A new white paperfrom Emerson, ‘Digital Twin: A Key Technology for Digital Transformation’ offers definitions and a check list for would-be deployers of the twin paradigm. The digital twin is said to be a ‘key technology’ of Emerson’s Plantweb ecosystem. But the white paper stresses that automation system vendor-independence is the first criteria for twin deployment. Next comes ‘selective fidelity’, a pragmatic approach that ensures that components are simulated in a cost-effective manner. An open architecture is also important for ingestion of control system, historical and design data. Here, the protocol of choice is OPC UA and/or OPC DA.
But what exactly is the twin for? The white paper enumerates use cases as follows, access to control system information by distributed teams, the use of dynamic simulation for designing and building automation solutions and ‘virtual’ operator training. The twin also allows for process optimization and experimentation ‘without risk to operations’. The twin embeds accurate models of motors, drives, valves and instruments along with full physico-chemical models of plant and process. For Emerson, these include Emerson Mimic and Aspen Hysys, using the new linkage announced last year. In the life sciences industry, the twin is said to be ‘proven and accepted for offline testing of an automation solution’ and is also used to provide effective operator training and operating procedure development.
Comment: Back in the day, Oil IT Journal had something of an epiphany when we visited BP’s Humberside plant to check out the latest in process simulation. We were naively surprised at the time that the simulator was not running the plant. Emerson’s white paper make it clear, contrary to others’ marketing spiel, that the digital twin does not ‘run the plant’ either. It is better conceived, at least according to Emerson, as an upgraded training simulator that is now used for offline optimization and experimentation. Doing anything resembling this in real time is, understandably a little harder, possibly even illusory, as we intimated in our DT investigation last year.
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