Chemical companies must have clarity of purpose on Digital Twin adoption

Chemical companies must have clarity of purpose on Digital Twin adoption

Industry leaders see Process Digital Twin as the most important building block for the digital transformation of the chemical industry

  • By Rahul Koul | December 03, 2021

Digital Twin technology is  one of the top trends shaping industrial equipment and process manufacturing industry. Digital twins are multiplying as their capabilities and sophistication grow. 

"Each year the chemical plants are becoming larger and so are their complexities. With continuous expansion in the chemical industry, the companies are looking at introducing new products. Therefore, there is growing time to market focus and competitiveness due to the entry of a larger number of companies. Talent acquisition and R&D are the challenges that the companies are dealing with but above all the circular economy and low carbon emissions are their biggest concerns. The multi-operating system in plants poses challenges such as how to control so many parameters and integration. In this background, the important fundamental question is why does a company want to adopt Digital Twin, which area to focus on, and how to do it?" says Bhaskaran Rajagopalan, Sr. Vice President - Design & Technology, Aarti Industries Limited. 

Implementation of digital transformation is all about the perspective shared by the company's leadership. When to begin and who leads the initiatives are also deciding factors. We see a lot many projects happening in silos and there are a lot of companies which think that value is long term and not immediately. Digital Twin is important for improved process design. Experimentation, up gradation and security are few other criteria. For the Digital Twin accelerated sustainability journey, companies need to align their transformation goals with digital technologies and expert partners and then go about it in a phased manner," added Rajagopalan. 

Rajagopalan shared these insights at the E-conference on Process Digital Twin for Chemicals organized by the Indian Chemical News on December 2, 2021. The virtual event was moderated by Pravin Prashant, Editor, Indian Chemical News. 

"There is a growing indigenous R&D push towards developing homegrown technologies in India. In 2021, there was US $1.4 trillion worth investments into infrastructure. A substantial chunk of that has gone into chemicals. Last year the industry stood at US $178 trillion and we are soon expecting it to be US $300 billion. There are so many projects happening to tap the opportunities in chemical manufacturing and if we don't tap it, someone else will. There are certain chemicals we are self-sufficient in but then there are many we are in scarcity. We need to focus on niche chemicals and in terms of oil to chemicals (O2C) we have to get to be sustainable. In this direction, PCPIRs give us a lot of room for growth for petrochemicals. It is good to see that all the major players are setting up their units in India which is becoming a country to reckon with. To drive the further transformation, these chemical companies are looking at implementing digital technologies. In this direction, Digital Twin is the representation of a physical system wherein simulation is the backbone of the process. This is a compact design where we can synthesize in a manner that makes the process easier to operate, be it unit level, asset level and expansion level. As a company, we are implementing a digital footprint in our company with all the fundamentals that can run across the petrochemicals,” says Partha Sur, General Manager – Technology, Haldia Petrochemicals Limited. 

“Asia was considered a hub of chemicals by western entities but then there were issues such as soil erosion, fertility issues and safety. Now there is a buzz around safe sustainable environmental methods. All that is not possible through the traditional ERP system. Safety is a very important deciding factor for companies adopting the Digital Twin. There are companies scouting for such technologies. Having experienced hassles during lockdown, mid-sized companies are rushing to implement digital infrastructure such as IoT and Digital Twin. Cheaper composite parts, awareness, millennial joining the workforce are the few factors that are also driving the change. However, the companies must have a clarity of purpose on implementing the digital transformation. Is it achieving high throughput, higher yield or higher energy? The intention is important, whether the plant operator is superannuating or the new ones are not able to handle it. The implementation is to familiarize new operators in brownfield and about enhancement and reducing the cost per unit. Any chemical or petrochemical plant will have their own sublet control system. It helps in identifying issues and drawing conclusions. Data driven measurements are important to plug the losses and for that one needs to understand the KPIs of the unit,” says Atul Govil, CTO & Head (SAP & IT), India Glycols Limited. 

“Many chemical companies are coming forward to put their efforts for a lower carbon footprint and circular economy. We see a lot of transitions on the anvil such as circular economy, energy transition (H2) and workforce transition. Carbon intensive industries require new products, processes and plants to reach sustainability goals which include low carbon footprint, net zero driven by efficiency and operational excellence, design away waste and pollution. In terms of sustainability, we have 200+ major companies with net zero climate pledges. By 2050, nearly 60% of plastics production could be based on reuse and recycling. To address the challenges in response to industry dynamics, energy and circular economy transition, Industry 4.0 plus Digital Twin is driving the digital transformation. If we work smarter with digital transformation, we can deliver real benefits. We can actually design the process by calculating the carbon footprint. We can carry out quick analysis of sustainability targets at any point in the design process. We could achieve 20% reduction in materials wastage, and 30% improvement in real time collaboration including on sustainable new business models. The benefits also include capital project efficiency, faster design cycles, and design optimization. Process Digital Twin offers insight and knowledge that can be used to drive unparalleled business value. As an established process simulation company, AVEVA has taken a step back to analyze the needs of the chemical industry. We are ready to meet the demands of the chemicals industry and help future proof the environment with sustainable solutions. Designed from the ground up, our Process Digital Twin is multi-core, cloud ready, role based user interface and open model. It understands the needs of next generation process engineers. More importantly, the young workforce find it easy to implement digitally rather than go to the shop floor for learning new skills,” says Dr. Ian Willetts, Vice President - Simulation and Learning, AVEVA. 

“The decision for adoption of Digital Twin is based on economic calculations including CAPEX and OPEX. Hardcore market demand will drive the future-proof, agile technologies and these will have a long term profound impact and are not technology constrained. Industry has to focus on the next 30-40 years, drawing alternative investments from government and private sectors. The digital technologies will be pragmatic and preventive. Since user experience is to maximize productivity, the new generation is looking at IoT. Companies are looking at having their own IoT teams to achieve self-sufficiency and user self-ecosystem. The work force will have tremendous benefits and young people will be interested in joining due to its benefits. Real time information should not only fulfill the present but also address the past and future,” says Daren Gong, Solution Consultant Lead, Process Simulation, APAC, AVEVA.

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