Preventing Disasters With A Digital Twin

Vatsan Govindarajan

In 2010, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry took place when a wellhead blowout caused a massive explosion, resulting in the deaths of 11 people and the discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, this type of crisis can be averted. By leveraging the power of digital twin technology, an enterprise can remotely monitor and analyze the condition of its assets in real time and help prevent the next catastrophic disaster.

A simpler way to inspect and maintain subsea equipment

Digital twin software bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Equipping assets with subsea, Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled sensors – and conducting real-time, model-based analysis – allows for simulation of the real-word conditions of the physical equipment through their virtual equivalents.

Organizations operating assets exposed to dynamic loads can use digital twin technology to replace or complement complex and expensive physical inspections with more cost-efficient digital inspections.

Digital twin technology provides the visibility and predictability needed to safely inspect subsea equipment without embarking on a costly underwater operation. It can also help reduce the risk of unnecessary shutdowns or damages due to errors in judgment. The moment the digital twin indicates there is an anomaly, a notification is sent. It is then possible to digitally replay exactly what happened to the equipment and perform diagnostics, assess the gravity of the situation, and identify root causes.

If particularly harsh conditions caused the wellhead to move more than normal, this could be visualized – from a multitude of perspectives – and the short-term risk to breakage and long-term effects of fatigue damage could be determined.

In addition to discovering what previously happened, digital twin technology gives the power to predict what might occur in the future. Say a major storm is approaching. Winds are expected to blow 115 miles per hour. Waves may climb up to heights of 40 feet. How will the wellhead stand up to this scenario?

A digital twin could tell. And based on that information, a decision could be made before the storm arrives whether to expose the wellhead to the fatigue and extreme loads or risk an emergency disconnect. The alternative may be an emergency shutdown or, worst-case scenario, a potentially critical accident. A digital twin could also help simulate what oil rig adjustments could be made to reduce impact from the storm.

From insight to hindsight to foresight

With regards to assets exposed to complex and dynamic loads, companies have learned to live with uncertainty. If an asset breaks, an organization may have to exert a great deal of effort to first figure out what went wrong, and then undertake a long, costly, and potentially unsafe initiative to fix it.

Today, your enterprise should use a digital twin, powered by IoT, to gain the insight, hindsight, and foresight it needs to successfully manage your equipment – all for a fraction of the time, cost, and risk it previously required.

Watch this video to see how Arctic Wind uses digital twin and IoT technology to maintain wind turbines in the world’s northernmost wind farm.

SAP video journalist Susan Galer, Thomas Kaiser, senior vice president of IoT at SAP, explains how digital twin technology helps companies harness the explosion of data — business, contextual, and sensor – for insights and actions with valuable outcomes. See what the “Digital Twin Technology Serves Up IoT Big on Business Value.”

About Vatsan Govindarajan

Vatsan Govindarajan heads global product development in the high-fidelity digital twin space at SAP. His team's work in high-fidelity digital twin innovation applies Newtonian physics and engineering simulation capabilities to the Internet of Things to monitor and analyze in real time the behavior of structures and mechanical systems under the influence of complex and dynamic loads.