Accelerating technology innovations, the rise of alternative fuels, and expanding export opportunities for LNG and US oil mean that the midstream sector in North America is entering a period of promising growth. Whether focusing on a specific commodity or working across the value chain, digital twins have much to offer midstream operations that span the gathering, transportation, fractionation, and storage of natural gas, crude oil, chemicals, NGLS and more. Let’s discover how this technology can be leveraged by midstream companies to increase reliability, operational excellence, and safety control while continuing to generate value and seize upcoming opportunities for advancement.
Before diving into what this technology could mean for midstream, here’s a quick rundown of how we see digital twins for heavy asset industries.
A digital twin is a cloud-based solution that uses data to create a realistic and highly accurate digital version of an asset, facility, or vessel, including its layout and components right down to equipment pieces and nuts and bolts. Users can access a single environment on any web-enabled device to virtually explore an overview of all company assets, one specific asset, search for information, run entire workflows, and collaborate with other users remotely.
When looking at the almost infinite amount of data available to midstream companies, it becomes clear that technology can help reduce complexity to truly unlock the value of this data – especially considering the increasingly dispersed data landscape in midstream. As companies expand through acquisitions, each brings its own set of systems, technologies, and data management practices to the table. Over time, this leads to a complex and fragmented data environment, leaving important information scattered across various platforms and databases.
A lack of standardization and interoperability further complicates the data management challenge. A digital twin provides a place for midstream operators to integrate data sources and foster a holistic understanding of operations through data contextualization and visualisation supported by advanced analytics.
The many records, documents, drawings, images, reports, and schedules across a facility – right down to the data connected to a single piece of equipment – can be brought together in one digital environment and displayed in a way that makes sense to different levels of users.
Many of North America’s largest pipeline companies operate pipeline systems that were installed more than fifty years ago. For aging infrastructure, digital twins offer rewarding opportunities for better performance, more focused maintenance, and improved asset integrity.
Workflows like Performance Monitoring and Proactive Technical Monitoring in a digital twin make it possible to monitor equipment and assets at a midstream facility over time to evaluate baseline trends and deviations. This helps operations teams and engineers with the early identification of technical issues in processing plants and pipelines, ensuring timely intervention and avoidance of critical equipment failure.
On-site activities can be expedited or deferred based on real-time data-driven assessments in the twin, and data from steady-state and dynamic simulators can predict operational parameters for equipment to improve energy usage and drive improvements in terms of efficiency and emissions reduction.
Alert! Learn about dynamic simulators for midstream use cases in our upcoming blog posts. Follow our LinkedIn page for the latest updates
Increasing pressure and expectations to operate more sustainably – not only in terms of regulatory requirements but also the expectation of delivering renewable fuels at scale for the future – could have serious ramifications when it comes to capital investments, supply chain reliability, and energy costs to end customers. Emerging demands from governing authorities require technology adoption and new investments, while negative perceptions around the oil and gas industry’s seeming inability to operate greener deprive midstream operators of much-needed investment possibilities.
Digital twins with workflow support for emissions management, supply chain optimization, and streamlined resource allocation can help midstream companies scale alongside growing ambitions to play a part in the energy transition. They also open new opportunities for companies to collaborate and innovate at a higher level to further the industry’s common goal of a safer, smarter, and more sustainable tomorrow.
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