Shell picks S’pore refinery as first site globally to pilot virtual manufacturing tech, Companies & Markets News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – Royal Dutch Shell will start a four-year pilot project at its Pulau Bukom refinery to implement the Digital Twin, an advanced manufacturing site technology that is expected to boost productivity, reliability and safety.

The Digital Twin – when fully implemented in 2024 – will be a complete virtual representation of the physical elements on the site, with the ability to dynamically respond to changes in conditions on the site, the oil and gas giant said in a statement on Thursday (Aug 27).

Shell said Pulau Bukom’s position as an integrated oil and petrochemicals hub in Asia-Pacific, strong track record in piloting path-breaking digitisation projects and long history were reasons why it was selected to pioneer the Digital Twin.

Shell has a staff of 1,300 at the 59-year-old manufacturing site – the company’s Asia-Pacific hub for integrated oil and petrochemicals and home to Singapore’s first refinery.

While the new technology will improve productivity and efficiency, a Shell spokesman said: “There is currently no plan to review our manpower needs as a result of the Digital Twin.”

The company said that digitalisation of Pulau Bukom is aligned with the Singapore Government’s focus on Industry 4.0, which will see automation powered by data to perform everyday tasks.

“We are committed to making our Singapore sites on Bukom and Jurong Island globally competitive by combining human capabilities with advanced digitalisation technologies, to truly transform the ways we work,” said Mr Hugues Bourgogne, Shell’s vice-president of manufacturing for Singapore/Philippines and general manager of the Pulau Bukom manufacturing site.

The power of the Digital Twin technology lies in its visual, data and analytics capabilities. Live information of the plant operations can be provided to engineers via augmented reality and virtual reality, reducing the need to step into the plant. By 2025, all critical field operations at Pulau Bukom will be performed through tablets, Shell said.

The company said that since late 2019, about 140 employees from various teams on the Bukom site have participated in hackathons and digital boot camps under various programmes to add digital capabilities and competence to the site.

In the next two years, all employees at the site, including management, engineers and technicians, will be trained and equipped to operate the technology. Shell is committed to investing more than 6,000 training hours annually from 2021 in its digital drive at the site.

The Pulau Bukom site can process up to 500,000 barrels of oil a day, making it Shell’s largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia-Pacific region. Shell has already implemented digitalisation solutions such as drones, 3D printing and augmented reality at its manufacturing plants in Singapore, including Shell Jurong Island.

Mr Damian Chan, executive vice-president at the Economic Development Board, said: “We are encouraged that Shell has taken this bold step of piloting the “Digital Twin” solution in Singapore, setting a strong example of how the energy and chemicals sector can adopt technology to move towards Industry 4.0 standards.”

He said Shell’s investment in digital processes, technologies and training to support the local workforce is timely, especially with the acceleration of digitalisation in established industries today, and will help advance Singapore’s push for digital transformation.

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