Digital Twin Technology in Upstream Oil and Gas

Digital Twin technology is used in production processes to provide comparisons between actual and ideal as well as provide a safe environment for upskilling and innovating. It can be used by energy producers even in subsurface oil & gas exploration and production.

Emerson's Indy Chakrabarty on Digital Twins at CERAWeek 2019In a CERAWeek 2019 panel session, Emerson’s Indy Chakrabarti joined a panel session, Transforming the Upstream Business through Digital Twins. The panelists were each asked, “What is a digital twin?” Indy responded with an analogy of the twin children he has. He has a model for how they should behave. They don’t necessarily always behave to fit the model. The difference is what is worked on to improve behavior.

One panelist gave the example of YouTube videos replacing manuals for repair practices. Being able to see the steps required and rewinding instead of reading about it is a much more powerful approach. In building models, involving people is critical in getting buy in to use the digital twin simulations.

Indy described subsurface modeling and technology advancements where now subsurface and the surface can be connected so that you can optimize surface oil & gas production operations based on what the subsurface models predict what changes will occur in production rates.

The panel was asked about a digital twin failure. Failure is a rather harsh term. Immature models will not yield great insights when compared with the real process. As the model matures it moves closer to the dynamics of the real process. Another panelist mentioned that maintaining the same work processes is path that will greatly limit success.

The second theme is if digital twin technology, as part of digitalization or digital transformation, is creating value. Breaking down silos is the biggest promise, since access to can inform better decisions. Indy noted that oil and gas producers are asking to bring a common view to disparate views of the subsurface and the surface systems.

The Cloud has enabled a much greater level of collaboration across operators, engineering contractors, key suppliers. It was simply too difficult with different systems running at different sites with different software to achieve this level of collaboration.

Indy explained that reservoir modeling has always been a digital twin since you can’t see the subsurface rock formations. By integrating the subsurface with the surface systems, the performance on the surface can feedback to the subsurface models and improve its accuracy. Before closing this loop, it may have taken operators months to update their models. Improving the models more quickly means better decisions for optimizing production and reworking or drilling new wells.

Rigs are moving so fast in shale areas like the Permian Basin, that the drilling, completing and producing plans are cut and paste efforts from the prior ones. Indy shared the need to automate the plans based on the geology of the new spots to be drilled and that this is an area of focus to create these plans.

Visit the Emerson’s Paradigm website for more on connecting subsurface digital twins to surface production.

Posted Tuesday, March 12th, 2019 under Oil & Gas.

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