Digital Twin is not a gimmick or a passing fad: it is now a proven concept with an established track record that demonstrably boosts productivity and profitability. Once the leadership appreciates this, moving ahead with digital tech innovation across the company becomes much easier. Shane McArdle, CEO of Kongsberg Digital, told the event: “We used to talk about a digital twin as an optional add-on layer, but now it's an embedded part of the landscape for operating and maintaining an asset, which is central to how we work.”
Technology should not be seen as a threat to jobs. Innovations such as Digital Twin free up people from dangerous, dirty, repetitive and time-consuming work, creating more time for productive and rewarding activities. In an era where the pool of engineering talent is smaller than it was, productivity improvements brought by digital tech are vital.
The workforce is full of potential innovators, who should be encouraged to do just that. As the ultimate users and beneficiaries, these are the people that know what works. Jason Gislason, Chief Digital Officer at Chevron Phillips Chemical Company said companies had sometimes stifled innovation. “We should unlock the intellectual powers of employees. One of the best things you can do in the digital twin build-out is allow people to share their ideas and thoughts, and manifest those ideas in the product,” he said.
Fluid collaboration within and between organisations will speed up technology development and make it easier to build in solutions for more sustainable operations and lower carbon footprints. The asset of the future will be the sum of lessons learned from many use cases across the industry. Opening up to greater collaboration doesn’t mean losing your competitive edge: you can be selective in what you share – everyone doesn’t need access to everything, boundaries can be set on what can be released to third parties.
At a time when the oil and gas industry can find it hard to recruit new graduates, digital jobs providing transferable skills help provide tomorrow’s workforce. Ambitious corporate sustainability commitments also make the industry more attractive to a new generation of employees with environmental concerns.
Data analysts and digital scientists are an increasingly important part of today’s workforce, but engineers will continue to be the lifeblood of the industry. Young engineers coming into the industry are arriving armed with digital skills, while more experienced engineers are increasingly showing that they can emulate “digital natives” given the right training.
The fusion of Digital Twin with large language models and other AI will benefit the industry hugely over the next few years, for example, by providing detailed overviews of project documents and history instantly. " We are already augmenting engineering knowledge using AI and now we have begun efforts with the GPT language model. It’s an exciting time to be an engineer today, with a wealth of knowledge and learning at your fingertips” Prakash Kumar Karunakaran, Head of NervCentre, Petronas, told the event.
There is a difference between automation and autonomy: we need to carefully consider the consequences of allowing AI-powered digital systems to make decisions without careful human oversight. Dr. Michael Grieves, the pioneer of Digital Twin technology, said “safety has to be of paramount importance” when considering whether to use truly autonomous operations. Digital Twins can be used to counter some risks of autonomous decision-making through their predictive power to flag up potential problems.
If necessary, start with small-scale Digital Twin implementation and scale up when you’re sure you’ve got it right. Badly implemented projects that turn into an expensive disaster could deter further investment in game-changing technology.
Make sure cybersecurity is well implemented right from the beginning of the shift towards Digital Twin and other digital technology. It’s much more difficult to retrofit security into an existing system. Adopting a “sticking plaster” approach by trying to patch up your system later will be inadequate and costly.
Needs vary across the industry. Reservoir has different requirements from operations and maintenance, etc. A Digital Twin design should be flexible enough to adapt to different stages of development and to evolve as new technology and software comes along.
As technology becomes increasingly interconnected, it may be more effective to develop a series of smaller Digital Twins, each focused on a specific activity, which can then communicate with each other. This may be a better solution that trying to build one complex system to do everything.
Digital Twin can help extend the life of brownfield projects but requires a different approach from greenfield projects. Existing data is likely to be unstructured and siloed, limiting its availability. Data sensors may be scarce and require upgrading. Cost of implementation may be too high if a field has only a short remaining life. Digital Twin may work best and be more economical if targeted just at the specific parts of the operation necessary to achieve a license extension.