May 17, 2020

Updates on the mega oil and gas industry of Venezuela

4 min
Venezuela Oil Industry

With the most proven oil reserves in South America, Venezuela is an imperative contributor to the worldwide oil industry and is the eighth-largest...

With the most proven oil reserves in South America, Venezuela is an imperative contributor to the worldwide oil industry and is the eighth-largest oil exporter in the world. While oil production is at the foundation of Venezuela’s economy, crude oil production has seen a decline in recent years, as domestic consumption has grown.

Socialist president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, has received a reputation as a price hawk by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Venezuela exports petrol to the U.S., South America, Europe and the Caribbean, though the country is working toward diversifying its petrol destinations, particularly away from the U.S., to places like China. Chávez has said, "Let the United States know, that if any aggression is waged against us, we will cut off all oil supply to them. Not a single drop of oil for the United States!"

Petróleos de Venezuela
Petróleos de Venezuela S.A (PDVSA), established in 1975 by the Organic Law that Reserves the Industry and Commerce in Hydrocarbons to the State (LOREICH), is a state-owned corporation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The company is considered both dependable and profitable in the exploration, production, refinement, transport and sale of hydrocarbons. PDVSA is responsible for adhering to the strict guidelines, strategies and plans that are enforced by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, as well as the National Development Plans for the hydrocarbon sector. The State of Venezuela is the only stockholder of PDVSA under the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. PDVSA is representative of both the economic and political sovereignty of the Venezuelan people over oil, which is the country’s main energy resource.

The company employs workers who are invested in maintaining sovereignty for the Venezuelan energy industry. Additionally, the company is committed to adding value to oil resources by enforcing the principals of efficiency in using its country’s reserves.

Venezuela Oil Sowing Plan
The “Oil Sowing Plan” communicates Venezuela’s power policy guidelines through the year 2030, which includes six major development projects to be carried out in two stages. Stage one of the programs has been in development since 2005 and will last until 2012. The second stage will run from 2012 through 2030. The first stage of the plan requires an initial investment of $56 billion, in which 70 percent will be financed via the State of Venezuela, and the remaining 30 percent falling to the private sector.

According to PDVSA, phase one of the plan includes the following axes:
Magna Reserve: As Venezuela has 77 billion barrels of petrol and the Orinoco Oil Belt has a registered 235 million barrels, the company will work to quantify and certify all oil reserves in the Orinoco Oil Belt.

Orinoco Project: Along with the help of other select companies, 27 blocks will be developed under this hydrocarbon reserve. This project will also place importance on reducing over-population in parts of the country, and on offering employment to locals.

Delta-Caribbean Project: The goal of this project is to develop offshore gas in the Deltana Platform, located off of the eastern coast of Venezuela. Additional development sites are located in the country’s northwestern Paraguaná Peninsula.

Refinement: To meet the strategic goals of PDVSA, the plan will take on creating new refineries, including: Cabruta, with a planned capacity for producing 400,000 extra-heavy crude barrels per day; Batalla de Santa Ines, aimed at producing 50,000 barrels; and Caripito, expected to weigh in with 50,000 barrels per day, which would be destined specifically for asphalt production. These additional refineries, combined with the upgrades of existing ones, will bring the company’s total capacity for processing on Venezuela’s soil to 700,000 barrels a day.

Infrastructure: A contract has been signed for the development of the Transguajiro gas pipeline between Venezuela and Columbia. To increase fuel supplies to the neighboring nation, more pipelines will be constructed.

Integration: Through Petrocaribe, Venezuela will supply crude and other oil products to the Caribbean, which has also been expanding its refinement capacity. The Petrosur agreement has been signed, advancing the planning of projects in South America. A refinery is also to be built in Brazil, near Petrobras.

Chevron Venezuela
Chevron leads the oil industry of Venezuela, partnering with PDVSA on exploration and production projects. According to the company, its 2009 daily production total averaged 221,000 barrels of liquids and 102 million cubic feet of natural gas. The overall amount produced was generated from three fields. In partnership with PDVSA, Chevron is currently engaged in five crucial projects in the country, including: the non-operated Petroboscan and Petroindependiente projects in western Venezuela; the Petropiar operation in the eastern part of the country; offshore gas operations which include exploration efforts at Cardon III; and the Delta Caribe project, where Chevron works on the country's first liquefied natural gas train.


Share article

Jun 12, 2021

Why Transmission & Distribution Utilities Need Digital Twins

Petri Rauhakallio
6 min
Petri Rauhakallio at Sharper Shape outlines the Digital Twins benefits for energy transmission and distribution utilities

As with any new technology, Digital twins can create as many questions as answers. There can be a natural resistance, especially among senior utility executives who are used to the old ways and need a compelling case to invest in new ones. 

So is digital twin just a fancy name for modelling? And why do many senior leaders and engineers at power transmission & distribution (T&D) companies have a gnawing feeling they should have one? Ultimately it comes down to one key question: is this a trend worth our time and money?

