Infrastructure Energy & MaterialsSeptember 25, 2020

Going beyond digital twins in energy & materials

Digital twins – simulated models of processes, places, systems and devices –…
Avatar Mark Bese

Digital twins – simulated models of processes, places, systems and devices – offer exciting potential for organizations to use their data in the virtual world so they can improve the real one. With robust data as a foundation, a digital twin simplifies complex systems and provides feedback on proposed changes, so teams can test and verify their ideas before putting them into practice.

In Energy & Materials – an industry that is under intense pressure to improve sustainability – optimizing safety and operational efficiency has traditionally been a cumbersome and resource-intensive process. But with digital twins there’s no longer any need for huge investments in physical research programs and real-world industrial projects to find out where and how improvements can be made.


A digital twin might represent a single process or piece of equipment, or several systems working together. But at every level, it’s crucial that the twin can be built on joined-up data from different systems. All too often, the various departments involved in a company’s processes and systems are still working in information silos, so they can’t see how their decisions might introduce friction elsewhere. Joint ventures can multiply the problem as several companies try to work together using different systems, often with an understandable reluctance to expose precious intellectual property.

Data integration brings the power to eradicate these issues. It’s the foundation of the 3DEXPERIENCE twin, which takes the concept of digital twins to the next level. By factoring in every facet of the project, the technology enables a holistic view and near real-time feedback, reducing the distance between virtual and real worlds.

Whatever the size of their project or operation, this integrated model enables companies to synchronize every step involved. Different phases and stakeholders can connect with each other, collect and visualize information, and simulate ideas and work processes to improve, validate and demonstrate them. And because they can reuse data over time, there’s no need to repeat tests or engineering that have already been done.


A 3DEXPERIENCE twin has the capability to model everything from sub-atomic particles to entire ecosystems – from modelling a chemical compound to developing it into a battery pack, for example. By pulling data together on a single platform, it can link twins from various applications to create a virtual model that provides a holistic view of the way different systems – such as raw material production and logistics processes – work together.

Industrial mining and manufacturing companies, for example, often use digital twins to enable predictive maintenance, so they can carry out timely maintenance and avoid costly downtime caused by equipment failure.

Petrochemical companies are using the technology to develop new catalysts that speed up the production of chemicals from oil – a notoriously energy-hungry process. An improvement of just 1% adopted by all petrochemical organizations would shrink the industry’s CO2 emissions by 0.58% and cut global CO2 emissions by 0.02% per year.

Digital twins are also helping iron and steel companies to think differently about their processes. One example is a new “hot charging” method: by cutting out the traditional cooling stage and continuously heating the metal until it’s formed into products, manufacturers can dramatically cut energy use and improve scheduling efficiency by up to 4%, while also reducing their CO2 emissions.

Innovative new business models are also emerging thanks to the technology’s ability to help companies visualize their ideas. For instance, McDermott, a Houston-based global oil and gas subsea company that designs, builds and installs facilities, uses digital twins to translate all the data related to its projects. In doing so it protects the valuable data behind its models and reduces complexity for its customers, creating a unique, collaborative and value-adding experience.


Whether a company wants to focus on a single business issue or bring together multiple systems, digital twins can empower them to predict and prevent operational issues, create scientifically accurate models of how their operations impact the environment, improve efficiency and safety, and innovate to bring positive change.

As Energy & Materials businesses seek to differentiate themselves in the face of intense scrutiny from regulators and consumers, digital twins can help them look beyond traditional industry boundaries. By joining the dots between different twins, they can create an “enterprise twin” that spans an entire ecosystem of companies working together – for instance, connecting the various materials providers, battery companies and automotive manufacturers involved in developing electric cars. This holistic master model enables collaboration and information sharing between multiple partners in a joint venture, for example, while protecting the trade secrets behind the models.

But it doesn’t have to be such an extensive project – in fact many companies start their journey by addressing a single challenge before rolling out digital twin projects across the organization. Wherever they begin, being able to join up their data means there are no limits to where they can go.

Visit to find out how a 3DEXPERIENCE twin can empower Energy & Materials businesses to manage complexity, enable innovation and reduce risk.

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