The age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or "Industry 4.0", is upon us. Broadly speaking, it refers to the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology.
For BW Offshore, it has been an ongoing quest to achieve an optimal balance between people, processes, and technology. While the organisation generally believes in the value that advanced digital technology can bring us, it is a constant challenge to find the right fit for our business needs.
The following are some of the highlights and status updates for our digitalisation pilot projects in Q1 2021.
Pulse on Operational Integrity
A lot has been done by the organisation in the last few years to consolidate the vast amount of data available, and to present one version of the truth.
Within our Operational Integrity (OI) function, as part of monthly management reporting, the focus has been on redesigning dashboards for monitoring safety performance and production performance, particularly to identify leading indicators or weak signals.
Plant Information (PI) at our fingertips
Enabling our engineers to get process plant information at their fingertips feeds into many of our digitalisation objectives. PI Vision dashboard usage rates experienced a 400% year-on-year growth in 2020. In 2021, we aim to further enlarge the user base and enhance usership value.
As the PI system collects and distributes plant data in real-time across various global locations both offshore and onshore, the reliability of the underlying network connections is essential. Any breakage in data transfer will directly impact our engineers', operators', and clients' ability to monitor asset performance or analyse plant condition.
Progress has been made in the development of a dashboard for monitoring overall PI system health and connectivity. This will allow the PI administrator to work closely with IT to respond quicker to data outages or errors.
Predicting asset failures and plant upsets
Several pilot projects were undertaken in 2020 to develop tools related to Machine Learning (ML), or what is more commonly known as artificial intelligence, for better predicting asset failures and process plant upsets.
Most of these pilots have reached a state of conclusion in Q1 2021, and while there were valuable lessons learnt for the teams involved, the projects did not present sufficient value to the operation in order for them to be continued or scaled up.
A one-year license contract with a service provider for 3 use cases has expired as of 15 March 2021. The Asset Team is in talks with service provider for the continuation of one-use case for the BW Catcher operation, around the advanced detection and prevention of gas surges that can cause plant trips.
A free-of-cost trial provided by gas compressor manufacturer to analyse the performance of BW Catcher gas compressors using their proprietary digital twin web-based tool has concluded. While the monthly reports did provide a fair assessment of compressor performance, due to their in-depth knowledge of their own equipment, the machine learning analysis aspect did not stand out as much as we hoped.
There is still great potential for ML to add value going forward, albeit with the following pertinent considerations:
- Proactive involvement from the asset operations team, to own and test the tool, is extremely valuable.
- Increase availability of online data for analysis where possible, through PI system tag additions and integration with other existing systems.
- Select suitable use cases where there is sufficient data, failure outcomes are clear, and the ML algorithm suits the purpose.
- Select vendors that have an appreciation of our operational context, rather than from a pure data science perspective.
- The ML tool must be able to achieve a deeper level of analysis or operational awareness, beyond what is already available today in way of DCS alarms and hard-coded systems.
- The ML tool should be a complement to existing tools and systems rather than a solution in itself, as it is ultimately giving alerts and recommendations within a software boundary and cannot be expected to perform physical interventions.
Even without third party partnerships, there is demonstrated competence within BW Offshore to further develop our ML capabilities using open-source tools. Appropriate use cases and applications will be explored further in this respect.
While ML plays a part, there is much scope for data consolidation and maximising the use of available tools like the PI system for more effective monitoring of assets and streamlining of workflows.
Remote Offshore Support and Survey (ROSS) was a pivotal digital tool to help the company get through the COVID-19 pandemic, due to travel restrictions implemented across the globe.
Cumulative usage of the program as part of ROSS across the fleet in the last year amounted to a total of 8,126 minutes. While we experienced some success with the tool on certain Units, it was largely limited in its application because we lacked wireless internet coverage in crucial locations like on the process plant and in the Engine Room for the majority of our Units, which was necessary to support the tool in its usage. We are looking into expanding 4G/LTE wireless coverage for all units.
360 Street View
The development of the 360 Virtual Tour for the Sendje Berge is ongoing, and initial response to a partial beta version that was shown to the Asset Team was positive. The virtual tour provides a comprehensive street view of the Unit in all locations and is targeted to be completed by the end of April 2021.
On completion the tool can be used by engineers to cross-check as-built drawings, verify dimensions, and share snapshots to complement technical discussions. There are suggestions to use laser scanning technology that will enable 3D models to be developed, which can bring about added benefits including greater accuracy of measurements and integration with AutoCAD software.
Separately, the Maintenance and Modification projects team from Espoir Ivoirien is trying out similar 360-degree camera technology, to assist with life extension works.
It is hoped that with greater utilisation of the virtual tour tool, more engineering studies can be done remotely or virtually, hence reducing the need for site visits.
Working with DNV
Discussions are ongoing with DNV to work more closely together on the digitalisation front.
DNV communicated the release of new class notations for data science and digital twin related topics including assurance of data quality, data algorithms and models, and assurance of sensor systems. The notations will be very useful in helping set industry standards and expectations for digitalisation, especially for new builds. In addition, DNV has also enhanced visualisation of class status and performance of our assets in the Veracity platform.
The ISPM (Intelligent Safety Performance Monitoring) project, which was a joint effort by DNV and BW Offshore, will be reviewed for possible enhancements, with a greater focus on barrier management. ISPM was first launched in 2018, but interest in the project waned because the Power BI dashboard did not provide a level of insightfulness that was expected.
In recognition of our digitalisation efforts in 2020, BW Offshore was presented the Trailblazer award as part of the Offshore Technology Excellence Awards 2020. The Offshore Technology Excellence Awards celebrates the greatest achievements and innovations in the global offshore oil and gas industry and provides a platform to recognise the people and companies that are driving change in a time of crisis and uncertainty.
Innovation and Investment in Human Capital
A recent survey conducted by tech giant Microsoft and market research firm IDC Asia Pacific found that 75% of Singapore firms accelerated digitalisation due to the pandemic [The Straits Times, 10 Sep 2020]. Of the companies surveyed, 80% said innovation is critical to strategy success. Some of the factors cited as major innovation blockers before the Covid-19 outbreak were culture, innovation mindset and fear of failure. Post-pandemic, companies are realising that digitalisation was not as challenging as they had expected.
The findings also suggest that technology on its own will not make a difference - it is people who will allow organisations to innovate and transform. Companies must not only invest in technology, but also invest in human capital to cultivate a workplace culture that encourages innovation and embraces digitalisation.