Shell joins digital twin initiative for offshore oil and gas assets
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Shell joins digital twin initiative for offshore oil and gas assets

Oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) has become the first operator to sign up as a participant in a two-year digital twin initiative. 

The Joint Industry Project (JIP) will be led by Swiss engineering modelling and simulation technology company Akselos and engineering research and development experts at LICengineering, a Danish consultancy firm specialising in the marine and offshore energy sectors.

The JIP focuses on advancing the structural integrity management (SIM) of offshore assets, such as oil rigs, by combining fully detailed structural simulation models – or ‘digital twins’ – with sensor data and big data analytics.

According to Akselos chief executive Thomas Leurent, the system has been in development for almost six years, building on technology previously patented in 2011 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Read more: IoT boosts healthy and safety in offshore environments

A ‘next step’ in digital twin tech

The project will begin with one of Shell’s assets in the Southern North Sea. The aim is that insights from the project will assist oil and gas operators in the management of their offshore assets,  improve worker safety and explore predictive maintenance, for example.

The breakdown of the project’s lifespan is as follows: In the first year of the project, Shell will receive a condition-based model of its selected assets, enabling the company to analyze structural integrity with more accuracy and detail than it has been able to previously, the JIP members claim.

In the second year, Akselos will supposedly combine this model with sensor data, to allow Shell to monitor the health of its asset in real time, meaning Shell operators can then predict its future condition.

This sensor-equipped digital twin might in future be replicated by other oil and gas operators, allowing them to interact with their own assets virtually and in real time, and giving round-the-clock visibility over assets. However, after the initial project with Shell, the companies say that the Eurostars funding will allow just two more operators to participate in the project at a significantly reduced price.

Read more: What data does a ‘digital twin’ run on?

Global challenges

Commenting on the importance of the deal to Shell, Lourens Post, Shell global manager, Fluid Flow & Reaction Engineering, said the company is “committed to overcoming technology challenges across our global energy portfolio by supporting innovation through research and development.

“As one of the largest oil and gas industry investors in R&D, the Akselos and LICengineering JIP is a great fit for our strategy. Collaborating with world-class companies and experts is crucial if we are to drive real innovation in the oil and gas sector and create a safer and more efficient industry. We have seen great results working with Akselos so far, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of the big data analysis in the second year of the JIP.”

The project is funded by Eurostars, a joint programme between EUREKA, an intergovernmental network that supports international collaboration on R&D, and the European Union through the Horizon 2020 fund, and is specifically aimed supporting the research work of small and medium-sized enterprises.

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