Digital Twins Drive Sustainability in Oil and Gas Operations
Kongsberg Digital, the digital branch of global technology company Kongsberg, recently joined in a strategic partnership with FutureOn, a global energy software company, to bring together their digital twin platforms for energy projects. Here, Kongsberg Digital’s sustainability lead, Brian Carey, explains how important digital twins are to sustainability in the oil and gas industry.
Digital twins enable process optimization, simultaneous risk management, analytics of health of assets, and “what if” scenario planning and can be used to detect faults before they become an issue. They also can provide a risk-free environment for training personnel.
But how can they help with sustainability? For oil and gas companies, digital twins are key to unlocking information that will improve environmental performance and productivity of assets by incorporating sustainability elements when optimizing production, minimizing energy use, and reducing emissions. This delivers accountable data for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) financial analysis and allows communication of a credible plan toward meeting net-zero targets and timelines.
The oil and gas industry is often perceived as being conservative and risk averse—and with good reason. Process risks are high, and any changes to working solutions need to be made with a full understanding of their impact. Although rightly cautious, the industry, however, is also highly innovative and has a strong commitment to succeed and address the different challenges it faces. As the world looks toward a net-zero carbon future, the industry is striving to better manage existing energy sources and introduce greener solutions for the future.
Existing emission sources are not going to disappear overnight, and, although we are in the midst of an energy transition, innovation also needs to be applied to managing and reducing these emissions in areas such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and increased operational and process efficiency.
We live in a world that is increasingly driven by data. Digitalization, the internet of things, and Industry 4.0 are no longer the talk of the future; they are here today. One of the challenges in extracting the value of enterprisewide data, however, is that it exists across multiple systems, databases, and sites. If not brought together, the business cannot see the complete picture and may miss opportunities or be unaware of the full impact of decisions. A digital twin brings all this information together in a single source of truth through a single interface for a complete, consistent, and reliable view of what is happening throughout the value chain.
Through this data-driven approach, energy usage can be assessed and analyzed and paths to optimize and lower consumption identified.
A Digital Future
The oil and gas industry is at an exciting point in its journey toward digitalization. The opportunities are considerable and, for businesses that are pushing forward their digitalization programs, there is the potential for significant competitive advantage. Digital twins address the specific needs of the energy sector, providing end-to-end carbon transparency by integrating data from upstream/downstream, onshore/offshore, asset phases, and offshore business including maritime. As they become more widely adopted, more and more use cases are being identified by the users, further increasing the value of such systems. These include applications in finance and the supply chain through operations, maintenance, and projects.
During the recent pandemic, there was a significant reduction in energy usage as people stayed at home and many aspects of day-to-day life were paused. This unprecedented situation raised awareness both of climate change and of air quality—two aspects that are strongly linked and are of significant concern. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year from strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases.
Although some thought the economic slowdown created by the pandemic would decelerate projects to address climate change, the experience of cleaner air and, maybe, a wake-up call on our own fragility has shown the potential for the future and resulted in a renewed focus and acceleration of the energy transition to greener sources. However, as energy usage begins to increase once again, we need to understand the changes in what is being demanded and look at how this can be met with sustainable sources.
By using digital twins, oil and gas companies can contextualize all assets including hydrogen, CCS, wind, and electrification to support the energy transition with improved economics and viability of low-margin environments. Value of assets can be optimized, and scenarios simulated, helping smooth the way to new energies and better emissions management. Emissions can be identified and communicated through the supply chain and, as the scale of the digital twin increases, the overall carbon footprint can be accurately measured and decreased.
Beyond Operations to Investors and the Future
Investors are looking for strong solutions to handle emissions and the innovation needed for a more sustainable industry in the future. ESG standards are quickly becoming a key area of focus for industry worldwide. Reliable reporting and tracking of carbon emissions is a critical aspect of ESG and one that affects performance, profitability, and perception of a business. Generally, transparency is part of good governance and making corporate behavior more measurable. The more a company discloses, therefore, the higher the ESG score it receives. No or bad data increases uncertainty, elevates the risk of an ESG event, and will result in a poorer ESG score. A digital twin allows the facility to gather all the data needed to report on emissions performance through a single interface. Utilizing hybrid machine learning, algorithms can be used to measure and optimize emissions and performance of assets and add significant value to the business. CCS facility modeling further enables measurement, tracking, and visibility of capture and storage to facilitate collaboration and optimization across the value chain.
Of course, challenges such as climate change cannot be solved only by individuals. Industry and governments need to work together as a global collective if we are to succeed and leave the planet in a better condition for the next generations. Technology and digitalization are going to be at the core of this success.
Ultimately, a digital twin provides a platform to help companies meet their net zero commitments through reduced emissions from traditional energy resources and improved economic viability of greener sources. It provides a single source of truth for transparent emissions reporting, enabling better investor ESG analysis and improved shareholder value. Beyond energy optimization and emissions reporting, it offers a landscape to reduce waste across all global resources and provide a more sustainable future.
To achieve net zero by 2050 we need to innovate together and use every tool available to us. Making better use of the data around us through a digital twin is one of the critical weapons in our arsenal.