The likes of ABB didn’t get where they are by lagging behind the curve of industrial and economic change.
So it’s not surprising to find, for example, president of ABB Industrial Automation Peter Terwiesch joining the executive of the EU body focused on deployment of hydrogen technologies, the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance.
ECHA’s ambition is to see deployment at scale by 2030, in order to realise the EU goal of reducing carbon emissions and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
“Europe’s opportunity to reduce carbon emissions by scaling up the production, transport and use of hydrogen is significant. Automation, electrification and digitalisation will play an important role in unlocking this potential,” said Terwiesch.
One could hardly expect him to say anything else, given the company’s role in providing solutions for industry. But, simultaneously on the same continent, if not within the EU, ABB has been engaged in a pilot to provide full digital integration for Equinor’s Gina Krog oil and gas platform off Norway and convert operations from a planned maintenance to a prescriptive maintenance regime.
With predictive maintenance, new technologies can detect when machinery is in need of repair. This results in less downtime as the asset lets you know when attention is required, rather than a fixed schedule
Keith Tilley, MD, Intoware
Data will be transferred from the platform’s power management system and electrical condition monitoring system to Equinor’s OMNIA Microsoft Azure Cloud platform, using an onsite ABB EdgeInsight data pump.
Afterwards, it will be securely streamed to ABB’s Microsoft Azure Cloud and the data employed to continuously improve condition monitoring technology and tools and deliver transparency on performance, improve predictability and enhance process optimisation.
ABB will also manage offsite condition monitoring operations for the critical electrical equipment.
As ABB head of energy industries for Northern Europe, Per Erik Holsten explains that it is not only a commitment to sustainability that has encouraged their client. “The Covid-19 pandemic, alongside the global drive towards more sustainable operations, has highlighted the importance of building resilience and enabling adaptability within operational models. Increasingly our customers are looking for the benefits that leaner, more autonomous onsite operations, supported by teams remotely, offsite can deliver,” he comments.
Solutions providers too are giving increasing thought to how to apply their products and services more widely to varied applications, whether across the offshore/onshore or upstream/downstream divide.
We hope to bring training costs down, increase learner engagement, boost knowledge retention and allow the industry to upskill in a flexible and digital environment
Mike Adams, co-founder, Norwell EDGE
Surrey-based Amazon Filters, drawing on its lengthy global experience of critical filtration process in the O&G sector, worked with academics at the Warsaw Institute of Technology on a pilot trial of its liquid gas coalescer SupaSep LGP.
It provides a further coalescing solution to protect gas turbines, natural gas compressors, lube oil recovery and catalyst beds, but also supports the recovery of fluids involved in the sweetening and dehydration of natural gas.
Again, indicates MD Neil Pizzey, interest in innovative products has been fuelled by the increased need to find savings on downtime, post-pandemic.
“Every day a project implementation date is delayed, potential revenue will be lost. We stand ready to play our part by providing the oil and gas industry with reliable products such as SupaSep LGP as part of bespoke solutions that drive efficiencies and transform operational performance.”
The product launch is the result of considerable targeted investment, with £0.75 million spent expanding manufacturing capacity at Amazon Filters’ Camberley plant.
“Our extensive knowledge in designing pressure vessels for the oil and gas sector means we are fully conversant with the appropriate regulations and approvals allowing us to streamline the manufacturing process,” comments Pizzey.
“Our investment programme is all about creating and maintaining a quick and able capacity to meet customer need for cost-effective solutions and savings.”
Sustainability is not the only issue that has translated into a business opportunity for suppliers.
The safety focus, always a prime concern within the oil and gas sector, has been enhanced by the growing raft of regulatory requirements. But this has encouraged innovation in such areas as remote inspection.
The importance of oil and fuel storage for both upstream and downstream and the costly, time-consuming traditional methods of tank drainage and inspection have inspired innovations like the Project nautilUS robotic monitoring technology [pictured above], set up four years ago as a UK-based consortium of global companies.
Employing real-time remote controls to move around a tank, the robot employs an ultrasound probe to take measurements of floor thinning and records location data for processing. Sustainably designed to achieve the smallest possible footprint to allow entry via the smallest manholes, it can also work in explosive and flammable environments – which require it to avoid sparking and thus an explosion.
Senior innovation advisor at Electrocomponents plc, Michael Burrows, says that of the 600 tank farm operators across the world, more than one in 10 have already given an “active response” prompted in part by the sector goal to make such operations unmanned by 2030.
“Part of the commercialisation that we have been involved with has been to generate interest in not only the overall nautilUS robot, but also the technologies within it. Of course, we have the robot in its entirety, but there are also opportunities to license the individual pieces of technology for existing solutions or other applications.”
Automisation is an easier sell perhaps when applied piecemeal in specific circumstances, acknowledges Intoware MD Keith Tilley, thanks to the cost and complexity of more widescale implementation.
“Done digitally, anybody from the technician, to the supervisor or auditor can see the characteristics of a check in real-time, the impact it has, and provide digital evidence, such as photos or data, to know it is done correctly – all in a fraction of the time,” observes Tilley.
“But when digital automation alone is not enough to solve complex challenges, AI can be added into the mix, so your operational processes become more intelligent.”
Vitally, digital twins create a virtual replica of a component or process that allows analysis of operational data to help optimise processes and reduce costs without disrupting real-world processes. AI, IoT technology, sensors and data analytics together enable accurate and timely assessments of when machinery requires maintenance, he points out.
“The previous methods for planned maintenance are based on the number of hours the machinery has been in operation, which can sometimes lead to over maintenance, reducing the asset’s lifespan.
“With predictive maintenance, new technologies can detect when machinery is in need of repair. This results in less downtime as the asset lets you know when attention is required, rather than a fixed schedule.”
He cites the example of Intoware client Petrofac’s connected worker strategy; using a digital twin in tandem with automation software WorkfloPlus Oil and Gas in order to digitalise more than 1,500 North Sea inspections. The result was a 200% increase in offshore productivity.
Petrofac vice president of digital Steve Johnson adds the benefits include not only the immediate objective but also the potential for wider applications. “In one case, work preparation activities that previously took several hours to complete can now be completed in a matter of minutes. [In addition] this kind of use case has fungibility across various areas of industry that have a requirement to maintain and inspect plant equipment, machinery or infrastructure.”
But as well as eroding direct human involvement in the ‘dirty, distant, dangerous and dull’ aspect, virtual tech can offer an enriched learning experience, an aspect pioneered in O&G by energy e-learning company Norwell EDGE.
Co-founder Mike Adams says Norwell’s Virtual EDGE scenarios employing animation, quizzes, video and bite-sized learning reflect research by the likes of Talent LMS which revealed that 83% of people who receive gamified training feel motivated – whereas nearly two thirds of those who receive non-gamified training feel bored and unproductive.
“With the current limitations for face-to face training, digital learning is needed now more than ever. The gamification of learning not only significantly increases knowledge retention – especially compared to traditional classroom training – but also allows learners to practice their newly acquired skills in a safe environment,” states Adams.
“By doing this we hope to bring training costs down, increase learner engagement, boost knowledge retention and allow the industry to upskill in a flexible and digital environment.”