Transforming turnarounds with digital twin technology

Transforming turnarounds with digital twin technology

June 15, 2022
Time to read: 8 minutes
Morten Hansen

Steep costs, extensive planning, intensive use of resources… and that’s when things go well with a planned turnaround, so just imagine what happens when things go wrong. Is it possible for digital twin technology to ease the burden of turnarounds?

Turnarounds are expensive, planned periods of large-scale refurbishment in plants/refineries where the facility, in part or whole, is taken offline to facilitate more extensive access to equipment and systems for inspection and repair work. They are unavoidable and play a critical role in improving plant efficiency, avoiding unplanned outages, and preventing catastrophic accidents. Depending on the size of the operation, a turnaround could involve thousands of people working for many weeks and cost millions. To give an idea, last year’s major turnaround at Neste’s Porvoo refinery in Finland had an investment of around €630 million, involved 6,000 people, and took over 1.5 million working hours to complete.

While planned turnarounds are an essential part of avoiding shutdowns, they often uncover more problems than anticipated making it difficult to stay on track in terms of timelines and budget. It’s a complicated process – and that’s exactly why it’s so appealing to apply technology to optimize operations across the board.

In addition to the important factors mentioned above, it is worth going into a bit more detail on one of the key reasons why turnarounds are necessary to help avoid shutdowns.

A benchmarking study found that more than 60% of industry professionals receive less than one week’s notice of impending machine breakdowns. That leaves little time to repair or replace a piece of equipment, especially when it is connected to other parts, requires isolation planning to disconnect, and may function as an integral part of certain operational processes. It also leaves little room for mitigation planning and increases the risk of dangerous working environments.

And although the costs of a planned turnaround are huge, the economic implications of unplanned shutdowns are even larger. One study found that offshore oil and gas organizations can see an average financial impact of around $49 million per year due to unplanned downtime – and just 3.65 days of unplanned downtime a year can cost up to $5 million. Resuming operations following shutdown are costly as it takes a high level of manpower and meticulous planning to restart operations. This also attracts increased risks due to undesired events such as leaks while having large numbers of people present on facilities during starting and ramping-up operations.

It is clear just how much turnarounds can cost and why they are important considerations for operators to achieve safe and reliable operations. But what are some specific challenges that downstream operators face when it comes to turnarounds – and how can digital twin technology help?

We know where it hurts

As domain experts, we understand the challenges facing downstream industries when it comes to executing turnarounds.

Evaluations for planning – Operators need as much data and insights as possible to plan for the use of manpower, time, and capital the turnaround will require. In addition, they need to secure the area and account for reduced production.

Accuracy of cost estimates – Did you know that only 21% of budgets include an allowance for unknown expenditures that surface during turnarounds? It’s notoriously difficult to pin down exactly how much things will cost when you’re not sure what will happen.

Setting up a timeline – Similarly, it’s difficult to put a date on it. And as the date gets pushed back, the costs of labor and tools increase alongside the loss of revenue and opportunity from halted production.

Safety concerns – Inadequate planning leads to major safety risks. Turnaround planning needs to include specific measures for risk mitigation, safe isolation, and simultaneous operations.

Resources, resources, resources – Turnarounds require resources – people, equipment, information, inventories, and consumables. Successfully executing turnarounds hinges on the ability of experienced turnaround managers to pull these vast amounts of resources together, put the right things in place at the right time, and ensure that operations resume as fast as possible.

How much easier would it be to plan for turnarounds if there was an online performance monitoring system in place to show exactly where things need to happen?

What if the turnaround manager could see a digital replica of the entire plant or refinery down to the smallest part, and use this information to allocate resources in the most effective way possible?

"What if turnarounds could be optimized for more profitable and safer operations by using a digital twin to enhance refinery production, minimize unplanned downtime, and maintain healthy equipment?"

Say hello to Kognitwin

Kognitwin, our digital twin solution, provides a dynamic, virtual replica of your plant/refinery in a cloud-based environment. This provides the visual and spatial understanding of operations that you need to work smarter and safer. Our solution opens a new door to integrated maintenance planning across your organization, with the potential to introduce more autonomous operations even during turnarounds.

