Moving Toward Sustainable Asset Digital Twins

Author photo: Peter Reynolds
By Peter Reynolds


Sustainable Asset Digital TwinsRecently, several global oil and chemical leaders created a groundswell of support around the need for sustainable and open digital twins. Sustainable digital twins are needed after handover for the long operate and maintain portion of a plant’s lifecycle. Open digital twins are needed to accommodate the variety of applications and business processes to operate and maintain. The implications for this new initiative are far-reaching into the operating and business systems of energy and chemicals producers and their technology suppliers.

Digital Twins for the Entire Asset Lifecycle

Digital twins can deliver significant value through the entire asset lifecycle from design, construction through to operations and decommissioning. – while optimizing and automating associated business processes. To date, the focus is on the engineering and construction (E&C) portion of the lifecycle with technology solution providers making digital twins for engineering design and building infrastructure. The complex operate and maintain portion of the lifecycle – with huge opportunities for cost savings - is underserved.

Digital twins improve collaboration; but need a significant overhaul to become “open.”  Openness ensures interoperability of data and technologies to ensure cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable solutions. Sustainable Asset Digital Twins will provide a framework for connecting dataflows across silos to produce a holistic view of an asset’s information across its entire lifecycle. Asset owners want to eliminate barriers to the integration and contextualization of disparate data sets while optimizing and automating business processes.

Sustainable Asset Digital Twins Working Group

The Sustainable Asset Digital Twins working group (WG) provides a framework for asset owners to achieve sustainability goals by removing inefficiencies from manufacturing operations. This will redefine many operations and maintenance work processes with more effective use of assets and systems.

The Sustainable Asset Digital Twins WG recently kicked off their inaugural meeting at the ExxonMobil headquarters with Chevron, Dow, Shell and others. The purpose of the meeting was to:

  •  Define guiding opportunities and preliminary framing of needs.
  • Align on key industry challenges and needs and unified demand standards-based data interoperability.
  •  Outline a vision for a scalable, replicable, and sustainable digital twin.

The WG intends to share consistent messaging with vendors, solution providers, and standards organizations to support the industry effectively.

Meeting of the Minds

On January 24, 2022, Sustainable Asset Digital Twins WG met to gain an understanding of the opportunity for a more open and sustainable approach to digital twins. The meeting of asset-owner only subject matter experts (SMEs) from Chevron, Dow, ExxonMobil, Shell and others, was hosted by Exxon Mobil at their campus in Houston. The purpose of the WG was to initiate a vision, discuss common needs and agree on next steps for the scalable implementation of digital twins. A vision that can clearly articulate the needs of owner-operators and asset owners related to digital twin technologies and speak with a focused voice to the vendors providing digital twins solutions. Initially, the focus of the WG is on the sustainable, open, and interoperable use of lifecycle asset data, engineering models, visualization and reality capture and building toward a digital twin and digital thread.

The SMEs aligned on the key industry challenges and needs to address scalable, replicable, sustainable digital twin delivery, sharing consistent messaging with vendors and solution providers on that topic to support the industry more effectively. The scope of the WG will provide clear guidance on priorities and needs to facilitate digital twin technology and accelerate adoption, thus creating value by using these capabilities to lead to more efficient operating processes and in upgrades and turnarounds for the oil & gas, chemicals, and petrochemicals industries. The WG believes a focus on the delivery of digital twin technology will be necessary, including continued analysis of costs for maintaining models and what types of organizations and capabilities are needed to sustain the value, the interoperability with other business solutions, and to mitigate the apparent implementation and deployment risk. One area of guidance would include capturing, storing, delivering, and maintaining 3D visualization including seamless integration of real-time trusted engineering data, and reality capture, as part of a future open and sustainable digital twin.

Akin to similar industry initiatives, like the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), this WG will consider many of the OPAF principles, promote the needs for oil and gas operators and asset owners, and provide a voice for uniform messaging on critical needs and gaps. This approach is intended to assist technology suppliers to see the opportunities for participation and efficiently deliver projects in an "open" digital twin environment while leveraging or influencing new and existing data and visualization “standards" to digital twin deployment.

The Emerging Sustainable Asset Digital Twin Strategy

The wide range of digital twin software commercial offerings by a multitude of different vendors has created considerable confusion in the industry for digital twins. To help create clarity and align around the key opportunities for a digital twin, the WG created a Venn diagram to show relationships and commonalities between key components of digital twins.

The highest level of digital twin maturity is depicted by the center of the Venn diagram when all three components come together, and silos are integrated. This Asset Digital Twin contains all three circles - process simulation, visualization and data and the level of integration. The Asset Digital Twin represents the physical asset and predicts outcomes through the integration of operational data and engineering simulation. The asset digital twin supports the enhanced decision making needed by industry in an environment where data is accessible and central to the digital twin. A lifecycle data model must be built with federation of data sources such that systems can be maintained cost effectively and avoiding data duplication.


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Keywords: Digital Twin, Asset Lifecycle, Data Standard, Interoperability, Real-time, 3D Model, Point Cloud, Oil and Gas, Chemical, Petrochemical, ARC Advisory Group.

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