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Creating a seamless digital patchwork

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

For over 40 years, process simulation has been the staple of engineers throughout the energy and chemical industries. It resulted in productivity gains, expanded operations, and profitability improvements. The next logical step is to expand digital goals to envision one multi-purpose digital twin. This would digitalise all processes into one simulation aligned with the asset lifecycle and value chain. It would run off unified data sources providing a single source of truth, and thereby connecting and aligning multiple different departments. Employees would have easy access to data for analysis, thus resulting in increased collaboration and informed decisions.

Over the decades, many asset owners and operators deployed standalone analytics, monitoring, and process control solutions without a clear strategy. For those who did have a technology strategy, their scope was narrow. Most achieved quantifiable improvements. However, the lack of strategy led to the creation of siloed operating environments and multiple versions of truth in the data.

The consequence was compartmentalised facility, equipment, and process data. The company was unable to collate or visualise the various data groups in the larger context of the plant or organisation. As a result, companies could only achieve local optimisation in specific areas, such as operations or maintenance. In some cases, they simply turned off or stopped using the technology. With the latest advancements in digital technology, the full potential of enterprise digital optimisation is now achievable.

Today, there are many different digital twin possibilities that cover the various aspects of the asset lifecycle and value chain. They serve different purposes and often run off siloed or limited data sources at fit-for-purpose compute speeds. To avoid arriving at the results of the past, tactics must join these data sources, tools, people, and processes together. All around convergence is critical. While it will take many steps, it is a realistic goal. Technology and computing limitations mean initially accepting a patchwork. However, using an open architecture digital twin platform, it is possible to create a seamless patchwork that supports rapid acceleration toward the single multi-purpose digital twin vision.

Achieving the multipurpose digital twin requires the relentless embrace of science as the foundation of the technology, implemented simply, and with usability that connects people from multiple disciplines. Furthermore, the extension beyond the core science of using digital infrastructures to unite data with science, people with problem solving, and the virtual with the reality, is vital. It is for this reason that the future value of process simulation will be based on three fundamental pillars: the science that underpins it; people’s ability to use it; and the use of digital technologies to increase its value…

Written by Duncan Micklem and Andrew McIntee, KBC, a Yokogawa Company.

This article was originally published in the July 2020 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering. To read the full article, and other great technical articles in this issue, view the full issue here. You can also register to receive a free regular copy of the magazine here.

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