The short answer is yes, if approached intelligently and accounting for utilities’ specific needs. This is no case of runaway hype or an overwrought name for an underwhelming development – digital twin technology can be genuinely transformational if done right. So here are six reasons why in five years no T&D utility will want to be without a digital twin. 

1. Smarter Asset Planning

A digital twin is a real-time digital counterpart of a utility’s real-world grid. A proper digital twin – and not just a static 3D model of some adjacent assets – represents the grid in as much detail as possible, is updated in real-time and can be used to model ‘what if’ scenarios to gauge the effects in real life. It is the repository in which to collect and index all network data, from images, to 3D pointclouds, to past reports and analyses.

With that in mind, an obvious use-case for a digital twin is planning upgrades and expansions. For example, if a developer wants to connect a major solar generation asset, what effect might that have on the grid assets, and will they need upgrading or reinforcement? A seasoned engineer can offer an educated prediction if they are familiar with the local assets, their age and their condition – but with a digital twin they can simply model the scenario on the digital twin and find out.

The decision is more likely to be the right one, the utility is less likely to be blindsided by unforeseen complications, and less time and money need be spent visiting the site and validating information.

As the energy transition accelerates, both transmission and distribution (T&D) utilities will receive more connection requests for anything from solar parks to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to heat pumps and batteries – and all this on top of normal grid upgrade programs. A well-constructed digital twin may come to be an essential tool to keep up with the pace of change.

2. Improved Inspection and Maintenance

Utilities spend enormous amounts of time and money on asset inspection and maintenance – they have to in order to meet their operational and safety responsibilities. In order to make the task more manageable, most utilities try to prioritise the most critical or fragile parts of the network for inspection, based on past inspection data and engineers’ experience. Many are investigating how to better collect, store and analyze data in order to hone this process, with the ultimate goal of predicting where inspections and maintenance are going to be needed before problems arise.  

The digital twin is the platform that contextualises this information. Data is tagged to assets in the model, analytics and AI algorithms are applied and suggested interventions are automatically flagged to the human user, who can understand what and where the problem is thanks to the twin. As new data is collected over time, the process only becomes more effective.

3. More Efficient Vegetation Management

Utilities – especially transmission utilities in areas of high wildfire-risk – are in a constant struggle with nature to keep vegetation in-check that surrounds power lines and other assets. Failure risks outages, damage to assets and even a fire threat. A comprehensive digital twin won’t just incorporate the grid assets – a network of powerlines and pylons isolated on an otherwise blank screen – but the immediate surroundings too. This means local houses, roads, waterways and trees. 

If the twin is enriched with vegetation data on factors such as the species, growth rate and health of a tree, then the utility can use it to assess the risk from any given twig or branch neighbouring one of its assets, and prioritise and dispatch vegetation management crews accordingly. 

And with expansion planning, inspection and maintenance, the value here is less labor-intensive and more cost-effective decision making and planning – essential in an industry of tight margins and constrained resources. What’s more, the value only rises over time as feedback allows the utility to finesse the program.

4. Automated powerline inspection

Remember though, that to be maximally useful, a digital twin must be kept up to date. A larger utility might blanche at the resources required to not just to map and inspect the network once in order to build the twin, but update that twin at regular intervals.

However, digital twins are also an enabling technology for another technological step-change – automated powerline inspection.

Imagine a fleet of sensor-equipped drones empowered to fly the lines almost constantly, returning (automatically) only to recharge their batteries. Not only would such a set-up be far cheaper to operate than a comparable fleet of human inspectors, it could provide far more detail at far more regular intervals, facilitating all the above benefits of better planning, inspection, maintenance and vegetation management. Human inspectors could be reserved for non-routine interventions that really require their hard-earned expertise.

In this scenario, the digital twin provides he ‘map’ by which the drone can plan a route and navigate itself, in conjunction with its sensors. 

5. Improved Emergency Modelling and Faster Response

If the worst happens and emergency strikes, such as a wildfire or natural disaster, digital twins can again prove invaluable. The intricate, detailed understanding of the grid, assets and its surroundings that a digital twin gives is an element of order in a chaotic situation, and can guide the utility and emergency services alike in mounting an informed response.

And once again, the digital twin’s facility for ‘what-if’ scenario testing is especially useful for emergency preparedness. If a hurricane strikes at point X, what will be the effect on assets at point Y? If a downed pylon sparks a fire at point A, what residences are nearby and what does an evacuation plan look like?

6. Easier accommodation of external stakeholders

Finally, a digital twin can make lighter work of engaging with external stakeholders. The world doesn’t stand still, and a once blissfully-isolated powerline may suddenly find itself adjacent to a building site for a new building or road. 

As well as planning for connection (see point 1), a digital twin takes the pain out of those processes that require interfacing with external stakeholders, such as maintenance contractors, arborists, trimming crews or local government agencies – the digital twin breaks down the silos between these groups and allows them to work from a single version of the truth – in future it could even be used as part of the bid process for contractors.

These six reasons for why digital twins will be indispensable to power T&D utilities are only the tip of the iceberg; the possibilities are endless given the constant advancement of data collection an analysis technology. No doubt these will invite even more questions – and we relish the challenge of answering them. 


Share article