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Daniel Jeavons: Spearheading digital transformation in the energy sector for a sustainable future


Daniel Jeavons: Spearheading digital transformation in the energy sector for a sustainable future

Faced with transitioning to cleaner and renewable sources, the energy sector needs to unlock the potential of data and embrace digitalisation to enable greater opportunities to integrate, consolidate and optimise operations, and ultimately realise Scotland’s net zero ambitions. - FutureScot

The recent Digitalising Offshore Energy Systems report, published by ORE Catapult and North Sea Transition Authority noted that the success and speed of digitalisation more broadly across any sector, is dependent on not only the provision of sufficiently detailed, reliable data, but also the ability for different organisations to efficiently exchange relevant data. 

Digitalisation requires the availability of both high-quality data and suitable interfaces to transact this information.

With the keeper of knowledge – the internet of things – adding five million new devices every day, we are set to go from today’s eight billion connected devices to a trillion by 2030. This presents a vast amount of data to manage, analyse and utilise. 

The offshore energy sector already has 50 years of historic static and operational data and this will continue to be added to at ever increasing rates.

Data is the beating heart of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), their actions are driven by it. 

Connecting and collaborating with the internet of things, RAS generate and are enabled by large quantities of data, using artificial intelligence to reason, classify, control and interact. 

In the context of the energy sector, RAS has the potential to remove people from hazardous situations, undertaking the dirty, dull and dangerous tasks.

A number of organisations have already seen the value of utilising data and applying digital solutions to their operations, processes and decision making. 

Solutions such as digital twins and predictive maintenance technologies are being increasingly adopted to improve operational efficiency, enhance safety, and reduce downtime of offshore assets. 

However, for industry to gain true benefit from digital solutions, to build resilient and affordable energy supplies, we need a co-ordinated whole-system approach, embedded within every aspect of applicable operations – built on accessible and reliable data. 

Technology drives the transition

At the Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC) we work together with our partners and industry to close the gaps in net zero solutions through supporting new and innovative technology ideas, including digital. 

With a focus on delivering an affordable net zero energy industry, the technologies the centre supports accelerate the transition towards carbon free operations. 

Our technology roadmap sets out key themes and priority areas to reduce emissions offshore, create an integrated energy system and harness the potential of digital solutions to contribute towards a net zero energy industry. 

The energy landscape is changing rapidly and the need for innovative technologies to drive the transition and support a sustainable energy supply is more vital than ever. 

Investing in technology currently in the prototype and demonstration phase is key to driving the huge leaps in clean energy innovation that will deliver the UK’s 2050 emission reduction targets.

NZTC’s Open Innovation Programme gives technology developers with game changing ideas the opportunity to submit their applications to secure up to £1 million each, from the funding available. 

We want to encourage blue sky thinking to build ultimate remote operations. Other industries like space exploration and aviation have done this, and we want to drive technology developers to tackle technology challenges with the same bold thinking.

Strong relationships with industry make it possible for NZTC to understand the challenges and in turn ensure the funding window technology themes are applied to tackle and deliver pioneering solutions to address these challenges. 

Industry support through field trials and access to facilities will be available to the successful technology developers. It is this early engagement and support from industry that ensures each technology is moved through the pipeline faster to deliver its net zero potential earlier.

NZTC recognises that extracting actionable information from data is at the heart of any digital transformation from which an integrated net zero energy system can be built and we are looking for the game changing technology solutions to help achieve that.

Invitation to innovators 

The next opportunity in the NZTC’s Open Innovation Programme will be focussed on digitally-based solutions.

The six-week funding window, which launches in January 2023, aims to invest in the development of end-to-end digital solutions that can support, inform and automate business processes. 

Through the funding window, NZTC is seeking proposals for digitally-based solutions that will “turn the dial” to create greater data integration opportunities and the capability for industry to move from monitoring to modelling to simulation and then prediction. 

The foundation for this is data platforms and visualisation technologies that enable data to be autonomously and anonymously shared, governed, and transferred between trusted parties to support improved operational processes by providing greater analytical insights. 

Taking this one step further, field trial proposals are being sought to demonstrate the reliability and extend the manipulation capability of robotics that will revolutionise offshore operations. 

Proposals are also being sought for solutions that enable key operational processes to be controlled remotely from centres where expertise can be pooled.

Steve Roberts is interim head of offshore energy 4.0, Net Zero Technology Centre Founded in 2017, the Net Zero Technology Centre was created as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, with £180m of UK and Scottish government funding to maximise the potential of the North Sea. To date the centre has co-in-vested £211m in technologies which have the potential to generate £10-15bn in gross value added to the Scottish economy, screened more than 1,560 technologies, completed 168 field trials, progressed more than 29 technologies to commercialisation and supported 45 tech start-ups.

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