Key to Navigating the Energy Transition is In the Data

Steve Parvin, Head of Information Engineering, AVEVA

Steve Parvin, Head of Information Engineering, AVEVA

The process plant industry knows it needs to build and operate more efficient and sustainable plants. The good news is that the technology needed to solve the complex challenges of engineering modern, efficient and sustainable plants of the future is already here. Organisations are actively implementing digital twin strategies with intelligent engineering information at their core to transform plant performance across both brownfield and greenfield projects, as well as in their operational state.

The transition to greener more sustainable projects and operations has accelerated over the past year. And against this trend, digital transformation must keep pace. The digitalisation, efficiency and sustainability initiatives are in motion, but there remains a long way to go. Capital projects are still carbon-intensive, and operational programmes depend on digital insights and large-scale cultural and strategic shifts before sustainability outcomes can be fully realised.

No matter whether you begin in the operational or project phase of your plant, the answers to more sustainable practices are already available in the data. Creating a data-centric culture that collates and verifies engineering data into a single, trusted hub right from the initial phases of a project is cornerstone of a reliable digital twin. Research by Deloitte found that digital transformation provides an opportunity to gain safety, efficiency and significant financial benefits, including a 5-10pc reduction in build costs and a 10-20pc reduction in operational costs.

By connecting teams, engineering tools and data at every phase of the project, performance can be transformed and engineering efficiency increased by 30pc. With teams aligned around the data, siloes can be broken down, improving transparency, collaboration and decision-making. As performance and efficiency increases project costs and risks reduce—freeing up time for engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) contractors and owner-operators to spend more time on innovation to deliver better solutions to complex problems.

Open to change

The industrial sector is now embracing technology and new ways of working to build the sustainable, digital and connected plants of the future. To get there, project and operations teams will depend on innovation, flexibility and collaboration to reform an industry ripe for change.

Cloud and interactive 3D visualisation, engineering and simulation solutions are enabling EPCs and owner-operators to become better prepared for what lies ahead. They integrate engineering tools and streamline processes to meet key business imperatives: engineering efficiency, sustainability, and budget capital project delivery, and the creation and maintenance of the trusted engineering data that forms the digital twin. 

Unique challenges, one solution

Digital twins are useful in transforming both net-new and brownfield projects, and even operational plants, to deliver sustainable outcomes and optimise performance long into the future.

  • Net-new, greenfield projects: Whether for net-zero, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen production or for renewable power generation, connected engineering informationcan be used to build a digital twin for teams to efficiently innovate and design for sustainability, reduce emissions and waste, and hand the plant—and the digital twin—over seamlessly to operations.
  • Brownfield revamp projects: It is not just new developments where digital twin technology can deliver results. Existing plantscan be transformed to become connected digital facilities as well—empowering capital project planning and execution, or to create operational insights to improve performance. Going forward, this digital thread can be used to also modernise operations, extend plant lifetime, and ensure continued compliance with sustainability and safety regulations that emerge over time.

Why intelligent engineering information management matters

Integrating quality engineering data within a capital project can deliver benefits immediately and long into the future. Once a data-centric approach is implemented in a capital project, owner-operators and EPCs can reuse the same data structure on future projects, allowing them to accelerate the process and continuously identify opportunities to improve both performance and design.

Putting trusted engineering information at the core of your project and plant digital twin can produce the following wins in the immediate, medium and long terms:

  • Immediate wins: Connecting people, data and decision-making drives down costs, reduces waste and improves project efficiencies.
  • Medium-term wins:By developing a data-rich digital twin right from the conceptual phase of an engineering project, when it comes to handover, the owner operator can receive an accurate digital twin that will support operator training, eliminate startup risks, optimise operations performance and provide an ‘as-is’ digital replica for future maintenance programmes.
  • Long-term wins: If developed from the initial concept and maintained throughout the operational phase, a digital thread is created that allows each asset to be tied back to the original concept, providing actionable performance insights and enabling sustainability key performance indicators to be tracked.

Tomorrow’s plants will be smart, automated, efficient and well connected, regardless of whether built recently or many years in the past. Operations, maintenance and capital project stakeholders will be connected to a single, trusted hub of data—the digital twin—to break down siloes, enable collaboration and facilitate smarter decisions made faster.

The solutions to achieve this are already here. The process plant industry has an imperative, and an opportunity, to transform today and achieve a sustainable and high performing plant for tomorrow.