ConocoPhillips’ Digital Twin Program Shows How Industrial and Manufacturing Firms Can Foster Local Innovation and Scale Globally

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By Michael Larner | 4Q 2023 | IN-7114

Having implemented digital twins sporadically across its operations, ConocoPhillips has decided to establish a centralized team to deploy digital twins, based on Microsoft Azure, across its facilities to support an increasing number of use cases.

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ConocoPhillips Launches a Global Digital Twin Program


Hydrocarbon explorer and producer ConocoPhillips has created digital twins at a number of its facilities and honed its best practices to implement its global digital twins program—a digital twin portfolio available company-wide. For ConocoPhillips, digital twins have been developed to ensure safety at facilities, as well as improve equipment efficiency. The program is the next chapter in the company’s digital transformation strategy.

Digital Twins Already Deliver Significant ROI


Digital twins have previously been created at many ConocoPhillips sites such as its Australia Pacific Liquified Natural Gas (APLNG) facility in Queensland. Having spent a month gathering and organizing operational data, a digital twin at the site supports the facility’s work to supply natural gas to the state and the Japanese market.

Developing the digital twins program involved gathering requirements for different business units and aligning on a technology platform. The company develops its digital twins in Microsoft Azure (taking advantage of the global access and scalability afforded by the platform) and states that using the platform is cheaper than if it chose to host a solution itself.

ConocoPhillips is developing three different types of digital twins. There are digital twins to help monitor operations in real time, those that simulate how equipment and facilities function, and others that look to provide staff with easy ways to visualize the data being collected. Digital twins are in the pipeline for the company’s operations in Alaska, Canada, and Norway.

Use cases for the digital twins include tagging assets inside a facility so that maintenance teams can quickly identify their location. Another is to ensure that technicians and workers in the field not only have access to an asset’s digital twin, but that it is also connected to other applications that can deliver relevant information to their devices. Furthermore, the digital twins can advise operators and technicians on the optimal production settings for an asset.

The company reports that digital twins have, in many cases, delivered a Return on Investment (ROI) of more than 400%.

Centralized Approach to Deploying Digital Twins


Currently, ConocoPhillips produces 1,805,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, but oil & gas producers face challenges in obtaining regulatory approval for new sites, so they must maximize the extraction from their existing sites to increase productions levels. Oil & gas companies are increasingly looking to innovations such as digital twins to achieve these goals.

But global companies face challenges in delivering innovations at scale. ConocoPhillips encouraged innovation, but each business unit worked independently and selected its preferred technologies, which increased costs and complexity. The global digital twins program is adopting a different approach with the program funded centrally with the digital twins implemented more quickly by a central team working alongside local colleagues. In addition, the central funding model means that local teams don’t need to wait for an opportunity in their budgeting to deploy a digital twin.

The centralization also means that standardization in terms of delivering consistent and comparable solutions that can be readily supported by the central team enables the development of best practices across teams. The central team uses Microsoft Teams to share best practices and updates. One example of best practice emanates from Norway where the team developed digital twins of its oil rigs in the North Sea and shared its thoughts on the commercial benefits of its digital twins and offered practical tips.

A centralized approach, including funding, can enable innovations to cascade quickly across facilities and sharing best practices. However, industrial and manufacturing companies will need to invest the time in developing a culture that accepts instruction from the center, which will be very challenging when local operations have historically operated independently. A further complication for oil & gas firms will be scaling innovations across acquired companies. This month has witnessed two major acquisitions by oil & gas giants (Exxon buying Pioneer Natural Resources and Chevron buying another producer, Hess).



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