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March 19, 2014

Virtual realities: simulation tech for offshore safety

From familiarising rig operators with future working environments before they have even been built to testing how new software might interact with other systems in a crisis, advances in modern technology are bringing new health and safety opportunities to the offshore industry. We round up the cutting-edge industrial gaming and cybernetic technologies on the market.

By Adam Leach


Activity Visualisation Platform by AVEVA

The AVEVA Activity Visualisation Platform provides an all-encompassing package that enables users to perform everything from a simple inspection patrol to vital maintenance work on malfunctioning drilling equipment. The virtual environments, which are constructed entirely from clients’ own 3D designs, allow for multiple avatars to interact with one another and the various pieces of equipment that would feature on a real rig.

As a result, working groups composed of multiple members can be brought together to test maintenance or safety procedures, irrespective of their physical location. The user experience is brought to life either through a first-person viewpoint, the most realistic option, or on a video screen. "Operations staff can now learn and practise tasks in complete safety while reducing costs and overall risks," said AVEVA’s COO and head of enterprise solutions Derek Middlemas.

DrillSIM-6000 by Drilling Systems

The single-chair DrillSIM-600 and multi-chair DrillSIM-6000 simulators can be customised to replicate the control systems of any drilling platform in commercial use, while the realistic well-modelling software enables users to create a range of challenging and accurate scenarios that can be worked on without risk of injury.

Real-time data and feedback systems provide users with accurate information streams to that enable them to develop their analysis and decision making skills. Downhole effects such as differential pressure, kick influx density and bit balling are replicated through the system to further the sense of authenticity.

Digital geospatial data is an increasingly important part of the offshore industry’s operational and risk management process..

Available in a range of configurations, such as a classroom layout that includes a viewing platform and a containerised dome option that offers temperature control for added authenticity, the system is intended to be flexible enough to suit both new recruits and old hands. Real-time data and feedback systems provide accurate information to users, enabling them to develop their analysis and decision-making. A previous version of the simulator was used in 2005 to assist in the training of 500 Azerbaijani and expatriate staff to operate five cyber platform rigs in Baku. The system has been used by BP, Shell and Statoil.

PetroSims by Kea Studios

PetroSims, developed by Malaysian game developer Kea Studios and supported by the country’s Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation, augments traditional learning methods such as reading materials and quizzes with first-person-perspective 3D game technology that tests users’ knowledge and understanding of safety and operating procedures.

Available in both customised and off-the-shelf formats, the range of unit options includes technical operations such as drilling and gas processing, and HSE training, including hazard identification and personal protective equipment. The offshore course, which starts with travelling offshore and concludes with abandonment procedures, uses immersive first-person test scenarios to develop users’ ability to carry out safety procedures correctly.

Infonix by Tech27

"A previous version of the simulator was used in 2005 to assist in the training of 500 Azerbaijani and expatriate staff to operate five cyber platform rigs in Baku."

Tech27, through subsidiary Infonix, offers a more cost-efficient solution that takes a number of scenarios from the offshore oil and gas industry, such as drilling operations, transporting equipment around the rig and health and safety procedures, and replicates them in a PC and Xbox 360 gaming environment.

Real-time user feedback is provided through a vibrating controller and operators can set up step-by-step walkthroughs to mirror specific training programmes. The application also features player scoring and leaderboards to infuse the learning of safety procedures with an element of competition.

EnVision GOSP by GSE Systems

The EnVision gas oil separation process (GOSP) simulator, developed by GSE Systems, enables petroleum processing companies to construct detailed and realistic malfunction scenarios to test and assess how drilling engineers cope when things go wrong. With control over the full range of geological conditions, such as raw feed stream composition and cooling water temperature, instructors can create tailor made scenarios that put trainees under real pressure.

Covering drilling operations from start-up to shutdown, users are presented with real-time data streams that monitor properties such as the hydrocarbon dew point, hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and CO2 levels, and water-in-oil ratio on which to base their actions.

Crane Simulator by Transas

A project to build the world’s biggest jack-up drill rig, the Dubai Expo 2020 NS otherwise known as the CJ80, is currently underway.

The Transas crane simulator uses a sophisticated mathematical model, underpinned by the laws of physics, to offer a crane operating environment that challenges the operator to battle treacherous weather conditions and external forces such as falling machinery to get their cargo safely from A to B. Offering digital representations of offshore pedestal cranes, ship-to-shore gantry cranes and level-lifting cranes, the Full Mission Crane Cabin option offers the highest level of physical realism inside an exact replica of a crane cabin with sophisticated software and visuals.

The system enables trainees to develop crucial skills, such as crane control, load positioning and selecting an optimal trajectory, while the emergency mode offers the chance to prepare for when things go wrong. The solo-user and networked options are operated on PC desktops, suitable for distance learning. The simulator was developed in accordance with the Crane Simulator DNV standard for Offshore Crane Operation Class A.

Drill-HIL testing by Marine Cybernetics

The Drill-HIL testing solution takes the value of testing a group within a safe environment and applies it to the machines and systems that are networked offshore. By testing new and upgraded software through an isolated replica of existing systems and software, the process enables companies to detect hidden software errors, design errors and erroneous configuration parameters that might otherwise lie dormant until a crisis occurs.

The practice, which is already widely used within the automotive industry, recently attracted the support of Brazilian oil giant Petrobras when it signed a contract with Marine Cybernetics to provide third-party testing on all new software before installation. The process enables prospective control systems to be stress-tested extensively in various scenarios to prove that they work as they should.

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