The global community is now facing a revolution of information technologies. Computers, telecommunication networks and other digital systems allow us to transmit information quickly and connect with distant places allowing the institutions and organizations to enhance their quality, productivity, as well as control the costs.

The digital twin is one of these important evolved technologies, which is rapidly becoming imperative and cost effective when implemented in business operations thanks to Internet of things (IoT).

IoT: The Future Connectivity

IoT refers to a system of connected computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects or people that have unique identifiers; this provides individuals with the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring a human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

In simple terms, the IoT consists of billions of physical devices around the world that are connected to the internet; all of which are collecting and sharing data.

IoT has many benefits to most businesses, especially those in the oil and gas sector. It enables monitoring the overall processes, improving customer experiences, saving time and money, enhancing employee productivity, integrating business models, making better decisions and generating more revenue.

For example, in oil and gas sector, the oil and gas tankers that are provided by IoT sensors can inspect parts of ships that carry products from remote areas as well as monitor the transportation facilities, which are hard to be reached without any need to use human workforce. These sensors also track the location of any tanker and its safety situation.

Digital Twin: Reinventing Digitalization

Digital twin is a virtual image of an asset maintained throughout the lifecycle and it can be accessed easily at anytime and anyplace. It can collect data and integrate that data with different software products. This technology encourages predictive maintenance of the asset, provides a monitoring system and data analysis. These features can improve operations, reduce the costs and time of operations as well as increasing the efficiency.

Historical Glimpse

The concept of the digital twin was first recognized by Micheal Grieves, who introduced a presentation containing all the related elements of digital twin. Such elements include real objects, virtual objects and the spreading of information between the real and virtual objects, with the aim of reaching a high level of excellence in manufacturing through virtual replication.

The concept of the digital twin was initiated in the 1960s, when NASA used some basic twining ideas for space programming. NASA experts created duplicate systems on land to replicate systems in space, much like the one that has been developed to asses and simulate conditions on board the Apollo 13.

Types of Digital Twin

Before identifying the types of digital twins, it is important to understand how digital twins work. A digital twin receives data form the sensors that are gathering data from a real object. This enables the twin to simulate in the real time, while also offering insights into performance and potential problems. Additionally, the twin can create a prototype of its physical counterpart via its ability to simulate. Also, the twin can serve as a prototype itself before building the physical replica.

There are three main types of digital twins. Those includes status twins, operational twins and simulate twins.

The status twin is used in monitoring applications such as dashboards and simple altering systems. This type of twin is created with visualization tools.

Next, the operational twin provides more extensive information which is used in decision support, mainly for operators and engineers. Moreover, it enables changing operating parameters and controlling actions.

Finally, the simulation twin provides different types of simulations which enable it to predict and provide insights into future operational conditions. It also can forecast the needed maintenance operations as well as improve the recovery yield of a processing plant.

Digital Twin Revolutionizes Oil and Gas Industry

Digital twin technology is now implemented in several industries around the world.  Recently, the digital twin entered the manufacturing sector, retail, vehicle production, healthcare, construction, smart cities and oil and gas sector.

In oil and gas industry, digital twin enables optimizing the assets by avoiding halt hazards as well as storing inspectional and operational data. Also, it helps in reducing the efforts on manual processes, backing up information and eliminating any associated risks.

“Actually, Digital twin technologies is a revolutionary step towards the optimizing performance and cost for assets based on a clone model from real life in our oil and gas” field” Mostafa Sobhy, Petroleum Engineer at Qarun Petroleum Company, Apache JV said.

Digital twin can help in making decisions based on information across the lifecycle of assets. Besides improving the production and maintenance operations, it provides consistent, accurate sources of information for operators to manage the efficiency, safety and environmental performance of the assets.

Therefore, digital twin is one of the best ways to elevate the efficiency levels of operation to the next level and allow businesses to continuously improve in their respective competitive markets.

