Geo Week News

March 24, 2015

How BP Does 3D: Lightning Chat with Technology Director Dave Truch


“When it comes to the operations arena of a lot of large companies, 3D has always been a challenge.”

Dave Truch is the Technology Director with the Digital Innovation Organization at BP International Limited. After hearing through the grapevine that he had implemented some pretty mindblowing 3D technologies at BP (the sort of thing I make my living writing about), I gave Truch e a call to discuss. Here’s a quick taste of how BP does 3D. For more details, come see Truch’s keynote at SPAR International 2015.

SPAR: For those who don’t know, can you give a quick overview of what you do with BP?

Dave Truch: I’ve had a very long career in the energy sector, in all forms of what we call IT and digital, and for over a decade the role has been associated with finding innovative new digital technology solutions that, pragmatically, could make a difference to the way we work and operate at BP. So it isn’t about new technologies for the sake of the technology, it’s about finding those that we can bring inside, try them out to assess their value, and then implement them in broader context across the company.

SPAR: How did you first come to 3D technology within that context? 

Dave Truch: There’s been a lot of work done in 3D in these sectors, and very definitely in the engineering discipline. So 3D is not a new concept–the whole notion of CAD and all those activities–and the sophistication of 3D work is like that. But when it comes to the operations arena of a lot of large companies, for various reasons, 3D has always been a challenge. You’ve got the engineering and the design and the construction done, but everything else is given to you in 2D in the form of piping diagrams, ISOs, etcetera–standard engineering toolkits. These are often used by the operations individuals to try to understand the nature of the kit and to try through those, to glean in some way shape or form, the geospatial context of those things. They do it by looking at 2D.

So the idea of trying to get 3D into operations has always been a challenge.

SPAR: Will your presentation at SPAR International in Houston cover a project where BP brought 3D technology into operations?

Dave Truch: It’s heavily operations focused. So a lot of it is in the realm of: What’s the associated value with living in a 3D virtual facility which is an accurate representation of the physical facility, on a daily basis? What does this do for the way one can conduct operations? What does this do for the role of operators? And I mean “operators” in the broadest context. I’m not just talking about process engineers or process operations. What about the maintenance guy? What about the guy who just does some inspection rounds? So it’s “operations” in its broadest context: the care and feeding of this very massive facility on a daily basis.

SPAR: Will you be talking about the problems you faced, how you developed BP’s solution, and demonstrating the 3D solution?

Dave Truch: We won’t be able to do a live demonstration, but we will do some illustrative videos of real life things. These will talk about how we can change the nature of the way work is being done when one has this virtual facility as a duality with the physical facility.

SPAR: How has this virtual facility changed the way that BP works?

Dave Truch: There’s a number of dimensions to that answer, and a number of challenges.

The first is again, any kind of change to the way people work run through the normal constraints of behavior. There are well entrenched workforces who are very comfortable with the technologies and techniques that they’re currently using, whatever those may be. A second challenge we face, especially in the operations world, is associated with regulatory compliance. So there’s quite a lot of rules, reports, information presented in a certain way, that’s all associated with an approach that a regulatory agency would like. 

The third dimension that was always a challenge until the point cloud was the technical one. The extra challenges of the energy sector are around what we call “intrinsically safe” technologies. There are a lot of solutions that are out there that work very well in carpeted space, but how do we provide the appropriate infrastructure to actually implement those solutions in environments where we have to do higher-cost kinds of approaches and very challenging things?

So it’s only just recently that we’ve been able to get those kinds of infrastructures at a reasonable cost point. That says we can actually now start implementing those solutions. 

SPAR: It sounds like there are still a few challenges we need to figure out.

Dave Truch: Absolutely. And, as a matter of fact, the last three slides I use in the presentation are a provocation to the market to say: We can do this much with what’s out there, with the technology today. You can see from our aspirations and road maps where we’d like to go next. We’re presenting some things that say: Hey, these are the capabilities we need to be able to get to those places. We’re saying we really need the market to get there.

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