The Emergence of Digital Twins in Oil and Gas

The Emergence of Digital Twins in Oil and Gas

In 1970, 210,000 miles from Earth, the Apollo 13 astronauts encountered a problem with their engine. With time ticking down, the only way to diagnose and solve the issue was through a simulation. NASA’s ground team used its simulation machine to build a digital replica of the conditions the physical craft was facing. They could now simulate the exact situation, diagnose the problem, and guide the astronauts through a repair process. All of this effort resulted in a successful repair and safe return home. 

This Apollo 13 event gave rise to the world’s first digital twin. 

Today, digital twins are not reserved for high tech space travel. They can provide value to almost any industry, especially oil and gas. 

Digital twins are all about using data to make better and faster decisions. They take your data and build a virtual replica of your physical assets and processes. It goes beyond a basic simulation by using real-world data and can adapt as new data continuously flows in. 

In oil and gas, digital twins are still in their infancy. Many of the large players have started experimenting with them in their operations and are seeing great results. 


Every day, engineers at BP are faced with challenging decisions on how to operate the production site;  like which valves to open or how much pressure to apply. Recently, BP deployed a digital twin to assist with these complex decisions. Thousands of cyber physical systems collect data along the entire production line and feed it into the digital twin. A simulation that once took hours to complete now takes a matter of minutes. Engineers now have an accurate tool to help them choose what adjustments to make, ensuring the safest and most efficient operation possible. 


Enbridge has a series of cyber physical systems to collect data across its pipelines. From in-line inspection tools to strain gauge sensors, millions of data points are gathered. Pulling insights from that much data is virtually impossible without an advanced data analysis tool. Enbridge uses a digital twin to replicate its pipeline so that workers can better pinpoint cracks and corrosion along the entire pipeline. Instead of sifting through massive spreadsheets, they can now visually see the issues and save hours of unnecessary time. 


Offshore sites come with a series of safety risks for Shell’s maintenance crews. So reducing the number of workers involved in the maintenance is a top priority for the company. By installing cyber physical sensors on all of the key site assets, Shell is able to pull data and create a digital twin. Shell uses that digital twin as a virtual inspection tool. It gives inspection data in near real-time on all assets, including the hard-to-reach ones. By deploying this, Shell has taken the danger out of inspection routines and it has an even better look into the structural integrity of key assets. 


A4 Systems develops innovative cyber physical systems to get quality data and transform it into valuable information for your organization. Whether it be data you already have, or new sources of data, we can build the systems to collect it and turn it into a digital twin in any scenario.