Application  in the  Oil and Gas Industry

Digital twin can simulate pipelines, gathering systems such as compressors, pumps, turbines and heat exchangers.

There are many companies that started to introduce applications of digital twin solutions within oil and gas sector. Emerson is one of these companies; the company introduces several solutions, such as the mimic simulation software, ovation simulations, run simulations (which optimize oil and gas operations), in addition to gaining deeper insight into the subsurface and support responsible asset management with Paradigm.

Also, DNV GL company has presented some solutions and applications of digital twin. Hisham El Grawany, Vice President and Area Manager of North Africa for DNVGL, said that his “ company have many applications stand in different parts of oil and gas projects life cycles started from construction modelling design review, fire mapping design review, assets integrity and RBI software’s, gas and fire detectors design optimizations and simulations software, remote inspection and remote surveys.”

Other applications of the digital twin have been implemented to benefit the oil field.  Tech Digital Twin is one of these beneficial applications; it uses sensor technologies to monitor equipment uptime and downtime and conditions that enable filed workers to initiate and schedule work remotely to deal with any operational downtime.

Smart leak detection sensors are applications working along with video-based analytics to monitor the potential leak conditions and prevent them from occurring. Consequently, this will help field workers to avoid any potential hazards.

Furthermore, rig- in-a-box technology streams downhole data during drilling operations. This device provides edge analytics which enables better and faster decisions that reduces time of production as well as improves the drilling operations.

Another application is the voice-recognition technology which can improve safety and operations maintenance. The field worker can access the online manuals of equipment or the instructive videos using voice commands, which enable following simulations of the needed repairs and communicating with remote experts.

In Egypt, Digital Twin hasn’t been used ye. Sobhy said that “It[ Digital Twin]started with offshore platform designs , however it still not that much use in the [Egyptian] market”.

“We do simulation in all levels but using separate software in each process

but for assets management and asset planning not using a virtual asset management tool. So, I see it is a very good step if it comes with reasonable cost”, he added.

Ahmed Abdel Hasseb, a Senior Reservoir Engineer at Wintershall Dea, said that they applied a digital twin model in Germany by “creating a digital version on the production facilities and each single equipment with serial number and real time measuring devices to allow field workers to track status and troubleshoot problems without the need to physically check the equipment.”

Digital Twin in the Era of Coronavirus

Nowadays, the entire world is suffering from the new coronavirus pandemic outbreak. The economies are broken down, cities and countries are isolated and most of the industries are disrupted. The whole world is directed towards taking precautionary measurements, seeking to keep the pandemic outbreak under control. Most organizations, including oil and gas institutions, are trying to facilitate working remotely for most employees.

The new digitalization trend enables most of the organizations and industries to implement the concept of remote working. Digital twin is an optimum example of technological application allowing the distance working. It can transform an outdated workplace into a dynamic, smooth-operating and modern environment. This could happen by compiling information and data together from different sources and producing a contextual model that enables optimizing conditions employees to interact with their work spaces.

Sobhy said that “It [Digital Twin] is a very important feature that gives you the whole filed dynamics on hands to be controlled in your premises or may be uploaded on cloud so you can access it anywhere.”

Moreover, digital twin can provide missing insights about building usage through 360 dashboards, floor plans, analytics and other tools that give real-time information, predict the future states and optimize conditions.

Also, digital twin provides holistic data that helps the owners and operators to make right decisions about a range of topics.

Future Vision

There are many predictions that state that the application of digital twin will be expanded as long as the continuous development of IoT, big data and AI. A report recently conducted by Reportlinker, mentioned that the digital twin market is anticipated to grow form $3.8 billion in 2019 to $35.8 billion in 2025. It was reported that the key factors leading to this growth include the reduction of time and cost of product development, the increase in adoption of new technologies such as IoT and cloud, as well as the growing use of digital twin for predictive maintenance.

“Simulation is your tool to test every decision you will make in our industry. Each decision is a cost so we try to optimize with keeping the high performance.” Sobhy concluded.