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Subsea 7 brings 3D virtualisation for realistic project emulation

01 March 2018

Subsea 7 is a global contractor in seabed-to-surface engineering, construction and services to the offshore industry.

The company has worked with Siemens for some time to develop effective in-house control systems, using Siemens SIMIT simulation technology to help iron out any potential software bugs before installation. By creating a virtual model from its Aberdeen base, Subsea 7 can effectively test the control systems under as near to ‘live‘ conditions as possible, incorporating sea states and other external influences to suit almost any offshore location worldwide. 

Senior control systems group engineer at Subsea 7, Leslie McGuire has been working with emulation for over six years. He developed an animated version of the Siemens digital twin (the virtual model) for use with projects, which comes with a very high standard of 3D graphics incorporated. He calls this ‘emulation’ and it has a number of significant benefits for Subsea 7 projects.

Key benefits

Due to the nature of the installations Subsea 7 carries out, often for consistently hostile offshore environments, safety is a prime consideration. Using the Subsea 7 emulation system means operatives can be trained on virtual software in advance of actual construction, from the safety of an office desk, rather than in real conditions on a vessel. Different tidal and weather conditions can be built in so that the equipment can effectively be tested under ‘real’ conditions and any issues resolved prior to construction.

By being able to design codes from an office base, for vessels ultimately designed to operate anywhere in the world, Subsea 7 engineers are able to save costs and time, both for the initial design and construction work, and subsequently, for updates and future modifications, as the emulations can be re-used and expanded. Leslie estimates that over 80 per ent of software bugs can be ironed out prior to installation, a significant advantage for operations.

In safety terms, if there is any accident or component failure on any vessel carrying the real equipment, the processes leading up to it and around it can be replayed in-house and assessed through local time stamped event logs. But, by being able to emulate a range of conditions prior to construction, many potential emergency scenarios can be played out and appropriate precautions taken in advance.

Speed to market has become a key factor for operators, and the Subsea 7 design and emulation system helps to considerably shorten the development time, saving months in many cases. It is a highly accurate system, and with the familiarisation training that can be carried out in near-real conditions, it is also an intrinsically safer system. 

As Leslie McGuire concludes: “Where people might struggle with programming, they can immediately relate to a 3D working model. We can even inject deliberate faults into the system via a tester PC, so a trainee operator has to find the sensor source of an alarm going off, for example. It means people can effectively practise with what is just like the real thing.”
Stephen Crimin is an environmental power development manager at Siemens. He says “this innovative development taking our simulation technology to the emulation stage has generated real value and time and cost savings to Subsea 7. They can effectively design in ‘real’ conditions for trainee operators to tackle from the safety of an office desk, under supervision, dramatically improving familiarity with the operating systems prior to installation, and any potential issues can be ironed out early on.” 

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