bp completes autonomous vehicle trial with Oxbotica
bp has successfully completed an autonomous vehicle trial at its Lingen refinery in Germany, working with Oxbotica, a leader in autonomous vehicle software, claiming it marks a first in the energy sector - and simultaneously bolstered its presence in the offshore wind sector.
During the trial the vehicle travelled over 180km fully autonomously, safely navigating the extensive and complex environment of the bp refinery, including busy junctions, narrow paths, railway crossings, and multiple terrains, day and night and in unpredictable weather conditions. Oxbotica was able to deploy its autonomy software platform and integrate with the existing infrastructure within two hours of arriving on site.
Following the success of the trial, bp aims to progress to deploying its first autonomous vehicle for monitoring operations at the refinery by the end of the year.
The self-driving vehicles will enhance human operations and improve safety by increasing the monitoring for irregular conditions, faulty equipment and security threats, making it more frequent and around the clock. The autonomous vehicles’ enhanced analytics will help the site reduce the size of its current fleet.
Morag Watson SVP digital science and engineering, bp said: “This relationship is an important example of how bp is leveraging automation and digital technology that we believe can improve safety, increase efficiency and decrease carbon emissions in support of our net zero ambition.
“Lingen has 30 km of roads. Intelligent technology like this helps us make the incremental but equally critical improvements to our operations, so we can continue to focus on delivering the energy the world needs in the way that it wants. I am looking forward to working with Oxbotica to explore how we can unlock the full potential of autonomy.”
The announcement follows bp’s recent $13m equity investment in Oxbotica. The partnership will give Oxbotica access to bp’s operations, retail sites and customer network, helping to unlock its potential.
Ozgur Tohumcu, CEO at Oxbotica said: “As part of our first refinery trial in Lingen, we showcased how autonomy improves safety, reduces emissions and improves productivity. The investment from bp will allow us to scale our autonomous software platform across the energy ecosystem with a number of planned use cases and unlock the true power of universal autonomy.”
Beyond the trial, bp believes that Oxbotica’s technology can help it to create an inherently safer operating environment for field workers through its reliable, repeatable, and predictable application.
The software can be installed into any vehicle and can work indoors, outdoors, underground, in any weather condition and any time of day or night. It has zero dependence on external infrastructure such as GPS or third-party mapping and is completely sensor- and platform-agnostic.
Erin Hallock, Managing Partner at bp ventures, added: “Oxbotica’s technology makes autonomous vehicles safer due to improved vision, more efficient due to reduced downtime and less carbon intensive through forensic control of acceleration, braking and driving patterns. We are delighted to partner with a business at the forefront of the future of mobility that can modernise bp through autonomy and look forward to scaling the software across bp’s ecosystem.”
Oxbotica spun out of Oxford University in 2014, developing its technology over a series of Innovate UK-supported projects.
The company now produces two pieces of software. The first is Selenium, the ‘brain’ of an autonomous vehicle, which combines data from vehicle sensors to help the vehicle answer questions relating to location, environment and movement.
The second is Caesium, a cloud-based fleet management system to co-ordinate multiple vehicles and allow them to exchange data without human interaction.
EnBW and bp to develop offshore wind farms
Karlsruhe-based EnBW and bp plan to jointly develop offshore wind farms off the coasts of Great Britain in a 50:50 partnership.
Following the auction for the award of seabed rights by The Crown Estate in the UK, the two partners secured two large areas in the Irish Sea that are estimated to be the highest-value areas in the first auction of offshore wind rights in England and Wales for 10 years. EnBW and bp plan to build two offshore wind farms there with a combined capacity of 3GW, enough to power the equivalent of 3.4 million households.
“We are delighted with this auction win in a tough international bidder field," said EnBW CEO Frank Mastiaux. "The award confirms that bp and EnBW are the right partners with the right strategy and the right capabilities. EnBW is among today’s leaders in advanced offshore wind technology. In partnership with bp, a major player with international experience in the offshore business, we will once again contribute significantly to a climate-friendly energy future in the UK, which is currently the world’s largest market for offshore wind power."
Taking the lid off digital transformation
Amish Sabharwal is Executive Vice President for AVEVA’s Industrial Engineering Business Unit which is responsible for delivering simulation, engineering, design, project execution, operator training and project management software to the Global Industrial Market. With 25 years' experience globally within the Energy, Chemicals and Power industries, he is focused on delivering Digital Transformation outcomes for Owner Operators, EPC and Suppliers by leveraging technology to create value added opportunities to business processes. Amish is a professional engineer who holds a Masters and Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from the University of Calgary. Here he reflects on the impact the pandemic has had on the industry and why it must be at the cutting edge of digital transformation.
Oil and gas companies faced formidable challenges to their efficiency, sustainability and profitability in 2020. As a result of the pandemic, prices collapsed severely and the urgency to tackle these issues intensified. The economic discomfort is being felt throughout the oil and gas value chain.
