Preventing Disasters With a Digital Twin

In 2010, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry took place when a wellhead blowout caused a massive explosion, resulting in the deaths of 11 people and the discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, this type of crisis can be averted. By leveraging the power of digital twin technology, an enterprise can remotely monitor and analyze the condition of its assets in real time and help prevent the next catastrophic disaster.

A simpler way to inspect and maintain subsea equipment

Digital twin software bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Equipping assets with subsea, Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled sensors – and conducting real-time, model-based analysis – allows for simulation of the real-world conditions of the physical equipment through their virtual equivalents.

Organizations operating assets exposed to dynamic loads can use digital twin technology to replace or complement complex and expensive physical inspections with more cost-efficient digital inspections.

Digital twin technology provides the visibility and predictability needed to safely inspect subsea equipment without embarking on a costly underwater operation. It can also help reduce the risk of unnecessary shutdowns or damages due to errors in judgment. The moment the digital twin indicates there is an anomaly, a notification is sent. It is then possible to digitally replay exactly what happened to the equipment and perform diagnostics, assess the gravity of the situation, and identify root causes.

If particularly harsh conditions caused the wellhead to move more than normal, this could be visualized – from a multitude of perspectives – and the short-term risk to breakage and long-term effects of fatigue damage could be determined.

In addition to discovering what previously happened, digital twin technology gives the power to predict what might occur in the future. Say a major storm is approaching. Winds are expected to blow 115 miles per hour. Waves may climb up to heights of 40 feet. How will the wellhead stand up to this scenario?

A digital twin could tell. And based on that information, a decision could be made before the storm arrives whether to expose the wellhead to the fatigue and extreme loads or risk an emergency disconnect. The alternative may be an emergency shutdown or, worst-case scenario, a potentially critical accident. A digital twin could also help simulate what oil rig adjustments could be made to reduce impact from the storm.

From insight to hindsight to foresight

With regards to assets exposed to complex and dynamic loads, companies have learned to live with uncertainty. If an asset breaks, an organization may have to exert a great deal of effort to first figure out what went wrong, and then undertake a long, costly, and potentially unsafe initiative to fix it.

Today, your enterprise should use a digital twin, powered by IoT, to gain the insight, hindsight, and foresight it needs to successfully manage your equipment – all for a fraction of the time, cost, and risk it previously required.

Watch this video to see how Arctic Wind uses digital twin and IoT technology to maintain wind turbines in the world’s northernmost wind farm.

Written by Vatsan Govindarajan, this article originally appears on the Digitalist Magazine.

Looking to learn more about Digital Twins? The SAP-Centric EAM conference dives deeper into how the digital economy is transforming the business world and why it’s important for asset management and logistics teams to work together to create a digitized operation environment.

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