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Driving improved operational performance with digital twins

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Oilfield Technology,

Haavard Oestensen, Head of Growth, Digital Energy, Kongsberg Digital, explains why capable digital twin solution providers enable operators to take significant strides towards becoming data-driven and digitally enabled.

Participants in the energy industry are used to an environment where they are at the vagaries of fluctuating demand and volatile commodity prices. Much of the answer, which our industry has been aware of for over a decade, lies within making better use of data collected from operations; extracting meaningful business intelligence and leveraging data to make better decisions.

In a survey, McKinsey asked industry participants how effective they are at delivering by virtue of data. Only 7% of organisations said they are highly effective at reaching their primary objectives by virtue of data and analytics, and a staggering 48% of respondents said they are either neutral or effective.

A solution that is rapidly gaining traction within the sector is the digital twin. As a strategic measure, it enables companies to become more adaptive in response to increasingly dynamic market environments. It can deliver real-time visibility across value chains, from reservoir to market, and along those chains reflect contextualised attributes of the respective assets. Data and insights are then applied to dynamically predict facility needs (e.g. maintenance based on time-to-failure models) and prescribing remediation, mitigation and proactive activities. In a nutshell, a dynamic digital twin enables operators to respond to the industry’s challenges, in a more dynamic data-driven way.

Figure 1. Users access Kognitwin Energy for easy navigation, collaboration across teams and quick access to documentation from any place, at any time. 

Working with Shell

Shell recently entering into an enterprise framework agreement with Kongsberg Digital to deploy digital twin software across its assets and capital projects is a validation of the progress that has been made in this space. Digital twins here provide integration, visualisation, and analytics capabilities to a global asset portfolio by integrating and contextualising real-time sensor data, historical data, engineering information and other transactional business data across a variety of data sources. By utilising the Kongsberg Kognitwin® digital twin service platform, Shell will unlock opportunities to enable business processes and optimise facility performance through digitalisation. When adopted, the solution will provide Shell with the ability to access its portfolio assets from anywhere, expanding the scope of remote operations.

Figure 2. Onshore LNG plants can also take advantage of a dynamic digital twin for improved decision-making. 

Shell is acknowledged as a pioneer in development and adoption of cutting-edge technologies and is now looking to increase operational optimisation and further value creation through broad and deep digitalisation. According to Yuri Sebregts, Chief Technical Officer at Shell, digital twins bring in a new era of visually interacting with data and models at the asset, equipment, and component level: “Digital twins drive efficiency by enabling remote operations, automation and significantly improved collaboration,” he says. “It supports our front-line operations to better leverage insights from big data, transforming ways of working to unlock value and increase resilience in the changing business environment.”

Not all digital twins are equal

In general, digital twins are setup to enable oil and gas companies to access asset-related information, i.e. as engineering information “libraries” with intuitive avatar-like representation (e.g. 3D models with engineering data transposed onto them). They are positioned to reduce operating expenses through such improved access. Operators typically leverage such these static facility representations, but struggle to keep them current. At best, they provide insight at a snapshot in time – typically at the time of handover from capital project to operations.

There is value in static visualisation, but it lacks the necessary dynamism and depth such as what operators get with dynamic digital twins, where real-time insights and predictions drive improvements in operations and decision-making. A dynamic digital twin of an asset can enable full virtualisation, describing the current and predicted behaviour of the asset. The twin is current and “alive” with relevant data. Data is current, accurate and easy to access drives in an audience, and propels digital transformation from the ground-up. To achieve this, partnering with companies that continue to invest in the dynamic aspects of a digital twin is essential.

Enabling the best decision, every time

A digital twin is a virtual replica of the facility. At the core, it describes the current state, and leverages hybrid analytics to predict future states. In parallel, it elevates information to a broader audience, and facilitates cross-functional collaboration, enabling higher efficiency through digital ways of working. It all adds up to enabling operators in making the best decision, every time. The virtualisation is based on underlying data sets that are streamed from the operator’s data sources, brought together in the contextualisation engine.

Figure 3. Kognitwin Energy for offshore upstream facilities. 

To deliver these capabilities, we leverage integration of dynamic simulation technology and more broadly, we integrate data from operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) sources along custom solutions operators have invested in. Step one is to unify information; this sets operators up to scale out while climbing an “analytics ladder” that unlocks further capabilities.

Built on past successes

This collaboration with Shell follows 2019, where Shell Norway and Kongsberg Digital entered a digitalisation partnership to operationalise an advanced dynamic digital twin of the Nyhamna onshore gas facility in western Norway. The solution has deployed in Software-as-a-Service mode since January 2020 and is continuously evolving.

Nyhamna is a large gas processing facility in Aukra municipality on the west coast of Norway that has been in operation since 2007. It was initially built as a land facility for processing and exporting gas from the Shell operated Ormen Lange field. After a significant upgrade, the plant can process gas from other fields in the Norwegian Sea connected to the Polarled pipeline. Now a hub for gas processing, Nyhamna exports gas to UK and continental Europe through the Langeled pipeline.

Figure 4. Downstream facilities, including refineries, can have a dynamic digital twin that enables production optimisation and improved performance. 

A digital twin is used to establish a dynamic virtual representation of the gas plant and its behaviour, continuously updated with integrated information reflecting the status of the facility in real time. According to Agnete Johnsgaard-Lewis, managing director, Norske Shell, with the implementation of the dynamic digital twin, Nyhamna will be at the forefront of digitalisation in the oil and gas business. “Shell’s digital strategy is value-driven, predicated on finding new and better solutions to drive improved business outcomes,” she says. “With the digital twin we expect new insights that we can leverage to further improve the productivity, reliability and performance of the gas facility.”

Shell has recently posted specific results related to the digital twin deployment at Nyhamna, citing cumulative value gains of approximately US$3 million since deployment, enabling A/S Norske Shell to recoup the initial investment amount. Kongsberg Digital and A/S Norske Shell continue to partner on value creation.


To remain competitive in a volatile energy market, operators should consider the value of trusted digital technology partners, and to put emphasis on selecting the right partners from the onset. Operators may then consider how to align digital twin deployments to achieve measurable business results. When adopting such strategies, it is Kongsberg's hypothesis that companies’ roadmaps will be better informed, their capability sets will be more holistically complete, associated risks will be reduced and probability success will increase. Critical to any such trusted partnership is trust, which enables agile execution models, where the partners operate as “one team” - a team that can pivot quickly, if needed.

The path to becoming a data-driven and digitally enabled operator is fundamentally built on accessibility of trusted, current and high-quality data, delivered in the right context, at the right time. Capable digital twin solution providers enable operators to take significant strides in this direction.

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