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The Total offshore production installation, Pazflor, can handle a production capacity of 220,000 barrels a day

Plant Engineering Software

Training for the pros

The oil and gas giant Total uses the Siemens Comos Walkinside software to train its staff for offshore installations using a virtual 3D environment. This approach increases safety and maximizes profitability in raw material production.

In a crisis, fast reactions are essential. For example, when a worker making rounds on an oil rig in the Atlantic discovers a visible gas leak as well as a seriously injured colleague lying on the ground, he has to know exactly what to do. He must immediately make the right decision in a matter of seconds. Should he rescue his co-worker or first ensure the safety of the other people on board the production platform?

Secure, alert and rescue: First he must secure what he is doing. Then he raises the alarm, calls the emergency response team and thirdly attempts a rescue himself. This is standard procedure. It is how the French oil and gas giant, Total, trains its installation staff in an Immersive Training Simulator (ITS), based on the Comos Walkinside software solution from Siemens.

ITS is a realistic immersive 3D virtual reality environment. It enables a worker to enter an exact virtual replica of his working environment, visualize his tasks, practice defined workflows and run through emergency situations in any number of scenarios. “We have to have training that reaches everybody,” says Nicolas Tarisse, field operations training manager with Total E&P. ITS puts workers in a true-to-life 3D virtual environment that effectively teaches them what to do and when to do it. This is extremely important for specialists who work on a Floating, Production, Storage Offloading (FPSO) unit. 

The simulator allows different scenarios to be simulated in real time

We have to have training that reaches everybody.
Nicolas Tarisse, field operations training manager at Total E&P

Increasing safety and efficiency

After safety, the most important concern is to increase the productivity of each employee so rapidly that it impacts the installation's total profitability. With full operating production of 220,000 barrels a day, the Pazflor project can bring in $20 million a day. Any type of delay in production can cost millions. “By using ITS, we have less loss of production due to human error; we minimize the losses,” Tarisse explains. His team was able to increase efficiency and safety, lowering risk and increased asset availability, which also improves ROI.

The Pazflor FPSO unit operates some 150 kilometers off the coast of Angola in waters approximately 600 to 1,200 meters deep. The FPSO is spread-moored at a depth of 760 meters atop 25 subsea oil wells, two gas-injection wells and 22 water-injection wells. This offshore installation is the first of its kind to process two different types of oil: heavy oils from Miocene reservoirs and lighter oil from the Oligocene reservoir.

Before Pazflor was commissioned, some of the team members received onshore training in the Comos Walkinside ITS. “The first goal is to have the operators become familiar with the installation and practice workflows. There is certain equipment they would need to find rapidly for them to restart if there is a local restart on a valve. If they spend too much time looking for the equipment, there is a loss of production because the time to restart increases,” explains training manager Tarisse.

Emergencies such as fire, flares and leaks

Worker feedback on the ITS training was very positive. By far, 58 percent of trainees found ITS to be “very useful” and another 34 percent described this form of training as “interesting.”

After the Pazflor training proved to be so successful, Total launched another project phase for the CLOV FPSO. It connects 24 subsea wells to the production unit, which will have a processing capacity of 160,000 barrels of oil per day and a storage capacity of approximately 1.8 million barrels.

Total introduced CLOV ITS, which continues using the Siemens Comos Walkinside technology, in two phases. The first phase was similar to Pazflor where operators familiarizes themselves on the equipment, but they also introduce a link to the documentation management system. The objective the training program is to learn and understand all operations of the equipment process in 3D, from the wells to the export systems, including specific safety matters.

Phase 2 will involve integrating HSE objects and immersive effects. The purpose is to prepare all employees to handling unusual situations, including fire, flares, smoke, gas leaks, liquid leaks and man down. Some of the HSE objects integrated into the 3D Virtual Reality model of the CLOV FPSO are sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, alarms, call boxes, masks, a warning screen and a gathering point.

The Avatar (virtual character) of a worker in an ITS-simulated standard environment of the installation

One thing becomes quickly clear: The Comos Walkinside ITS technology has enormous potential. “The dynamic model has a life of its own where it can extend to real time management, ongoing training, maintenance supervision and execution,” says Marc de Buyl, Vice President for 3D Visualization with Siemens. “Thanks to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), we can have our own avatars in the model. They can represent the physical presence of a worker, so the DCS room can see where people are and what people are doing and see what they are supposed to do, is what they are doing. When there are ambiguities, verbal communication can take place between the DCS room and the expert and the people in the field who are looking at the same information on a tablet.”

The dynamic model has a life of its own where it can extend to real time management, ongoing training, maintenance supervision and execution.
Marc de Buyl, Vice President for 3D Visualization, Siemens

Learning is a new kind of motivation

Another benefit is that Comos Walkinside ITS uses the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) editor functionality, making it possible to customize certain operating situations to individual needs. Workflows from real-life practice can be precisely simulated. During a walk-through, operators can view up-to-date information on all content stored in the database for an object (e.g., a pump) – data sheets, specifications, procedures, certificates and test reports – simply by clicking on the piece of equipment.

By placing the virtual 3D installation on the desktops of operators, maintenance and engineering staff, operators can coordinate activities across a wide range of geographically dispersed areas. Everyone can access an up-to-date model in a web server-based solution.

As important as it is to secure the work environment, this is not a task for a single person. “The team building and the rehearsal of scenarios is very important“, remarks Siemens expert de Buyl. The goal is to optimize workflows with the help of more efficient employees, who know their installation and procedures like the back of their hand. “We want to achieve certifiable expertise,“ says de Buyl. Refreshing one's knowledge provides motivation and reinforces the material learned. Immersive training ultimately provides a positive learning environment and makes employees more productive so that they make the right decisions faster in high-pressure situations.

We want to achieve certifiable expertise.
Marc de Buyl, Vice President 3D Visualization, Siemens

3D visualization, data center and training with Comos

Picture credits: Total E&P Angola / Video: Siemens AG