Digital twin technology is a key part of the energy transition, requiring – and spurring – greater collaboration and open innovation.
“The energy transition is really complicated to do, so you need to look for good partners and good insights into how you apply your technology," Haavard Oestensen, COO at Kongsberg Digital told the event. "Different companies have different analytical models, visualisation capabilities, subject matter expertise, and transformation capabilities. It's about bringing them together in a village to do something good.”
Companies and other organisations are already coming out their silos to collaborate on implementing Digital Twins and other AI-driven technology.
For example, Dan Isaacs, CTO of the Digital Twin Consortium explained how his organisation had grown to include some 200 members from more than 25 countries in just three years since it was established. DTC brings together industry, government and academia to drive a joined-up approach to Digital Twin development across all areas of the economy.
Digital Twins are playing a key role in the energy transition and not just by helping to reduce emissions. To take one example, Digital Twins can model how a biofuels plant can be added to an existing refinery, or ensure that the global scale up of hydrogen production now under way is successful.
“Digital Twins can help get it right from the start and provide a safe space for experimentation and learning,” Rik Sneep, Director of Strategy & Transformation at CEPSA said.
There is no point having fancy technology that end-users find hard to use. As Haavard Oestensen, CCO at Kongsberg Digital put it: “Digital Twin can appear like it’s a huge Swiss army knife with thousands of data points. So, you need to make it really easy to use – you don’t need 1,000 data points to do your job, you need an aggregation of those. We need to make sure that, as we scale out Digital Twin, it happens quickly, and you have the tools in hand that enable you to do that better.”
Steve Higgon, CEO of technology platform TAAP also explained how keeping it simple for users would reap benefits, saying: “Application of AI and No Code technologies will allow subject matter experts to leverage the power of the Digital Twin sooner, more effectively, at a lower cost, surfacing actionable insights, and from which you can make data backed informed decisions.”
It’s no good just talking about encouraging people to embrace AI and digital technology – you actually need to lead by example, as well as putting in place training and other measures needed. “It’s like going to the gym: people say they are, but how many of you are actually doing it?” one risk management executive asked attendees.
Moving from human interpretation of the output from Digital Twins to letting the AI run automated operations is an exciting prospect, but one that needs to be considered carefully at this stage of the technology’s development.
As one senior oil executive told the event: “Intelligent and autonomous operations are a harder ambition, especially in a high-risk, oil and gas environment. But if you start to look at building new business models in areas such as renewables, of course, you might think about using intelligent operations right from the start.”
Large language models have their place in the oil and gas industry, but they need to be used selectively for tasks for which they are best suited.
“Using models like ChatGPT to help integrate and simplify complicated work processes sounds nice but it’s incredibly difficult. It may be good for writing a letter, but using it to write a work script for a valve change? It’s just not there yet – and it’s going to be long time until we can actually do it,” said John Watters, Vice President Well Delivery & Technology Support, at OMV.
Digital Twins have the ability to influence not just those working with them directly, but the wider community. They can show all stakeholders in a project an accurate representation of how it works and how it impacts on a local area and community, improving transparency in the process.
“Digital Twins are a democratising technology, helping to make information available to all the stakeholders, not only the operators and the investors and the regulators, but also you, me and everyone else.” Taoufik Ait-Ettajer, Subsurface Manager, Technology, E&P, Repsol, told FDT 2023.
Ryan Herman, Managing Director, Europe, Gecko Robotics, noted that robots surveying oil and gas facilities can create as many as 8 million accurate data points on a single asset, compared to fewer than 4,000 that can be gathered by hand, which may also be tainted by human error. But making sense of that wealth of extra data to improve productivity and enable better decision-making requires the right deployment of technology.
“That’s where robotics and AI-enabled software intersect to help in actual business use cases,” he told the event.
“The market for individual digital twins is taking off and it looks like nothing will stop that. But there remains a challenge in making connections between digital twins, which would release massive value in energy transition in oil and gas and a lot of other sectors. To do this, we need a data-sharing infrastructure – we need to collaborate on the rules and compete in the game,” Mark Enzer, Vice Chair of the UK’s Digital Twin Hub said.
The introduction of digital twin technology is incremental, but it is likely to add up to a massive shift in the way we work over time. Look at the way phones have evolved incrementally to change functionality, or electric vehicles are now being seen as repositories for batteries providing grid energy storage, rather than just as vehicles – Digital Twins can evolve in a similar way to create new ways of doing things. As one Digital Twin innovation leader at a leading oil company told FDT 2023: “The disruptive capability if the Digital Twin with generative AI on board is going to be a lot more than that of discrete use cases we see today.”