Illustration; Source: DNV

DNV spotlights digital twin’s ability to give a shot in the UK’s energy transition arm

A new report from DNV, a risk management and assurance provider, has examined the role digital twins can play in helping the UK attain its net-zero objectives, underlining the importance of industry collaboration and trust in ensuring the contribution of this technology to the energy transition.

Illustration; Source: DNV

The report titled ‘Connected Digital Twin Insights: Rising to the Challenge across the UK Energy Sector and Beyond’ aims to assess what the UK energy sector stands to gain from pursuing a network of connected digital twins. While exploring the pros and cons, as well as the risks of their use in the UK energy sector, the report seeks to understand whether digital twins can be trusted. To this end, several stakeholders were interviewed to gain insights into the UK’s path to net zero. 

As the energy transition is expected to bring what is described as unprecedented changes, balancing the energy trilemma – sustainability, security, and affordability – will become even more challenging. Communication and information sharing between organizations and other stakeholders need to improve for the system to function as a whole, according to the report.

DNV Energy Systems’ Senior Vice President, and Regional Director UK & Ireland, Hari Vamadevan, noted: “The UK energy sector stands on the brink of a remarkable transformation, leading us to an unprecedented level of interactivity and interconnectivity. Technologies like connected digital twins will underpin this transformation; the question becomes one of how the sector can harness their potential and add new impetus into the UK’s stalling energy transition.”

The need for a digitized energy system has been highlighted within the UK’s Energy Digitalisation Strategy. As many emerging low-carbon technologies are planned to be connected to the country’s grid in the future, the strategy highlights that only intelligent data-based systems can accommodate the influx of millions of new energy flows per second that are believed to result from these new connections.

Furthermore, according to DNV’s Energy Transition Outlook UK 2024, the country’s energy CAPEX is anticipated to rise significantly. While digitalization could offer cost-saving opportunities through smarter energy management, the adoption of digital twins requires trust in technology and data integrity, with cyber security being a major concern in this regard.

Therefore, the report recommends creating a ‘national digital twin’ of the UK’s infrastructure to simulate and interconnect assets, processes, and systems, which is believed to be crucial for effective data sharing and integration.

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One of the interviewees was Justin Anderson, Director of the Connected Places Catapult’s Digital Twin Hub. Anderson pointed out: “Collaborations in data sharing will play a pivotal role in realizing the benefits of connected digital twins, therefore enabling the role they can plan in transforming the future energy system.”

A notable project mentioned in DNV’s report is FutureGrid, which aims to test and monitor how decommissioned assets from the National Gas-operated National Transmission System (NTS) perform with hydrogen. The location of the project is DNV’s research and testing center at Spadeadam. 

National Gas’ Head of Innovation, Corinna Jones, remarked: “Whilst the climate benefits of using hydrogen as a low-carbon fuel are clear, the feasibility of making the transition using the current infrastructure still needs to be demonstrated. Before introducing hydrogen into the existing national gas system, we need to understand the impact of the cleaner gas on pipes and assets to ensure safe, efficient, and cost effectiveness operations.

“Digital twins are a key technology to help us achieve that understanding. Our FutureGrid test site located at Spadeadam – DNV’s Research and Testing Centre – offers the perfect environment to demonstrate how digital twin technology can provide a robust method of managing hydrogen in the UK’s existing gas infrastructure. We see digital twin technologies as a catalyst in helping organizations like us manage the complexities of operating the National Transmission System with hydrogen.” 

A similar project was undertaken at the same location in 2022, testing whether local transmission systems (LTS) high-pressure pipelines can be repurposed and used for transporting 100% hydrogen safely.

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Vamadevan concluded: “At DNV, our belief is that trust is key to fostering digital twin adoption: finding the right balance between openness and security will be enabled by taking direct learnings from the industry, about building frameworks and standards to ensure assets are also inspected, tested, or certified in the digital space, as well as the physical.”

The digital twin technology is making inroads in various industries worldwide. Japanese maritime giants recently joined hands for a cross-industry project exploring options for a secure data-sharing framework between shipyards and shipowners to advance the use of digital twins throughout a ship’s lifecycle. 

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