Adding Value with Siemens Intelligent Digital Twin - Interview with Elgonda La Grange

1.      Can you tell us about the Topsides 4.0 solution and its benefits to the oil and gas industry?

Topsides 4.0 is our secure, digital approach to rotating equipment and electrical, instrumentation & control (EIC) systems through the entire lifecycle of the asset.

When we started developing Topsides 4.0, we asked customers what they want to achieve with digitalisation. Of course, they said lower CAPEX. But they also told us that they want the projects to be delivered in a shorter time frame and that they specifically want the time between commissioning and stable operation to be shorter – that is the time when they are most heavily invested in the project and reducing that has a considerable impact on CAPEX. They also told us that many of their project delays are because of integration issues between the various topsides packages. Lastly, almost all of them said that they needed to reduce the OPEX of their facilities through reduced manning and predictive diagnostics. 

When we looked at how we could deliver these, it was clear that wrapping a digital layer around rotating equipment and EIC would have the most significant impact – rotating equipment because it is almost always on the critical path, and EIC because automation impacts integration, manning and analytics.


2.      In what other ways are Siemens using digitalisation to improve efficiencies in the industry?

Topsides 4.0 is a holistic approach that integrates a broad range of Siemens digital offerings for oil and gas.  We continue to develop new ways in which we can add value to our customers’ businesses, specifically around automated monitoring and OEM services, but these solutions all fit into the Topsides 4.0 framework.


3.      How are Siemens using data-driven technology to change operations offshore?

Data-driven technologies impact oil and gas operations right from the concept and then continue to deliver benefit during the operational phase of an asset life cycle. It is not a single “killer app,” but rather an integrated digital approach that wraps around all our core deliverables.

We start during the Concept and Design phase by creating a digital data backbone that provides data persistence through the lifecycle of the asset.

•        Concept development begins with process simulation.  Siemens does not sell process simulation software, but we know we have to integrate with leading process design packages seamlessly and we do that.

•        We use our configurators for rotating equipment to do design optimization in real-time with the feed contractor. These configurators embed best practices and auto-generate engineering documents, like P&IDs, wiring diagrams, 3d models, etc. and saves about 30% on engineering time. That means we can evaluate more design cases during concept to simultaneously optimize the life cycle cost of the process and the rotating equipment.

•        For EIC we achieve a similar reduction in engineering by using engineering tools and templates that are designed for remote control and monitoring. To remove interfacing risk, we natively integrate 3rd party package controls into our automation system.  Having a single automation system on the facility makes remote operations much more feasible.

•        The data that is created in the FEED phase is carried forward to the design and build phases and enables digital fabrication and commissioning. A good example of digital fabrication is that our EIC engineering tool (COMOS) automatically downloads the configuration of the control and safety system directly into the control system hardware (SIMATIC PCS7) without manual configuration. For rotating equipment, we are now developing RITA (Remote Inspection & Testing App) that will allow clients to participate in compressor string tests remotely. 

•        Once the operate and maintain phase starts, we add real-time process and maintenance data to the data backbone and we run process and equipment analytics on the full data set. This area of automated monitoring and OEM services for asset optimization supports collaboration between various OEMS, each to bring their own subject matter expertise to the solution.


4.      What challenges does the industry face when it comes to digital adoption?

In our experience, the industry faces the following challenges in adopting digitalisation, in order of importance

·        Customer-Supplier Business Model

Digitalisation requires end customers to transition from a procurement to a partnership mindset. In a mature market price, competition and vendor rotation is standard practice, but digitalisation is only at the start of the adoption S-curve.  The pace of development is much higher than what the O&G industry is used to.

·        Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a little like HSE. It is a reality that must be managed, in the same way that HSE is a reality.  It has to become part of your DNA – everyone has to practice safe cyber work practices every day.  Everyone has to be 100% aware. But on the other hand, cybersecurity is not like HSE at all, because the risks evolve every day and you have to evolve with it every day to stay ahead of the game.

Cyber, like digitalisation, is a journey not an event. It is a continuous cycle of testing and securing the cyber environment, detecting anomalies and hardening your infrastructure.

But it is not a reason to block the benefits of operating in a connected world.

·        Data Privacy

This requires a fundamental mind shift for the industry to ask itself “what data can't I share?” Rather than “what data can I share?” The default should be that the relevant data should always be accessible in a secure environment to key stakeholders.  An example: An O&G operator perhaps have 50 compressors and turbines in its operational fleet.  Siemens as OEM have 1000s of compressors and turbines in its installed base.  Having access to operations and maintenance data for all of these helps us gain insights much faster than a single operator ever can. It further helps us to continuously improve our designs under all operating conditions, optimized spares holding, faster response to developing issues, etc.

Some operators are starting to adopt data sharing and are seeing real benefits.

·        Culture

This industry needs to accept that today’s best practices will not be tomorrow’s best practices. We have gone a long way to optimizing within individual functional domains, but with digitalisation, the opportunity lies between the silos.

The industry has always been extremely risk-averse, but the risk in digitalisation does not lie in failing, it lies in doing nothing. Accepting failure as part of the process allows us to start small, learn and course correct fast.

5.      When looking at the future of oil and gas, what opportunities are there for further adoption of digitalisation and new technology?

I don’t think anyone can fully imagine how digitalization will impact our work, and our world, in years to come.  We have barely begun to explore the potential of digitalisation and there is still much more to achieve in terms of the automation of tasks, integration of functional silos, and knowledge capture of our experts.

6.      Are there any new automation offerings that Siemens are developing at the moment?

Siemens is proud to be continuously developing our automation offerings with the new TiA platform and our new generation DCS solutions. We also focus on striving for “zero engineering effort” to take standardisation to new levels for O&G in upstream, midstream and downstream.

7.      How does Siemens respond to the idea of the ‘digital twin’ and does this motivate you when developing new technology?

The digital twin is a core concept for digitalization, and we are investing to make that a reality for all our equipment. But it is not simply a digital view of, for example, a compressor. Siemens believes the digital twin must reflect

·        the product (i.e., the compressor),

·        the plant (the context within which the product operates, e.g., the overall topsides facility). An area of specific focus is representing the as-is status of the plant as opposed to as-built.

·        the process (a dynamic representation of the chemistry and physics),

·        and the performance (KPIs of equipment and process against a given baseline)


8.      With a big focus on digitalisation, what do you predict for the future of the oil and gas industry?  Will companies continue to embrace new technology and transform the way in which we work?

DigitaliSation is not a passing trend. It is indeed the 4th Industrial Revolution, and market dynamics will force companies to get on board. 12 months ago the industry was still discussing whether they should embrace digitalization. Today the discussion is about how to embrace digitalisation. Some companies will be slower than others but every single O&G operator that I have spoken to over the past six months are already engaged in digitalisation in some shape or form. This will only grow. Digitalisation is already a reality today.  

Published: 25-07-2018

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