjamin Sokolowski, Internal Transformation Specialist at Wintershall Dea; and Jeff Stroh, Senior Director Digital and Analytics at McDermott.

TIMING AND SCALING

Choosing a hybrid approach and taking advantage of partnerships will also let you get going quickly, because the time to get started is now. Identify a problem you want to solve, activate your partner ecosystem to create a digital roadmap with you, start small then scale, and use your partners and your own organization as it learns and matures to boost and accelerate your journey.

In addition to – or maybe as part of – the digital roadmap is the tangible, scalable business case that will accelerate value and ensure long-term adoption. Less than 10% of one-off projects are operationalized and keeping this sobering fact in mind will hopefully also drive the scaling process.

FLEXIBILITY AND INTEROPERABILITY

Stating that digital twin technology is data-driven is really a matter of course. But what does that really mean? Key to the process are flexibility and interoperability, two concepts that must be kept in mind when liberating data and removing silos. These factors should be taken into consideration, to avoid companies end up locked in a data lake that doesn’t integrate and offer the speed you need for adoption. Instead, consider enabling data platforms that are built on open standards as well as building a competent partner ecosystem to enable interoperability at pace.

"I believe digital twin will be the game-changer that it has a promise to be. But that can't happen in a technological bubble. It has to be linked to how it will change the way people work and how we improve the capability within organisations like Shell. It really is a case of culture beating strategy," said Lee Hodder, Vice President of Upstream Digital Transformation at Shell.

DIGITAL TWIN AS GREEN DRIVER

With sustainability and decarbonisation becoming strategic topics on the agenda, digital twin technology can drive both. Integrating carbon emission data means that the digital twin can help companies reach their carbon reduction commitments. At the same time, advanced analytics and predictive capabilities mean that a digital twin can change behaviour: If a decision-maker can see the carbon emission impact of a decision before, say, changing production pressure, they can modify their decision to make it as sustainable as possible.

We now have a clearer picture of the definition of a digital twin; the considerations of build, buy or both; its driving value; and we realized that the technology is so transformative that scalability is a real factor.

But where to go from there? Considering the industry needs and trends, at Kongsberg Digital, we believe that an operational digital twin solution is becoming an industrial work surface that rests on four pillars: digitalization, scalability, collaboration, and decarbonization. Together, they lay out the means, the strategy, the tactic, and the reason why. That does not take the industrial work surface out of its digital twin-technology bubble but turns it into the ecosystem to support energy production in the 21st century.

Thanks to all who took part in the conference! It was an eye-opener and a great promise for the future of energy production.

Shane McArdle is the SVP Digital Energy at Kongsberg Digital. Combining deep domain knowledge and broad business background, he has extensive experience in driving Digital Transformation for organizations within the oil and gas, new energy and maritime sectors. Shane is a trusted advisor to help organizations to adopt new technologies and services moving the industry forward with their digital roadmaps.