Rapidly Evolving Digital Twins for Plants

Author photo: Ralph Rio
By Ralph Rio


The recent ARC Forum session titled “Digital Twins for Plants” provided insights to the current state of the industry transition from linear workflows based on 2D data to a more immersive 3D environment. This included digital twin types, key benefits, a case story for oil platforms, and an enterprise-wide strategy adoption in an industrial metaverse. Technology suppliers gain with “sticky” products surviving handover and sustaining into operations. Users have improved workflows with gains in speed, agility, and cost savings.

Technology suppliers and asset owner-operators should evaluate their businesses for the coming digital transition from 2D based business processes to an immersive 3D environment. Those slow to adopt will likely experience a market discontinuity that significantly changes market share rankings.

Scope of Digital Twins for Plants

Ralph Rio, ARC Advisory Group, opened the session with his presentation that defined the scope and benefits of digital twins for plants. The term “digital twin” has become popular with a wide variety of interpretations. The first step for a meaningful review requires a definition: A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical entity and is dynamic using real-world data synchronized from multiple sources.

Digital Twin Components

The twin is dynamic with changing operating data and engineering documentation. The components include:

  • Data connectors for acquiring and transmitting data.
  • The model containing physics-based algorithms or artificial intelligence.
  • 3D visualization for navigation and dimensional measurements.
  • Data federation avoids data duplication and quality issues.
  • Applications provide user functions with business benefits.

Digital Twins for Plants

Digital Twins Across the Plant Lifecycle

To date, the plant digital twins have focused on the design and build (D&B) portion of the asset’s lifecycle. These project digital twins encompass the various business processes for design and construction of an upgrade or new plant. They also support continuous handover to transfer engineering information to the operate and maintain (O&M) portion of the assets’ lifecycle.

After handover, a new set of business processes and use cases arise. A rapidly emerging area for digital twins is the long O&M phase of a plant’s lifecycle. Use cases for these performance digital twins involve turnarounds, training, reliability analysis, inspection routing, maintenance planning, operational enhancements, continuous improvement, and problem assessment and resolution.


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Keywords: Digital Twin, ARC Forum, Industrial Metaverse, Shell, ExxonMobil, ARC Advisory Group.


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