Upstream companies seek to maximise production from onshore and offshore wells safely and economically. In the midstream, the primary concern of hydrocarbon pipeline operators is to ensure safe, reliable and compliant operations - all while managing energy costs and minimising time and installed costs. Across the downstream, refining and petrochemical producers strive to achieve superior performance through better management of their energy usage and costs.
Considering these priorities, the lack of digital maturity across oil and gas is perhaps surprising. According to multinational professional services firm PwC, “One of the clearest and most viable responses to these systemic challenges is to accelerate digitisation strategies to help improve resilience and remain attractive to investors.” But, “of more than 200 oil and gas companies surveyed, only 7% identified themselves as digital champions while more than 70% of respondents considered themselves to be in the early stages of digital maturity”.
Optimisation and innovation
In today’s economic environment, capital budgets and overheads are constantly being cut. Oil and gas producers are faced with rising manufacturing costs, global competition and soaring energy costs. To meet these challenges, companies must optimise manufacturing operations and make performance improvements to positively impact their bottom lines.
Digital transformation offers new toolsets that enable oil and gas producers to increase their competitiveness. These digital toolsets help improve yields of valuable products while reducing energy consumption and increasing throughput. Using digital technology, manufacturers can create a complete digital twin of their processes and assets to respond quickly and easily to unexpected events, reduce shutdown time, work and train operators remotely and evaluate what-if scenarios in batch processing and manufacturing.
Through digital transformation, operators can combine real-time process data with current economic conditions, giving operators the ability to make informed decisions at an expedited rate. Information sharing increases while stakeholders also improve their ability to visualise results and key performance indicator data across processes and overall plant production.
Technology offers the potential to impact process yield, energy use and throughput optimisation. Here are some considerations:
Own and maintain your own engineering data
Engineering data tells you what equipment is installed on each plant, what size it is, how it is connected and where it is located through 3D visualisation. It is generated in capital projects, from newbuild plants to brownfield revamps, and forms the backbone of the digital twin.
Accurate data, kept in one place, ensures the reliability of a digital twin’s output and the efficiency of operations throughout the asset’s lifecycle. Global oil and gas producers are moving fast to invest in their own cloud-based data platforms for current and future capital projects, operations and maintenance as part of their digital transformation projects.
Evaluate process design in the cloud to reduce costs
By leveraging the almost infinite processing power and storage available through cloud-based architecture, companies can accelerate process design while reducing capital investment costs for process modelling and training.
Oil and gas producers can spin up cloud-based servers and computing resources as needed. This also accelerates the flow of information throughout process design. A cloud-based architecture for process design increases information accessibility, enhances availability and significantly reduces total cost of ownership.
Encourage online collaboration
Process innovations becomes seamless through collaboration. Separating the content from the product allows the content, such as simulation models, to be managed easily with file history logs in a central repository. Efficiency is significantly increased using cloud-based architecture as refineries can adapt to changing needs.
Computing power can also be scaled up or down with varying numbers of virtual machines to facilitate simulation templates for engineering test or training scenarios. Secure user access control allows administrators to add, delete or edit users and privileges as needed. IT overheads are simplified to a pure on-demand cloud-based architecture where machines are accessed via a secure URL, and new versions of process designs are available as soon as released.
Accelerate operational excellence through a digital engineering platform
Consider supporting the entire engineering lifecycle from representation of the actual piping and instrumentation diagram, mapping each equipment object to a detailed engineering database and 3D model; to building/testing the dynamic stimulation early in the process design; optimising the process and control design, comparing capital versus operating costs; and the continuous improvement of operations as the engineering model becomes a plant’s digital twin.
Unify your supply chain model planning and operations
A complete 360-degree view of the digital value chain means all aspects of the enterprise are visualised, analysed and optimised. Inputs to the enterprise, such as feedstock and raw materials, are analysed in real-time against planning, operations, scheduling and distribution. Full plant models are managed simultaneously within a supply and distribution network.
Combining data and analysis
There are three key technological trends that will continue to accelerate adoption and help businesses reinvent themselves. First, cloud computing allows companies to manage large volumes of data generated in operations and improves data quality, data availability and single-source transparency across complex value chains.
Second, connectivity and the Internet of Things, in which machines carry sensors that support remote performance monitoring and efficient equipment integration, will support energy use optimisation and costs across company operations. Third, AI and ML tools help analyse data and identify operational patterns and shortcomings that can be used to improve efficiency, for example, in predictive maintenance.
Digital transformation offers a fresh lens to improve workforce training, sustainability, productivity, safety and regulatory compliance - while adapting to unforeseen events. Through digital transformation, oil and gas producers can more confidently explore opportunities, reduce operational risk and shrink the gap between plans and results.