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OTC 23606

The Use of Virtual Reality and PLM Technologies to Support Upstream and
Downstream Offshore Asset Management
Harry J Daglas, Dassault Systemes

Copyright 2012, Offshore Technology Conference


This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 30 April3 May 2012.
This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Offshore Technology Conference, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Offshore Technology Conference is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of OTC copyright.

Abstract
We are not lacking in new IT technologies to improve our ability to operate, simulate, and manage the most critical Oil &
Gas assets across the globe. Today, right now, we have a huge opportunity to contribute to our society by improving the
safety and operation of these huge, complex assets. We have the technology to move our society to a zero accident
environment. These statements may sound grandiose, but, the reality is that we have moved to a point in our evolution where
IT technology is available to improve our safety and actually create a positive return-on-investment (ROI). This paper focus
on one such IT technology Virtual Reality (VR) and the life-like realism, emersion, and simulation it makes available to us.
Specifically, we will describe how the convergence of Virtual Reality, systems simulation and plant lifecycle management
(PLM) technologies can optimize training programs for high-risk, high cost offshore oil and gas operations.
Shutting down an offshore operation (esp. a drilling rig) for close-to-real-life training purposes is not an option for
organizations today. This leaves owners/operators the unenviable task of relying on paper-based school room training or
expensive, custom-built practice environments. Both of these strategies come with dubious effectiveness and cost
inefficiencies. Now the synchronization of virtual reality, systems simulation and PLM technologies can help bridge the
training divide. Trainees of varying skill levels will be able to safely try out new techniques in a virtual universe before
applying them in the real world. Moreover, records of real operational events can be turned into a large-scale simulation to test
the skill of managers and subordinates. The result is an effective, cost-efficient environment to train employees throughout the
organization rather than on a per operational asset basis.
Introduction
Virtual Reality (VR) has its roots in the 1950s when Douglas Engelbart envisioned computers not just as number crunchers
but as digital displays of an underlying dataset. Now VR technology is now in the mainstream largely through the efforts of
the gaming industry. The latter rely heavily on VR technology to gain the competitive edge in the gaming market space.
None of this evolution would have been possible without the parallel development of high-performance computer and
advanced visualization software. This in turn paved the way for low-cost, high-resolution graphic workstations linked to highspeed computers a perquisite for a thriving gaming industry. While most people now focus on VR's use in entertainment
areas, the maturing virtual reality technology will have some of its real impacts in how we operate and manage huge oil and
gas assets, engineering system design, strategic decision-making, and many other areas within the oil and gas industry.
From the days of the flight simulator (the earliest influential antecedents of virtual reality) we can now transpose our knowhow onto an Avatar operating in a virtual operational environment. In computing, an Avatar is the graphical representation of
the user or the user's alter ego or character. The use of the term avatar for the on-screen representation of the user was coined
in 1985 by Chip Morningstar and Joseph Romero in designing Lucas Films online role-playing game Habitat. Individual
Avatars (i.e. on-screen representatives of technical experts) have the ability to review a facility and procedures from remote
individual locations, rather than requiring we all meet together in a cave environment. These abilities of emersion using
virtual reality technology (together with portable hardware) enable improved safety, training, operation, and documentation of
these critical facilities.

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Virtual reality has been defined as a three-dimensional, computer-generated simulation in which one can navigate around,
interact with, and be immersed in another environment. In this sense, "virtual" is derived from the concept of "virtual memory"
in a computer, which acts "as-if" it is actual memory. Virtual reality provides a reality that mimics our everyday one. A
necessary characteristic of virtual reality is that you can navigate in a virtual world with-some degree of immersion,
interactivity, and a speed close to real time. We human beings are primarily visual animals and we respond well to spatial,
three-dimensional images as opposed to flat, two-dimensional text and sketches. With the three-dimensional images produced
in virtual reality, we are better able to see patterns, relationships, and trends. Virtual reality is more than mere static images
rather we can navigate through and interact with these images in real time. In short, we can look at things from any
perspective; virtual reality is also immersive - it draws you into the visualization. Other names for the concept of virtual reality
include artificial reality, "augmented reality, and "tele-presence . However, the term virtual reality, or VR, seems to
have won out in common parlance. This terminology hooks us with the excitement of creating and experiencing different
realities.
Oil and Gas Operations Live and Virtual for Zero-Accident

