The digital twin is moving from fringe to must-have as companies realize the potential of this technology to streamline operations, improve maintenance, and boost profits while cutting costs. Let’s explore three industries currently being transformed by digital twins.
Oil and gas
The oil and gas industry has had digital twins on the radar since before the idea burst into popular consciousness a few years ago. In 2015, George Danner, president of data science company Business Laboratory told Rigzone that the digital twin is well suited to oil and gas because the industry relies on large pieces of highly instrumented equipment. That equipment is often located in remote locations or harsh environments, where it’s difficult or unsafe for operators to physically monitor it.
In particular, as the downturn in oil and gas markets continues, companies are looking for ways to boost their bottom line. And even a small efficiency improvement can translate into millions of dollars in savings.
Here’s how two oil and gas giants are using digital twin technology:
- BP is using digital twins to model physical projects so they can test ideas before investing in construction or modifying existing assets. At one facility in Alaska, they use a digital twin to plan installation, maintenance, and decommissioning activities.
- A little over a month ago, Royal Dutch Shell signed on for a two-year digital twin initiative funded by Eurostars. The goal is to create a condition-based model of the company’s offshore assets and combine that model with sensor data to enable real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance.
Digital twin technology is also making headway in the renewable energy industry, in particular, the wind energy sector. This push has been led by GE, which has developed what it calls the Digital Wind Farm. The technology combines wind turbines with wind power software that monitors and optimizes the turbines in real time. The company estimates energy production could be increased by as much as 20%.
Last year, GE Renewable Energy signed a 5-year contract with two aging wind farms in Japan with the goal of boosting annual energy production by 2% and 5%. Even at 2%, the technology is expected to increase revenue by up to $650,000 over the life of the project.
GE is also pioneering the use of digital twins to transform the aviation industry, in particular, to improve the maintenance of jet engines.
One of the challenges in manufacturing jet engines is ensuring they can stand up to temperatures that can reach as high as 3000°F, which is way above the melting point of most metals. To monitor engine condition in real time, GE started installing sensors that measure pressure, temperature, turbine speed and other variables.
Using the sensor data, maintenance technicians can better predict when the engines require servicing. The company can also collect analytics that will inform future improvements in design.
Want to learn more about digital twins? Check out How Digital Twinning Makes Plants More Productive and Efficient and 3 Opportunities and Challenges of the IIoT.