RIO DE JANEIRO—As oil and gas operators continue their journey to reduce costs, supply companies are finding digital solutions to help meet that goal. Among these is Siemens’ Topsides 4.0, which takes a lifecycle approach to oil and gas production with a goal to lower costs.

“Oil and gas customers told us that they need digital solutions to reduce capex and opex, shorten project delivery cycles, minimize startup risk and decrease offshore labor requirements,” Elgonda La Grange, digital solutions director for Siemens told Hart Energy, on the sidelines of Siemens Forum 2018. “We therefore targeted rotating equipment to reduce capex and cycle time and the electrical, instrumentation and control package to minimize risk and offshore manning when we developed our Topsides 4.0 digital offering.”

La Grange was among the speakers at the recently held forum in Rio de Janeiro. She described the foundation of Topsides 4.0 as the workflow and data integration of standalone solutions that have been successfully delivered to the oil and gas industry over many years. Although the approach itself is new and requires a cultural shift in how operators and vendors collaborate, the executive said the digital solutions that comprise Topsides 4.0 have a strong track record of success.

“Some of the real-world benefits that mid-size FPSOs (100,000 barrels of oil per day) can see from embracing this digital solution begin during the initial phase of a project with the deployment of a digital backbone that underpins the Topsides 4.0 Intelligent Digital Twin, ensuring data persistence through the life cycle of the asset,” La Grange explained.

The digital backbone is a secure engineering environment that allows engineering contractors and equipment vendors to share an as-is data image of the plant. Instead of delivering and attempting to maintain hard copy documentation, different stakeholders deliver and update their information as data records.

“This creates complete transparency of information for each plant object and expedites the design process by providing engineers with direct access to information changes by colleagues in other disciplines and reducing engineers’ time to enter and find as-maintained information,” La Grange said.

The executive explained that the Topsides 4.0 Intelligent Digital Twin is built in parallel to the physical topsides asset during the design and build phases of the project. This digital twin is provided “intelligence” by integrating production and maintenance analytics with the already existing engineering data during the operational phase of the project. “The intelligent digital twin realistically replicates the physical attributes and performance of the equipment and the process in the digital world,” La Grange said.

So is this concept already solidified by oil and gas operators? In La Grange’s words, not yet. “It is still early days in the adoption of digitalization in oil and gas and technology is developing so fast that I don’t think we will get to a ‘solidified’ state any time soon,” she said. “Over the past decade, businesses across every industry have increasingly realized value from digitalization, whereas oil and gas has been slow to embrace this. But I am very happy to say that over the last nine months I have seen a step change in the level of digital engagement in almost all O&G companies I have dealt with.”

La Grange said that one year ago companies were still asking whether digitalization was relevant to them. “Now most are asking how they can deliver digital value faster. Almost every oil and gas company I know is working on some digital initiative,” she said. “In some companies the momentum is bottom up, with employees developing simple apps to make their day-to-day work more efficient. Other companies are revamping their entire organizational structure and culture to create organizational space for digital innovation.”

For La Grange, the oil and gas industry is at the start of the digital adoption S-curve. However, she believes that digitalization will impact the way the industry will live and work five years from now. “It is great to see that oil and gas is starting to embrace this challenge.”

Offshore Brazil

Over the last decade, Brazil has strengthened its position as a major player in the world’s offshore segment. Topsides 4.0 can represent a great opportunity for Siemens and operators.

La Grange said that Brazil could perfect the concept of lifecycle digitalization on their pipeline of new greenfield developments. Incorporating digitalization from the concept phase is more cost effective and delivers significantly higher benefits than retrofitting digital solutions to operating assets.

“The oil and gas community in Brazil is very global. I don’t currently see a major difference in digital maturity between Brazil and elsewhere. However, I believe Brazil has the potential of leading the digital transformation in the oil and gas industry because they are in a unique market position,” La Grange said. “Petrobras’ digital leadership will naturally result in similar digital transformations throughout the O&G supply chain in Brazil.”