Figure 1: Typical Elements of a Virtual Reality Work Environment

Bob, the Offshore Operations Manager for the Teak oil field, eases himself into his chair at the office, boots up his
computer, connects his headset, and switches it on. A figure in the form of his assistant, Jim, pops onto the screen. "Where
would you like to go?" asks Jim. Bob replies, "Take me to the Teak A oil facility. This is Virtual Reality in action and Figure
1 shows the typical elements of a virtual reality environment in the operational context.
In an instant, the facility is before him, just as it would appear if he were viewing it from the Superintendents office on the
facility. Display boxes appear to the side of the visualization, showing him the facility's daily activity. "Jim, please focus on
maintenance and show me today's job plans. Then, overlay the job plans on the available resources (operators and spare
parts)". The visualization shows him that they are right on target. "Thanks Jim, he says. "No need to run a simulation to rejuggle our job plans. We have just the right resources on hand to complete the planned daily work activities.". Bob had
worried that they had neglected to ship enough spare parts on the last boat run and spill-over work tasks from the prior day
may reduce available manpower. However, it seems a timely word to the Logistics Manager (Avatar) twelve hours prior had
corrected the potentially spare parts shortfall.
"Now Jim, would you take me to the living quarters upgrade project team meeting? Bob lays his head back on his chair
as he carefully inspects the renovated quarters with his Offshore Superintendent and the Engineering Contractor. The spaces
the contractor designed seem fine, except that the kitchen quarters are in the wrong place (directly across from the well bay

OTC 23606

area). With the Contractor's help, he rearranges the sleeping quarters until they meet the companys HSE requirements. They
walk through the rest of the living quarters, inspecting its various spaces and the flow between spaces. Bob turns on the
entertainment system and considers how various sounds will travel throughout the living space to the sleeping modules. Bob
even make some changes to the size and position of the windows to see how more natural light can filter into the living space.
Finally, after additional fiddling he signs off on the project. The changes made are automatically transferred into construction
documents, which in turn are translated into a set of building materials with a new cost estimate for his approval.
Bob has traveled to one of his offshore facility as well as attends a project meeting using virtual reality. He has connected
through the VR SatNet and used his computer agent Jim, appearing in the form of an Avatar (a virtual representation of a
being) on the screen to guide his journey. Everything is displayed in three dimensions and Bob is able to interact with the
environment in an immersed state. Bobs office could be located anywhere in the world; in theory we can use many Bobs
around the globe to achieve 24-hour office coverage of the offshore work environment.
There are many potential applications for VR and these are just some present and future applications in the operational
context. We are only limited by our imagination regarding the uses of virtual reality. The user experience is exponentially
improved when each user has his own Avatar, his own role, and is able to communicate with his other Avatar colleagues
regarding operating the facility.
To be proficient in the field of virtual reality one must have an in-depth understanding of how our everyday world works.
Perhaps one of virtual reality's greatest gifts will be helping us to understand better our own reality. Certainly the following
few benefits can do much to further our Zero-Accident goal:

Training. The VR Environment can be used to automate and test Operators on specific procedures required to operate
and maintain the plant. These procedures can be managed as part of the enterprise environment and can be linked to
scoring or tests for each operator or sub-contractor that must operate or work on the facility. For example, VR safety
training for workers can be done before flying them out to the facility, insuring optimized safety and time utilization
while on the facility. Training and analyzing offshore operations in a Virtual Reality environment is also much
cheaper and easier than building and managing hardware simulators. Not that a VR environment can fully take the
place of hardware simulators, but, surely it can complement it.

Incident Response. The VR environment can also handle changes to the plant an order of magnitude faster than
hardware simulators. This allows the operators and managers of the facility the ability to react quickly to changes or
even unplanned events. In a time of crisis, having the VR environments, models, process simulations, workflows,
etc can prove invaluable in system diagnostics for adequate response planning.

