Upstream Technology

See all articles

Doubling down on digital

A digital twin maintained throughout an asset’s life can help keep the project on schedule during fabrication and anticipate repair needs once it is up and running

With an eye to the digitalised future, McDermott is implementing a new project lifecycle management solution intended to simplify work processes into a single integrated, software-agnostic engineering platform, says Vaseem Khan, vice president for global engineering.

“The good news is McDermott has been building platforms for 94 years. The bad news is they’re made out of iron and steel,” Khan jokes.

Companies must innovate in order to remain at the top of the hill. A decade or so ago, Blackberry and Nokia were mobile giants, he says. No longer.

“What’s replaced them is innovation, technology, a vision that things have to change. Doing things the same way you’ve done them doesn’t work anymore. Unless we embrace the latest technology and mould it to our advantage, we will be left behind,” Khan says.

In March, McDermott announced the new lifecycle management platform, Gemini, based on Dassault Systemes’ 3DEXPERIENCE design software. The programme will enable the company to generate and maintain true digital twins of its own assets and its offshore design and construction projects.

McDermott

"If Amazon knows what you’re going to buy in six months, why is it we don’t know a pump is going to fail in six months?"
Vaseem Khan, McDermott
 

Digitalisation will improve safety, quality and efficiency from inception to decommissioning, McDermott says, and enable the company to standardise its processes and eliminate legacy systems.

“We believe there is a market need for this. We believe we need to move away from the horse and carriage era and the Model T era,” says Khan.

McDermott has made a “significant” investment in hardware and people to create Gemini, he says. Presentations to international and national operating companies have revealed “a fair degree” of interest, he says, adding that McDermott is keen to “leapfrog” over the competition with the technology.

“We’ve existed 94 years, but that’s not a guarantee that we will be around in the next 10 years. We have to be in the front and leading, not following. Our vision is to lead from the front. Gemini is one of the ways we will achieve that.”

The digital project’s title recalls the twins of Greek mythology. But McDermott also links the name to NASA’s 1960s Gemini programme, which aimed to develop space travel techniques needed to support the Apollo mission to land astronauts on the Moon.

“This is our moon shot,” Khan says.

McDermott TOUCH AND GO: McDermott’s Gemini platform will allow users instant access to the latest information on an asset. The flexible interface allows for different visualisations, such as the turntable, which breaks up the 3D model by system.
 

Practically speaking, however, it is the marriage of traditional but disparate software packages, 3D modelling software and a project lifecycle management tool in a way that makes it possible to manage data rather than documents and generally simplify operations.

One of the bigger problems of managing projects, says Jeff Stroh, McDermott’s senior manager for engineering, is propagating changes down the line.

“How do we get the information from engineering to the supply chain to fabrication to installation?” Stroh asks.

Traditional methods include email and manual processes. However, once the Gemini project is up and rolling, Khan says: “If the valve changes, everyone in the chain will get a notification that it has changed. Everyone associated with that tag will know a change has occurred.”

The digital twin seems “sci-fi right now”, he acknowledges, but the US military is already using remote visualisation and sensing technology capable of “seeing” a facility thousands of miles away in its drone programme.

Floating the concept

McDermott is looking to implement the digital twin technology on the Amazon, the newbuild deep-water construction vessel the company acquired from Ceona earlier this year.

Once it is retrofitted, Khan says, a digital version of Amazon would keep everyone apprised of the vessel’s operating condition in real time, on a screen or via a 3D model, or enable technologies in the field using augmented or mixed reality, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens or similar headsets.

Having such information at one’s fingertips can save a lot of money and increase the safety of operations.

“Now, if you have a problem on a machine, you have to send an expert out, and spend $3000 a day to fly him out, do safety training, all of that. But if you can move (the work) remotely to an onshore facility or his office, he doesn’t have to go offshore,” Khan says.

Applying this same digital management technology subsea would provide an even greater benefit, Khan argues, although transmitting data through water can be more difficult than through air.

 

Digitising and monitoring the data coming back will make it possible to predict potential failure on offshore assets, Khan says. He compares this sort of intelligence to that gathered and analysed by the other Amazon he likes to talk about – the online retailer, which he says maintains a digital twin of each and every account holder who purchases items through the company.

“If Amazon knows what you’re going to buy in six months, why is it we don’t know a pump is going to fail in six months? A pump is a lot simpler than a human being. The technology is out there. I just want to use it in a benign way,” Khan says.

McDermott

"We aim to enable a living, breathing digital twin of the platform."
Jeff Stroh, McDermott
 

Using the technology in that way could reduce both operating and maintenance costs along with more appropriately stocking spares, he says.

“If I can predict how much it will fail, I can reduce my spare parts inventory,” Khan says.

In a separate example, he says McDermott’s boats are in dry dock every three years to check paint thickness.

The company could make the case to a classification society that the boat has the sensors, the digital model, and all the necessary data to show the boat only needs to go into dry dock every fourth year. He says this could provide an additional month or more of revenue by delaying the dry dock trip without compromising safety.

“The intent is to be as automated and software-agnostic as possible,” Stroh says of the programme. The platform is role-based, so an employee with a certain role assigned would have access to certain information while another might have access to different data.

Meetings can be run through the platform, which can capture task assignments to provide an audit trail. A real-time dashboard will allow lead engineers and project managers to know the latest status of engineering deliverables.

Phased implementation

McDermott began work on the Gemini platform last year, and there are still some questions to resolve before the company can launch a pilot project, expected later this year.

“Not all legacy systems are tied together currently, and we’re trying to overcome the interface issues to move to a fully data-centric execution,” Stroh says.

The company aims to extend its reach by implementing phase two, which will maintain data about an asset even after the handed over to the client.

One question in McDermott’s broader strategy of handling data from operating facilities revolves around data ownership and “where the data will live”, Stroh says.

In the case of smaller independents, it seems likely McDermott could be asked to maintain the data while supermajors are more likely to store and maintain the data themselves, Stroh says.

McDermott RISER SUPPORT: McDermott’s new platform will enable customised project lifecycle management for offshore energy projects. Shown here is the riser support structure on the Inpex-operated Ichthys project off Western Australia. McDermott calls it the world’s largest subsea structure.

McDermott COMPONENT: One of the gas export riser bases McDermott designed for Icththys.
 

 

“We’re working to figure out the processing power this will need to do the data analytics that we envision and where that processing needs to take place,” he says, adding that the company is in talks with different software and hardware providers to determine the needs.

So far, McDermott is deep into implementation of phase one of the digital twin platform, which extends from design to fabrication to handover of the facility. In the first phase of the roll-out, everyone will finally be working in the same 3DEXPERIENCE environment.

The company believes relying on data instead of documents will permit a more open exchange of information, increase productivity and improve cross-functional collaboration using technologies such as 4D fabrication to tie the schedule in with 3D modelling.

The system is also expected to ensure on-schedule delivery of complex projects with improved safety, quality and greater efficiency.

McDermott plans to implement its pilot project in the last quarter of 2017 and integrate the new platform into its business in phases, with the first phase scheduled for completion next year.

“We aim to enable a living, breathing digital twin of the platform,” Stroh says.

The pilot, he says, will focus on core McDermott functions such as data and file exchange, change management, and requisition. The life of field phase planned for later will feature elements such as data acquisition, data analytics based on information generated from sensors, the operations centre, and advanced visualisation — virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

“When we hand that facility over, no one knows that facility better than we do,” Khan says. “When I hand over a well-built facility, I hand over a digital model that has all the information the operator will ever need built into it. A single source of truth is what I deliver with this.”