Real-time optimization | ChemTech

Oil and gas digital transformation

Microsoft published a ChemTech case for creating a "digital twin"

Mikhail Saprykin

Microsoft CIS


Drone flies over pipelines, looking for defects and transmitting video to the operator screen. It’s not just a scene from presentation of the head of Microsoft Satya Nadella. This is already for real.


Microsoft’s collaboration with oil and gas companies began many years ago, and now it becomes more important than ever, because digitalization has long been a necessity for the oil industry. When energy resources prices are unpredictable, efficiency comes first. Advanced solutions are required at all stages of activity from exploration and production to refining and transporting. And the best confirmation is the latest news about the creation of a «digital twin» for Crude Distillation Unit using the cloud service Microsoft Azure.


“In the oil and gas industry digitalization has the potential to bring much greater benefits than in retail and even the banking sector, that everyone is talking about, - shares with us one of the developers of the new solution, Evgeny Bunin, technical specialist of ChemTech – The advantage of program solutions is that it is much easier to deploy than the modernization of equipment, which can last for a long time. Currently all companies are interested in solving optimization problems and maximization of resources and assets of all sorts”​

Do you know

I always thought that the hydrocarbon crude is easy to extract. Once It was much easier, but flowing crude oil ended in the former Russian Empire about a hundred years ago. It’s fine, but even now you do not need to try hard: deploy the pump and you are ready to extract.


And, indeed, everything is approximately the way it is, but we are dealing with a layer of solid rock, saturated with water, sand, gas, much more than that, and there are still hydrocarbons somewhere (sometimes it’s one ton to fifteen tons of water). This layer lies at a depth of 2 km, and in order to get it, a pump the size of a multi-storey house (literally) descends into the well, which in turn is a complex knot of various equipment, pipes and cables. And there are sensors that monitor the bottomhole zone in real time, fixing at least temperature and pressure. The minimal and full-fledged versions of the intellectual harness of the column are equipped in the same way as the simplest parktronics and an unmanned vehicle.


New solutions appear in the preliminary stage of geological exploration, and in the fields of petrochemicals and the processing, storage and transportation of hydrocarbons. This is true for old corrosion-prone pipelines, which often breaks down the fittings and they are under the influence of unfriendly permafrost. Often there are illegal taps for the purpose of theft on such pipelines.


"The equipment of petrochemical companies is equipped with a large number of different sensors,- explains Evgeny Bunin. - A lot of parameters are receiving in real time forming a Big Data, but even yesterday these data was not used as efficiently as it could and do not yet help to make weighted decisions. It turns out that the first steps that can be taken in the way of digitalization of the oil industry are getting hints for the operator, creating an assistant".

We can talk for a long time, but you probably already know that oil and gas production is one of the most high-tech areas, comparable to the exploration of space and the decoding of the genome. And this is the area where the use of solutions based on the Internet of things and artificial intelligence that are available in Microsoft Azure, reduces risks, minimizes the influence of the human factor, speeds up response to critical events.


Modern Workplace of 2018 year

About the Russian oil and gas industry is written by around forty specialized media. And almost all of this year articles or even entire issues were devoted to digitalization and intellectualization of the industry. Sometimes there are remarks about Russia's weakness in the implementation of innovative solutions, but, as Evgeny Bunin commented, this is not an indisputable statement:


"We are working with American and European oil companies, as well as with the Middle East, so I can compare. It seems to us that plants in Russia are much more seriously automated sometimes. Companies purchase much more different devices and sensors, make measurements more frequently. Russia is serious about implementing solutions that can bring some benefits and profit, although there are areas that are not well worked. We see companies that are looking at the opportunity to transfer all services to the Microsoft cloud with great interest, but in Russia they have not ready for this yet”.

Any enterprise is not limited to a production site, so today the tools for enterprise management and solutions for teamwork are especially important.

Microsoft international partners, such as Honeywell and Rockwell Automation, create customized solutions based on our technologies that can be customized for the needs of oil and gas companies.

For example, in the spring of this year Rockwell Automation updated the cloud system FactoryTalk, which uses Microsoft Azure IoT technology for remote monitoring of equipment, archiving and display of information.

Very interesting is that Microsoft HoloLens is used for training, which comes to a new level thanks to digital transformation. Alexey Zenkevich, Head of Honeywell's Industrial Automation division in Russia and the Customs Union states told us about this decision:


"One of the serious problems that the oil and gas industry faces today is the aging of staff and the shortage of qualified employees. In these conditions, companies need the accelerated training of new production stuff. As an effective solution Honeywell offers a simulator based on the Augmented and Virtual Reality of Honeywell Connected Plant Skills & Safety Immersive Competency, which uses the world's only holographic HoloLens computer from Microsoft and the mixed reality mixer Windows Mixed Reality. When using this system, the staff develops skills in an interactive, as close to the natural environment and can safely study the consequences of decisions. Such an immersive approach can reduce the time of technical training by 60% compared to traditional methods”.

But if the usage of Microsoft HoloLens is still in the initial stage, solutions for effective collaboration are already being used with might and main. In mid-August, Schlumberger, one of the world's giants in the field of oil services, chose the Microsoft 365 platform as a digital foundation, which will help to increase the efficiency of 100000 employees worldwide.


“Digital Twin” in Azure

One of the news this summer went beyond the specialized media and went into a broad information field.  At the TATNEFT refinery plant, TANECO and ChemTech implement a project of digital twin for the Crude Distillation Unit. The pilot project has already allowed to save millions of rubles through the use of breakthrough technologies.


"Digital twin" is a digital copy that allows us to make analysis and prediction, -says Evgeny Bunin. - Today you can analyze everything that happens in 2-3 years of using a specific unit, so we can create our digital model and find useful ideas. We use our thermodynamic model, which takes into account the features of the existing equipment, its technological modes, and we already superimpose statistics on thermodynamics model. In case of this combination, we can get an additional effect, which can be expressed in increasing the productivity of the plant or in improving the quality of products, reducing side effects. All this directly affects the economy of the unit itself and the entire plant."

The project uses machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies: processing and analysis of a large amount of data occurs on Microsoft Azure cloud service.

Using a ready-made platform allows you to further scale the project and connect new services, for example, PowerBI analytics tools.

The processes and technologies used today are much more complex than we could describe in this short article. For all companies operating in the oil and gas industry, the exciting time of digitalization begins. Their productivity and profit depend on new technologies and services, which means that it is time for Microsoft and our partners. We are sure that Oilman's Day this year will be the impetus for the development of this high-tech industry.