Have you thought about getting digital with data?

At io we give considerable thought to how new and innovative technologies can help enable our client’s projects. We, like many others, believe the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the trend stet digitisation can offer the oil and gas industry the biggest value opportunity of our generation. Here at io we look to embed a digital philosophy in the front end by ‘starting with the end in mind’ and thinking holistically about a project. This approach of creating a ‘digital thread’ through a project’s lifecycle is one of the ways we believe the digitisation value opportunity can be realised.

One example of where digitisation can hugely help the oil and gas industry was described in a Financial Times article late last year. The article discussed a leaked report about a super major, which identified two high potential safety events, one of which cost an estimated $258m in lost production due to failures in the management of engineering information and data[1]. The report concluded that the company in question did not have a “standard and global approach to managing engineering information and data through the life of an asset.”[2] While the report refers to events at downstream assets, the challenge of collating, storing and analysing data is just as relevant to upstream and midstream assets. Indeed, one of the conclusions of the report is to adopt a “standard and global” strategy for asset data and information. We call this creating a digital thread. More recently on a similar theme, the Digital Transformation Initiative White Paper presented at the Davos World Economic Forum, includes a recommendation for communities, policy-makers and governments to “develop global data standards and policies related to data sharing and security.”[3] The signs are crystal clear, industry as a whole needs to consider more carefully than ever, how to handle, store, analyse and act on data, i.e. how they create a digital thread for their asset.

This is not a new problem of course and the oil and gas industry is not alone in the requirement to handle and process large amounts of critical data; our industry should learn from the successes of other industries. For example, in one of our recent articles, we discussed the competitive advantages the 3D building information modelling (BIM) methodology from the construction industry could bring to the oil and gas industry[4]. BIM provides a common process for collaborative information modelling and information management through the entire project life cycle; the output of which, is a living, virtual model of a building or place. The benefits of a BIM approach saw the UK Government Construction Strategy, published by the Cabinet office on 31 May 2011, require collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) on its projects by 2016[5].

To get the most out of the IIoT and digitisation the oil and gas industry will have to embrace the opportunities and values offered. This is why io advocate creating a digital thread early, starting in the concept selection and definition phases; thereby creating a coherent strategy for how “digitisation” in all its manifestations will be leveraged to realise the value opportunity all observers suggest it promises. At io we do this by ‘starting with the end in mind’ and recognising how we can leverage the engineering information and data created throughout the lifecycle to improve many aspects of a project including safety performance and operational excellence.

This concept can be enlarged further to embrace the concept of ‘digital standards’ as a whole, which is something io believe is critical for the industry to develop now. Establishing a strategy similar to BIM offers a solution to part of this challenge. BIM enables an iterative and layered approach to the building of the digital model which is handed over as the phases of the project progress; each discipline adding their own data to a single shared model. This ensures a coherent information management strategy for each new team taking ownership of a project as it is passed off between entities involved in the design, build and operate phases of its life. Such an approach would minimise data losses during handover and will provide increasingly extensive information to owners of complex assets.

By taking this approach other benefits can be realised. These benefits apply for a 3D model and beyond for example, by adding other dimensions or layers of information to the model we can start to identify potential safety, cost and schedule improvements; as we introduce time (4D); cost estimates for CAPEX and OPEX (5D); energy consumption (6D); and operations and maintenance data (7D) into the model.

By introducing schedule, or time, data to the 3D model, we move the model from a design tool to a construction planning tool. By incorporating the schedule into the model we enable better visualisation of the steps in construction, mitigating potential clashes and delays. As the data evolves and as built drawings are produced, the ability to detect and manage clashes and delays is enhanced. In doing so, the improved co-ordination of construction is achieved and can be used to limit inefficient activities and reduce lead time.

When the digital model includes cost information, a fifth dimension is crafted. This does not just mean the CAPEX of the equipment and construction alone, but the model can also, in conjunction with the time-related dimension, take into consideration the operating costs of an asset. By bringing the cost estimators into the modelling stage, they are involved far earlier in the process and add more value to the project as an influential, collaborative team member. This brings far greater certainty to the cost estimates, which evolve as the model evolves, reducing the likelihood of cost overruns.

The sixth dimension in the “BIM representation” of the model would be sustainability, or the life of field energy consumption. Gaining a better understanding of the energy consumption of a facility we can work to minimise it.

The final dimension of the model relates to operation and maintenance, it is where the asset data sheet, component specifications, drawings and manuals reside. This is the area of the model where performance of components can be monitored, the lessons learnt and read back into future models with similar componentry. Utilising the IIoT, the seventh dimension of the model can work in conjunction with equipment self-monitoring to communicate with manufacturer’s ERP systems, or even locally located 3D printers, to ensure replacement parts are available before they are required; or, as per the Toyota Production System (TPS) deliver replacement parts Just In Time (JIT). Even further, if the model contains the mean time before failure (MTBF) data for components then there could be less unplanned maintenance in the future.

We believe, each layer of data incorporated to the model yields increasing advantages to safety, cost and schedule. If we take the data in the model beyond even the traditional dimensional, cost and performance attributes and incorporate the GIS and smart plant data associated with the infrastructure then the model can reach even higher levels of insight by offering spatial analytics, optimised logistics and transport, and visualisation of emergency responses.

A BIM strategy, supported by digital standards, provides a common approach for everyone to work with. By collating the data as it becomes available through the project life cycle, in a single, standardised methodology, a live, dynamic model of the holistic field development can be created. This model can be leveraged to reduce construction time and cost, improve constructability, provide a better estimate of the total cost of life, including decommissioning, and help maximise operational efficiency. In essence creating a comprehensive model using BIM approach, companies would be taking a step in the direction of creating ‘digital twins’ of their assets. ‘Digital twins’ ultimately are not just about a single asset but about collating and passing on learnings for future projects. Digital twin building throughout the life of the asset offers a huge benefit for commissioning, operations excellence, safety and decommissioning but to achieve this vision requires a transformational change in attitude towards digitization now.

With all this on offer, the oil and gas industry needs to adopt a BIM like strategy and thereby step change the approach to realise the value potential the IIoT and digitisation can bring. At io we work with clients in the earliest stages of a project to develop approaches to digitisation to promote the opportunities it can bring our industry.

[1] Financial Times, Wednesday 14th December 2016
[2] Financial Times, Wednesday 14th December 2016
[3] Digital Transformation Initiative Oil and Gas Industry White Paper, World Economic Forum, January 2017
[4] www.iooilandgas.com/article/how-can-the-oil-and-gas-industry-exploit-the-big-data-revolution
[5] http://www.bimtaskgroup.org/