Could an attitude shift unlock the power of Digital Twin and EPC 4.0 for the process industries?

We often find ourselves asking what needs to happen in our process industries to accelerate the adoption of Digital Twin. The benefits are indisputable – saving up to 15% on total installed costs, with the right suite of solutions. Yet, for individual companies, the numbers remain intangible and the apprehension of investing remains.

In the current climate, some Owner Operators and EPCs have fallen back on old habits – cutting costs for short term gains rather than investing for longer term, sustained savings.  Without a mindset change from both Owner Operators and EPCs, most CAPEX projects will continue to timidly introduce partial digitalization tools and fail to realize the full, transformational change that EPC 4.0 technology offers.

Process simulation starts the shift to EPC 4.0

Process simulation is one element of a Digital Twin strategy that can save millions of dollars on a project right from the very early concept phase to beyond start-up. One company that has placed an EPC 4.0 strategy front and center of their agenda is Shell - a true visionary in our industry. They were determined to shake up the traditional ‘build it and wait to see what happens’ approach during a mega greenfield project near Pittsburgh, USA by building a digital twin from the ground up – placing just as much importance on the relationship with their simulation partner as they did with their other, traditional contractors.

By combining dynamic process simulation and the control systems early in the pre-FEED stage they were able to practice plant start-up two years before construction is due to be completed. This allows them to identify and correct almost double the number of issues in their controls commissioning database than they would have using the traditional factory acceptance test alone. By identifying errors, whether small or major, through multiple start-up simulations Shell was not only able to shorten commissioning and start up time saving millions of dollars but also they now have a detailed Digital Twin of the asset from which to inform plant operations, future engineering and maintenance work and provide virtual training.

As Shell’s Jaime Ortiz, Construction & Completions Manager, said during AVEVA’s recent AVEVA World Digital event: “The Digital Twin not only allowed us to find [the issues] but close all those before we went to site – that’s where the true power of the digital twin lies. That by itself paid off our investment in the Digital Twin because going to site with zero punches to start site activities allows us to de-risk the start-up and flawlessly start the plant as intended.”

Owner-Operators have to see the value

Despite the largest multinationals embracing Digitalization, there remains a disconnect between both leaders and their teams on the ground as to whether an EPC 4.0 strategy will deliver the returns promised – however with the right partner it absolutely will!  

At the end of the day, the person spending the money is the Owner Operator. It is the Owner Operators who control this and it has to be they who realize that spending a little more during the pre-start-up phase will deliver major savings during and beyond start-up.

For the EPCs, there is little financial motivation to embrace EPC 4.0. After all, they know significant weighting is given to price. Yet, as their clients’ mindset begins to shift, it’s likely to be the EPC 4.0-ready contractors who win the contracts.

Read our whitepaper to learn more about how AVEVA enables process simulation throughout the lifecycle.


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