System Optimization. An Enterprise Virtual Reality Solution Environment for these Offshore Assets also provides the
technical playground to simulate all the main fluid processes of the facility. The Main Process Systems exactly
simulated with complex solvers can now be approximated and loaded into the VR Environment to test what if
scenarios and provide the user with the optimal real-life response.

Maintenance. Outage management scenarios methodically planned out with simulation tools and schedules can be
approximated and loaded into the VR Environment. In essence, the VR environment can be used to simulate all
the activity and processes within the facility job plans, plant turnaround. The idea is to take all the procedures,
behaviors, fluid process, control systems, etc and immerse them into the VR Environment. This gives us the ability
to really watch the plant react to varying input, i.e. what happens if I increase the speed of this pump? Will the
collected water from the process change? By also including the simulation of the fluid processes within the VR
environment, we are enabling a more life-like representation of the working Plant. This is where we need to go to
elevate our understanding and reactions to operating these complex facilities.

Knowledge Management. Virtual Reality and Simulation is revolutionizes how we perceive and manage
documentation for these huge assets. Paper documentation is becoming more and more obsolete and digital
documentation with 3D animations has proven to be very effective in conveying work procedures. By implementing
a VR environment, we automatically get the added benefit of being able to generate and extract separate digital
training documents; this is very cost effective.

Virtual Reality The Implementation Challenge


Organizations may have an interest in rapid adoption of virtualization for cost savings, server consolidation and much
more. However, there are several challenges to overcome:
Exact plant mimic. Providing an exact representation of the plant is not a technical challenge, but, rather a process
implementation challenge. The process implementation challenge is to construct an environment that triggers
synchronization between the Virtual Reality Environment and the Engineering (CAD) data. This is a new

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requirement and sometimes overlooked. Fortunately, years of requirements from the Engineering world, have given
us tools to enable a predictable synchronization process.
VR Real-Life Synchronization. One has to refresh the VR environment with new engineering data, configuration
management, data management, etc to be in step with the real-life environment. Use is made of the Plant Lifecycle
Management (PLM) objects such as Engineering Change Orders (ECO) to synchronize Computer-Aided
Drawings (CAD) and VR models. In this way, we can make the VR environment as up to date and predictable as the
real-life engineering environment.
Impart a Life-Like Experience. We need to create 3D Virtual Environment that is designed to give a life like
experience for the users. The good news is the underlying infrastructure required to manage such a Life-Like
Experience in an enterprise environment is already available namely the PLM infrastructure and Computer-Aided
Drawings (CAD).
Security and Compliance. There is much complexity in securing and managing compliance across a virtual
environment
Data Recovery. Your virtual environment houses critical (and often irreplaceable!) information, so you need an
effective backup and recovery solution.

Conclusion
Offshore oil rig engineers face ever-present danger. In emergencies, it is critical that each employee know exactly where
critical equipment is and where he or she should be in any given situation. If we combine virtual reality and systems
simulation and PLM we are able to replicate these adrenaline-pumping moments within a safe environment for training
purposes. Unlike classrooms or practice rigs, organizations can update virtual environments using engineering data so the
employees training is concurrent with the latest technologies and best practices.
Our experience has taught us that the operators and workers on these offshore assets demand life-like realism and an exact
representation of the plant. VR technology today can exactly represent the photo-realism and physics of the real world.
Forces such as gravity, wind, fire, waves, earthquakes, etc., can all be duplicated and analyzed within a Virtual Reality
Environment and you do not have to be a developer to enable these earthly forces. The closer the VR environment resembles
the real world, the more serious the field people are about the potential of the technology. The realism helps them become
more immersed in the training and get a more satisfying experience of the environment. Regarding software performance,
seamless data streaming and visualization updates provide the real-world behavior expected by the human eye. We are already
able to walk through these enormous facilities with the same user experience the human eye would have in the real world.
VR by itself offers great Return on Investment (ROI), however, VR integrated with Engineering, Fluid Process Simulation,
Control System Simulation, Outage Management, and PLM exponentially improve the ROI to where we need to go for our
Zero Accident Goal. Investing in synchronizing these software technologies for the life-like simulation of our huge
offshore assets can take our safety and understanding to the next level. This is where we must go.