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Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani is a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Safehaven.com. 

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AI Digital Twinning Tech Could Completely Revamp Oil E&P

  • U.S. oilfield services company Halliburton Co. has announced that it will partner with the Libra Consortium, led by Petrobras, to develop a digital twin for the Mero pre-salt field system in Brazil. 
  • A digital twin spans the lifecycle of the actual system, or object it represents, uses simulation, machine learning and reasoning to help decision making and is updated using real-time data.
  • Other than creating a single, secure repository for all asset documentation, digital twins can have a positive impact on the operational efficiency, cost, reliability and agility of oil and gas companies.

Back in June, we reported that China had stepped up its game with the delivery of the country’s first-ever smart floating production storage and offloading (FPSO). The platform features a land-sea integrated operation system that employs Digital Twinning technology, encompassing diverse cutting-edge technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing, cloud computing, big data and the internet of things (IoT). 

China also built a digital twin of the platform onshore in Shenzhen City, 1,000 kilometers away from the real ship. 

But China is not the only country using digital twins. U.S. oilfield services company Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL) has announced that it will partner with the Libra Consortium, led by Petrobras (NYSE:PBR), to develop a digital twin for the Mero pre-salt field system in Brazil. 

The digital twin will utilize asset sensors, 4D seismic models, and smart completions to provide a real-time view of the reservoir, wells, and facilities. The twin will help in asset operations planning, asset characterization, reservoir monitoring and optimization. 

The Mero Field is an ultra-deepwater oil field located approximately 180 km offshore Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mero is one of the largest oil discoveries in the pre-salt play of Brazil, with an original oil in place (OOIP) estimated at 11.94 bboe. Related: U.S. Drillers Cut Drilling Activity Amid Stabilizing Oil Prices

This dynamic system will empower the consortium with comprehensive, continuous insights around optimization opportunities, cost-reduction potential, and uncertainty mitigation throughout the asset lifecycle,” Nagaraj Srinivasan, senior vice president of Landmark, Halliburton Digital Solutions, and Consulting, has said.

But first things first. What exactly is a digital twin? 

Simply put, a digital twin provides a virtual copy of an actual plant. A digital twin spans the lifecycle of the actual system, or object it represents, uses simulation, machine learning and reasoning to help decision making and is updated using real-time data. 

Rapid Adoption Of Digital Twinning

Whereas the concept of digital twinning might sound esoteric at first, the technology has been around since the 1960s. Indeed, for decades, NASA has been creating physical duplicate systems for its various space missions on terra firma, then using the twins to test its equipment in a virtual environment. 

However, it’s only recently that the technology has started to go mainstream. 

Three years ago, a Markets & Markets report predicted that the global Digital Twin market will grow from $3.1 billion in 2020 to $48.2 billion a year by 2026, good for a blitse4ring 58% CAGR. And, digital twining might soon become banal in the oil and gas sector for the simple fact that the two are a great match. 

Once a digital twin of an asset is created, a contractor, consultant or employee can simply point an enabled mobile device at the asset and instantly gain access to a wide variety of data  points including:

  • Engineering content (specifications, diagrams and configurations), describing the physical asset in digital terms
  • Full maintenance history (procedures performed, timing, parts installed and installers), which alerts personnel to any required action and provides insight into the ability of the asset to perform to its potential
  • Operating parameters (input energies, consumables, by-products and emissions) that can potentially constrain the asset’s performance
  • Physical constraints ( throughputs, operating capacities and pressures) that dictate how each asset physically behaves

Other than creating a single, secure repository for all asset documentation, digital twins can have a positive impact on the operational efficiency, cost, reliability and agility of oil and gas companies. One study has concluded that digital twins and smart data systems can save up to 15% on total decommissioning project cost for oil and gas operators.

For decades, the oil and gas industry has been a hotbed of innovation driven by the need for improved productivity and performance, supported by real-time insights. Over the past three years, over 534,000 patents have been filed and granted in the oil & gas industry. 

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GlobalData’s Technology Foresights plots the S-curve for the oil & gas industry using innovation intensity models built on over 256,000 patents. The research outfit has identified 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. GlobalData has acknowledged robotic drilling machines and digital twins as disruptive technologies still in the early stages of application but likely to see rapid growth and adoption.

According to GlobalData, currently, there are 40+ companies, including established oil & gas companies, technology vendors as well as up-and-coming start-ups, engaged in the development and application of digital twins. Interestingly, Halliburton is the only Big Oil company currently pursuing the technology.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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