Why early investment in process simulation delivers the greatest gains

Posted: 3rd February, 2021

With little choice but to turn to all things virtual during 2020, much has been written about the risk of digital overwhelm. Some of us have adapted to this change better than others, and the same is true for the industrial sectors. They too have had to pivot; accelerating their digitalization on a massive scale to protect on-going and future CAPEX projects.

Just like their employees, plant owner-operators and EPCs are having to identify multiple digital platforms and partners whose solutions can be combined to drive performance and improve project outcomes.

That’s where AVEVA is the exception. The unrivalled breadth of our EPC 4.0 portfolio means that while our solutions integrate with clients’ existing technology, they now have the option to partner with us throughout their entire digital twin journey. AVEVA’s unified solutions have been developed from the ground up and encompass conceptual, FEED, and design phases of a CAPEX project. An EPC 4.0 strategy that runs throughout the entire project from FEED through to start-up and commissioning will deliver a fully functional digital twin that will continue to add value to operations long after the CAPEX project concludes.

One area where the value of this is clear is in process simulation.  Incorporating process simulation at every phase of a CAPEX project reduces risk and ensures projects are delivered on schedule and within budget.

From concept to FEED: Process simulation is a key enabler to achieve a highly mature FEED. Process simulation provides insight and knowledge during the early phases of a project lifecycle and eliminates errors and mistakes in the design before capital is committed and when the cost to correct an error is the lowest. The Construction Industry Institute (CII) report­1 that a project with a high FEED maturity and accuracy outperformed projects with a low FEED maturity and accuracy by 24 percent in terms of cost growth, and 12 percent in terms of change order performance.

Detailed design: As a project moves toward detailed design, some of the equipment in the FEED phase will change. It’s important to keep the simulation in lockstep with design to ensure that as the physical asset takes shape, the digital twin is an exact mirror image. Since AVEVA provides integrated tools for every step of a CAPEX project, our solution provides continual process insights between each project phase and between the database and simulation. This is a key differentiator.

With AVEVA, data is always live and there is a two-way exchange between the database and simulation. The AVEVA digital twin grows in sync with the physical plant.  

Construction and start-up: If process simulation has been undertaken throughout the FEED and design stages, the EPC will have a two-year head-start on identifying issues and reducing the risk. Armed with a highly responsive digital twin, the owner-operator can turn their attention to preparing for start-up and ensuring its teams have the right skills to safely operate the plant and ramp up to nameplate capacity without surprises.

People: Process plants are highly complicated, integrated plants. With a digital twin that incorporates controls data, staff can go through the start-up processes and become fully confident and competent with the standard operating procedures. Training using the digital twin allows teams to practice over and over again and fail in a completely safe environment so that when construction is complete, start-up can be as error free as possible.

While committing to a process simulation program early on in a CAPEX project can seem like an avoidable cost in itself, the long-term benefits have been shown to provide a payback many times over.

1 The Maturity and Accuracy of Front End Engineering Design (FEED) and Its Impact on Project Performance; Construction Industry Institute; 2018.


Reduce simulation effort by 50% throughout a plant’s lifecycle

AVEVA Process Simulation creates a process model that can be used in design, training, and operations, with the capability to switch back and forth and deliver the process side of the Digital Twin.

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