  • INTEGRATED PLANNING: Unobstructed 3D modeling is paired with the ability to zoom in on any part of the plant or refinery. Users can click on a piece of equipment and retrieve centralized single sources of data like P&ID diagrams, engineering documents, and maintenance logs and schedules.
  • UTILIZE EXISTING DATA: Historical data of previous turnaround and shutdown information can be imported so that turnaround managers can find the data they need in a centralized place, together with real-time data. Data is democratized and made accessible in a visual way for everyone involved in the planning and execution of turnaround activities.
  • ENHANCED COLLABORATION: Teams can collaborate online daily while looking at the same view in the twin to understand the scope of the project and plan together.
  • RESOURCE ALLOCATION: Leverage the data available in the twin to understand the full scope of maintenance necessary and use this knowledge to set up more accurate budgets and timelines for turnaround activities.
  • NEW WAYS OF WORKING: Users can aggregate information into work packages to collect and maintain elements from the twin in a context that is relevant to them. These can also be shared between users.
  • SUSTAINABLE OPERATIONS: Extend the lifecycle of assets by getting insights about required maintenance and estimates of remaining useful life based on equipment degradation.
  • ONE ENVIRONMENT FOR SIMULATION AND ANALYTICS: Kognitwin’s hybrid Machine Learning can help with both prescriptive and predictive maintenance analysis to optimize turnaround activities and simulate multiple operational scenarios. With digital twin technology, it becomes possible to see the implications of turnaround activities before executing them.

Kognitwin in Action: Customer Use Case

Planning ahead

Starting from the scoping phase, a digital twin helps with every step of planning and executing successful turnarounds. Kognitwin ingests an asset’s industrial data to create a realistic virtual replica complete with 2D and 3D models, P&ID diagrams, engineering documents, and imagery. For one of our customers, this meant that turnaround scoping could take place in a data-rich environment that allowed them to visualize their plant digitally and inspect equipment down to the smallest nuts and bolts using the digital twin’s advanced built-in features and tools. For instance, when they needed to plan for equipment placement during turnaround activities such as bringing in rental equipment like cranes, they simply measured the area in the twin where the equipment was to be placed and got immediate spatial awareness within the twin’s immersive 3D cloud environment. And since Kognitwin enables users to take measurements virtually from any remote location, it didn’t require sending personnel to the site – which meant massive savings in the turnaround’s budget for operating costs.

Our customer’s team found it especially easy to search for documents based on filters and navigators to find metadata for any object in the twin at the click of a button. Users annotated visuals like P&ID diagrams with additional information like alerts and cautionary notes to enhance communication and collaboration across teams, helping to reduce safety risks for the many workers involved in the turnaround activities.

Eliminating scheduling conflicts

Moving on to planning and scheduling, Kognitwin’s Cumulative Work Visualization capability provides a 2D and/or 3D view of work orders, notifications, and workflow progress over a user-selected timeframe. The customer used this feature to plan turnaround activities in parallel with ongoing and planned maintenance and see exactly where there might be conflicts in schedules. The twin was used to create Safe Isolation plans to ensure HSE standards were upheld throughout turnaround activity, and its integrated maintenance activity planning features were leveraged to accurately forecast maintenance needs and orchestrate the large-scale execution of these.

Spare parts tracking and supply chain management

Kognitwin can run sophisticated simulations for material handling operations, allowing users to test operational scenarios in a detailed virtual model of the customer’s plant to plan around inventories and consumables. Features such as Spare Parts Integration and Auto-allocation make it easy to streamline planning around the delivery and logistics of parts in a single accessible environment that helps remove tedious manual processes to save time and optimize existing processes. Using Equipment Tracking and Logistical Operations features allowed our customer’s turnaround manager to track moving equipment in 2D/3D right in the twin, helping to effectively optimize inventory management in line with turnaround requirements.

Back on track

When the plant was brought online again following the turnaround, Kognitwin was there to update dashboards and information about maintenance history to reflect the outcomes of turnaround activities. For example, staff involved with the turnaround could see the expected remaining lifetime of assets and were able to compare this with benchmark information to understand the impact of turnaround activities conducted across the plant.

And that’s just a brief insight into one example, from one customer. Kognitwin is your industrial work surface – not only for turnarounds, but also for daily workflow execution and collaboration.

Get in touch with our downstream experts to learn more about what Kognitwin can do to improve your operational results by harnessing the tools offered in this digital age.

About the author

Transforming turnarounds with digital twin technology

Morten Hansen

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