It can be said that digital transformation is leading to fundamental changes in society and industry. Terminal operator Vopak realises that its long-term success depends on its ability to innovate and adapt to new demands from both the market and society. The company’s innovation department proactively facilitates the introduction of new technologies and processes to maintain the company’s status as one of the worlds leading operators.

Between 2017-2019 Vopak invested approximately €100 million in technology, IT and innovation. Part of Vopak’s digitisation initiatives includes the use of laser scanning. Despite not being a new technology, it is ever-evolving within the downstream oil, gas and petrochemical storage industries as storage terminals are increasingly turning to laser scanning as a way of digitising their assets.

This innovative technological advancement assists in the efficient day-to-day running of storage facilities; including engineering, maintenance and expansion. 

Laser scanning can be more efficient than traditional surveying and more efficient in the sense of time and budget, which is why Vopak is now using it to create a digital representation of its physical assets, known as a Digital Twin.

“Laser scanning itself is not that new. We’ve been using it for a long, long time. But what you see now is that we get a good understanding of the broader applications. And there’s better software to manage it. We are using it in all major projects where we are expanding or altering parts of the terminal,” explains Mathijs Kossen, Innovation Manager, Vopak.

Utilising a digital twin can minimise operational costs, improve customer satisfaction, optimise revenues, and even generate new revenue streams. It is continuously maintained and easily accessible. The integration of asset analytics applications and reuse of data between different types of analyses provides the foundation of a more collaborative, effective and innovative way of working with models in real-time. The digital asset ecosystem, a platform for seamless collaboration, delivers services and results digitally.

“If you want to design a new part of a terminal it needs to interface with your current infrastructure and then therefore scanning is a good tool used for years,” says Kossen. “But now we also use it for maintenance management as search interface and to validate alignment between records of assets in various asset data systems like safety, maintenance and operational systems.”

There is also an operational benefit to digitalising a terminal. In the sense of work preparation, each department can easily access the scans of the infrastructure without having to walk outside and survey an area. Engineers are able to work cost-effectively on a collaboration platform that gives early insight into potential conflicts, resulting in fewer errors and less rework.

Rotterdam TTR in 3D

Vopak has just completed a 3D scan of its Rotterdam TTR Terminal, from which it has built up a digital twin to get a better understanding of what is on the terminal and collect all physical dimensions for engineering purposes.

“The ability to create a 360 deg view of an asset provides insight and puts a lot in perspective,” explains Kossen. The digital twin has been compiled from several sources and source data. It currently shows all the terminal drawings, the maintenance system data and the 3D scans. It liberates all the data we have and puts it in context so all the data becomes easy to consume for all our employees, regardless of in which department they are in. Traditionally staff would only have easy access to data stored in the silo of their department.

Ultimately, the digital twin relies on real-time data provided by an Internet of Things (IoT) system to assess performance and underline any barriers to optimisation. Kossen notes that Vopak is in the process of extending the model, either by inputting more source data, such as from its safety or operational systems.

“We have many more applications that contain some asset information that we can add step-by-step,” he explains. “The more data we add to the platform, the more functionality we are able to achieve.”

Expanded functionality will provide Vopak with more enhanced analytics that can be used for applications such as predictive maintenance on pumps and valves, but also operational applications. Vopak would also be able to place a function on top of the company’s current operating system that will be able to perform tasks such as digitally validating whether assets are aligned correctly.

Vopak is not stopping at Rotterdam TTR. Its innovation department is expanding its reach further. It is currently selecting another terminal from its global portfolio for the digital twin project, that it hopes to complete by the end of 2019.

Mathijs Kossen will be presenting Vopak’s project and findings at this year’s Opslagtanks conference on November 14 in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. The event will focus on innovations and technological developments in the tank storage industry.

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28th October 2019