New technologies are changing the way plant owners and operators are constructing and managing plant infrastructure. Increasingly, they are demanding virtualised 3D models from engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies. In the oil and gas, utility and shipping industries – 3D models are becoming invaluable as they enable operators and owners to manage a plant through design, construction, lifecycle and eventual demolition.
Virtual 3D models can save time and effort while increasing productivity.
For the construction process, the 3D model is built along with the design so any interference between plant components is immediately highlighted. All issues can be addressed in the initial design phase so that when construction begins everything progresses smoothly across all disciplines, be that civil, mechanical, piping, electrical, or instrumentation.
Once constructed the model can then inform day-to-day operations of the plant by allowing complex simulations to be undertaken, answering complex “what if” situations with reliability and accuracy. The same applies to plant maintenance; preparation for major works can be streamlined and planned accurately to minimise operative disruptions. With 3D modelling the entire exercise of a plant’s lifecycle can be simulated and enacted with minimal issue.
From a personnel perspective, 3D environments enable cost-effective offshore training programmes, be it for plant familiarisation, standard operating procedures or for emergency drill training.
By the end of the plant’s life a virtual model can be used for efficient demolition, or even plant repurposing. This is primarily through the integration of information from across the plant. In the past, the data and information required by dismantling teams was spread across the business meaning that mistakes could be made easily, creating unnecessary expense. Virtual models can help prevent this.
Owners and operators of plants may not have the required knowledge to build 3D models and look towards engineering procurement and construction companies to provide them. There is clearly a huge opportunity here. Some EPCs choose to work with a technical partner to deliver 3D models of plants to help deal with issues such as software compatibility and managing the model. By outsourcing the modelling work to technology providers, EPCs can also reduce costs.
3D models provide a cutting-edge approach to managing a plant and reducing risk throughout its lifetime. The underlying technology is complex but the outcome is powerful, allowing teams across a plant’s entirety to leverage the model for their own benefit.
For decades, plant design software has remained useful at the first level of construction, but at best helped only during minor maintenance or alterations over the lifetime of the plant. Now, truly integrated 3D plant models have the potential to change the way plants are built and maintained - revolutionising plant management across the board.