Plant owners and operators in the oil & gas, utilities and shipyard sectors are using 3D models/virtualization of their plants across the lifecycle. From design, through construction, operations, expansion, re-purposing and dismantling, 3D models bring together core engineering and operations to good advantage. However, I have seen that owner operators are hard pressed for the right resources to build 3D plant models. They also need to ensure that all the different departments get the training and insight required to use these models effectively. As of now, they expect their Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) companies to deliver the models that can be used through the plant’s lifecycle. These virtual plant models characterize all the features of the plant across structural, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and control disciplines and can be as effective as a real plant.
I’ve seen these immersive computer models being very useful in the construction of the plant, managing it through its lifecycle and for training. 3D plant models deliver savings in time and effort while increasing productivity. Plant owners are able to extract previously inaccessible intelligence from these models. Reduction of construction delays, rework, operational down time and increase of safety are some of the top of the box advantages.
I believe that for EPCs especially, 3D modeling is a naturally adjacent business. Due to their existing technical plant knowledge and domain expertise, they are well positioned to deliver these models and subsequently update them. They also have a captive customer base. So why not turn 3D virtualization into an attractive revenue stream that extends over the lifecycle of a customer’s plant?
However, EPCs are always strapped for resources. They rarely have spare engineering capacity. Even if they do and deliver a 3D plant model, the Owners and Operators are rarely able to exploit this asset due to issues of software compatibility and the lack of expertise. I would advise them to partner with technology providers who have the technical expertise to overcome these challenges.
The plant owners and operators may not have an accurate idea of the plant design due to repeated modifications over the years. This raises safety concerns. Of course they have 2D models in the form of drawings, documents and data. The challenge is to convert these to 3D. I think Laser scanners, that can capture all the plant details and render them in a photorealistic manner without disrupting existing operations, can be the answer. Once integrated with information management systems, the 3D visualization becomes a virtual plant providing access to all the historical data in one place. The model can then be used to try out scenarios that are based on experience to confirm all aspects and identify the one with least impact on the operating plant, saving losses due to shutdowns and increasing the safety.
What are the other issues you have seen in EPC with respect to 3D modeling? Do write in.