Microsoft and AVEVA are powering the future of energy

The firms’ solutions have helped energy companies to facilitate digital transformation and unlock significant gains across their value chains, and now other industrial players can learn from their experience

Rónán de Hooge
By Rónán de Hooge on 19 July 2022
Microsoft and AVEVA are powering the future of energy

Digital transformation proved its worth over the pandemic, with 94 per cent of respondents in a McKinsey survey affirming that Industry 4.0 tools helped them to keep operations running throughout the recent disruption.

Now, data-led digital technologies are delivering tangible operations and efficiency gains for early adopters across the industrial spectrum, while helping to support the global energy transition.  

Globally, digital innovation has facilitated gains of between 2 and 10 per cent in production and yield, and 10 to 30 per cent reductions in cost, according to McKinsey data. In practice, those gains vary according to each specific business case and the digital approach taken.  

Microsoft and AVEVA have been at the forefront of digital transformation in the energy sector. Together, the partners are empowering leading energy companies globally to accelerate the energy transition to achieve the decarbonisation targets. By combining the power of artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins, big data, and sector-specific analytics with the scale, breadth and latency of cloud, the two companies enable enhanced human insights and empower energy customers’ data-driven sustainability innovations with real-time collaboration.  

Companies leading the energy transition have witnessed significant gains after partnering with Microsoft and AVEVA, offering actionable takeaways for other organisations operating in the sector.  

When information is shared with internal and external partners, companies can leverage value chain efficiencies, improve collaboration and build more flexible and resilient operations. REG, a biodiesel producer based in Iowa, USA, relies on an external vendor’s solution to detect performance irregularities in its centrifuge units, an essential plant asset that supports the production of clean fuel. Once anomalies are detected, the solution recommends targeted maintenance actions to prevent unplanned downtime, repair costs and revenue loss. Until recently, manual data collection meant the external solution’s analyses and suggestions were outdated before they could be implemented.  

In search of a way to share real-time system data, REG and the vendor deployed AVEVA Data Hub to create a closed-loop data highway for an automated, two-way flow of operations data. With secure data-sharing, the vendor identifies unexpected asset and process behaviour in near-real time, while REG can quickly leverage the vendor’s analysis and recommendations. This ensures downtime and maintenance are conveniently planned, avoiding production interruption.  

Overall, the solution maintains data integrity without unwanted exposure, and all results are recorded for future analyses. The set-up reduces reactivity and can minimise equipment undesired downtime up to 90 per cent.  

AVEVA and Microsoft can also help companies use digital metrics to uncover potential new revenue streams. With the right digital toolkit, companies can widen their energy sources while complying with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies. Digital solutions enabled US-based power and energy provider Dominion Energy to do just that – while also lighting the way to a new revenue stream.  

Using AVEVA Data Hub powered by Microsoft Azure, Dominion was able to gather and share data about its energy sources and power flows in a unified, real-time, cloud interface with customers, helping them to comply with their net-zero commitments. Using trackable sustainability data, Dominion’s customers were able to provide proof of their low-carbon energy supplies to investors and ESG auditors, revealing a new energy source for Dominion. 

Overall, Dominion has increased profitability and helped accelerate North America’s low-carbon energy transition. In addition, coupled with intelligence from AVEVA PI System, Dominion realised a 50 per cent increase in speed to market for vital environmental data.   

As the energy sector faces a generational shift while new technologies are installed across the shopfloor, demand for operator training solutions has grown exponentially. At the same time, the growth of hybrid workplaces means that on-site training is not always possible. These factors, coupled with the large workforces and widespread networks characteristic of energy companies, require new-age training solutions.  

TotalEnergies, with operations in over 130 countries and nearly 100,000 employees, anticipated the problem even before the pandemic. It upgraded the training capabilities at OLEUM, the first European training centre to offer tailor-made courses in an industry-scale processing plant for the oil and gas and petrochemical industries.   

The centre integrated AVEVA operator training simulator solutions built on Microsoft Azure to deliver cloud-based learning programmes that can be accessed by staff anywhere at no extra cost. Using digital replicas of plant equipment and operation panels, trainees can easily practice all types of situations including dangerous incidents. In total, more than 2,000 operators worldwide receive hands-on virtual instruction each year. Training time has been reduced from months to weeks, safety has been enhanced, and travel costs, plant downtime and environmental impacts have been minimised. The cloud-based training capability was extremely important during the 2020 lockdowns as operators could continue with their training practices.  

For many industrial companies, digital transformation ends with the implementation of energy-saving software. But as AVEVA and Microsoft have shown in their work supporting customers across the energy industry, digital transformations in energy have widespread applications that extend from engineering to operations and management. 

By putting data and analytics at the heart of the value chain, energy leaders can build resilient, zero-carbon operations that deliver sustainability and profitable growth.  

Rónán de Hooge is executive vice president of cloud platform business at AVEVA

This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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