As an energy importer, Japan must maintain friendly relations with oil and gas producing countries to ensure a stable supply of oil and gas. At the same time, in oil and gas producing countries, there is a growing need for new technologies and human resources to strengthen industries in downstream sectors such as refining, and in various functions such as sales. Established in 1981, the Japan Cooperation Center for Petroleum and Sustainable Energy (JCCP) is a general incorporated foundation that pursues friendly relations between Japan and oil- and gas-export countries through technical cooperation and personnel exchanges. With a principal focus on the development of human resources, the JCCP has been inviting personnel of all ages and seniority levels to Japan to participate in various training programs. In conjunction with these activities, the JCCP has been exploring ways to expand and digitally transform (DX) its training curriculum.
Through workshops with Yokogawa and Omega Simulation Co., Ltd. (OSC), a Yokogawa subsidiary, JCCP identified great value in the use of the latest virtual reality (VR) technology and decided to introduce Yokogawa's virtual field training system.
With this system, trainees around the world can remotely participate in training sessions where instructors employ a virtual model of a chemical plant to demonstrate tasks such as the disassembly of field instruments. Without having to visit an actual plant or some other site in the field, the trainees can receive highly immersive and practical training.
The trainees were satisfied with this training provided by JCCP. JCCP will continue to utilize the latest digital technologies to provide effective training that is not subject to limitations posed by the external environment, such as the outbreak of a pandemic, and in so doing will build even closer ties with oil and gas producing countries.
The Challenges and the Solutions
JCCP received requests from companies in oil and gas producing countries for the quick implementation of a training curriculum that makes use of DX-related digital technologies. However, this was not so easy for the following reasons:
- It was uncertain which technologies were most suitable. Also, there was the concern that use case content obtained from sources such as the internet might be superficial. And it was not known whether a curriculum could be provided that accurately represented the conditions found in actual plant environments.
- The task of creating a remote learning curriculum for trainees who were unable to visit Japan for reasons such as the pandemic was complex and demanding.
JCCP contacted Yokogawa for assistance because Yokogawa had a proven track record in plant operations and experience with the latest DX-related and smart manufacturing technologies. Yokogawa conducted a workshop at which key JCCP personnel discussed the current situation and shared thoughts on which approaches would be ideal. Following these discussions, the decision was made for JCCP to take a virtual reality (VR) approach and develop a virtual field training curriculum.
About virtual field training
Innovative virtual field training system
The virtual field training solution proposed by Yokogawa was based on the concept of "innovating on-site work training" and was a next-generation 3D solution that simulated operations at a plant built in a virtual space. Utilizing a digital twin, training was conducted in a virtual environment that was free of physical constraints. This VR solution addressed the following issues that are typically encountered with conventional on-site training:
- The availability of training depends on the weather, the schedules of the parties involved, and the site conditions.
- There are fewer opportunities to encounter actual incidents at a plant due to the sophistication of these facilities, and it is thus anticipated that the trainees will not fully understand how to respond in the event of a plant incident.
- There is a lack of opportunities for trainees to get actual practice in carrying out periodic maintenance, and the task of arranging the necessary equipment is time consuming.
- Most conventional training is conducted in classrooms and is not sufficiently stimulating or interesting to the trainees, and this has a negative impact on motivation to participate.
- Actual training in the field can present many physical risks.
In addition to showing the facilities and equipment as they would appear in an actual plant, Yokogawa’s digital twin was linked with an operator training simulator (OTS; OmegaLand supported by Omega Simulation Co., Ltd.) to simulate plant processes, enabling the achievement of a realistic virtual environment.
By making full use of the IT, operational technology (OT), and domain knowledge that it had built up over the years, Yokogawa was able to provide both general-purpose content and a wide range of customized content for use in this virtual environment.
Provision of solutions that meet a variety of needs
Yokogawa provided a virtual field training environment that fit for JCCP's effective advanced training needs.
A training system that is suitable for both online and offline use
JCCP needed a system that, in addition to being suitable for remote learning from anywhere in the world, could be used by trainees who come to Japan for direct, in-person learning.
- A total of four terminals were set up for this VR training system at the JCCP facility. To minimize cost, OSC's OmegaLand OTS was installed on only one of these terminals for use in a client-server configuration.
- This terminal was also used by JCCP for content-related engineering.
- Training using the VR system and headsets could be conducted at the JCCP facility.
- Remote training could be conducted utilizing an online remote teleconferencing tool to share the VR video feed.
System configuration for offline training at the JCCP site
System configuration for remote training
Provision of a wide range of content in a timely manner
In preparation for the start of training, JCCP wished to quickly prepare a wide range of content on plant field operations.
Yokogawa selected and provided appropriate content from its own general-purpose training content. This included:
- Pump switching procedure
- Disassembly of pumps and field devices
- Advisories on hazards such as the dropping of tools from overhead
Virtual pump switching
Support from Yokogawa
In order to give personnel a chance to familiarize themselves with this system that uses the latest technology, JCCP requested post-installation technical support.
Early on, Yokogawa salespeople and engineers provided training and demonstrations. In addition, Yokogawa created and provided a guideline document to JCCP.
Maintaining customer satisfaction with remote training
Many of the training participants expressed a high level of satisfaction with the training courses, which, even when conducted remotely, proved highly effective. JCCP received the highest evaluation for its training curriculum.
Knowledge transfer on introducing DX technology to oil and gas producing countries
Through the training, JCCP provided engineers from oil and gas producing countries with information and know-how on DX-related technologies such as digital twins. This helped JCC strengthen its market presence.
Flexibility to add new training content
JCCP is considering ways to expand its curriculum by using this field training system to compile new content. Yokogawa will support JCCP in these efforts to develop its training curriculum.
Voice of the Customer
“Thanks to Yokogawa working with us to understand the current situation and issues, we believe that we were able to implement the right solution. The training that Yokogawa was in charge of Instructor and conducted with a workshop-style lecture that retained the interest of the trainees, and this was one of the reasons for their high level of satisfaction. We are looking forward to adding to our curriculum. We will continue to promote business process re-engineering and DX using digital technologies.”
Yokogawa has a wealth of experience in every part of the oil and gas business, from offshore and onshore facilities to pipelines, terminals, and deepwater operations. We provide solutions that enhance safety, ensure accurate and reliable operation, and increase plant efficiency.
The oil & gas downstream industry has been facing an increasing number of challenges in recent years. These include the changing characteristics of the feedstock to be processed, aging of process facilities and equipment, rising cost of energy, lack of skilled plant operators who can run a refinery safely and efficiently, and the ever-changing requirements from both the market and the customer.
Over the years, Yokogawa has partnered with many downstream companies to provide industrial solutions focused on solving these challenges and problems. Yokogawa's VigilantPlant solutions have helped plant owners to achieve maximum profitability and sustainable safety within their plants.