How can terminal operators benefit from digital twin technology amid pandemic uncertainty? 

As we adjust to a post-pandemic and low-oil-price environment, the challenges that faced bulk storage and terminal operators entering the crisis are amplified: maximize efficiencies by minimizing equipment failures; maintain flexibility in supply chain management along with ensuring that product transfer operations are optimized.


Amid the industry’s evolution, one tool that has garnered a great deal of interest is the digital twin. 

Digital twins are emerging as invaluable utilities for optimizing products, processes, and performance by enabling predictive maintenance and complex simulations in a risk-free, virtual environment. These capabilities are particularly beneficial in bulk storage and terminal facilities, where profitability is highly contingent on maintaining safety, plant availability, and efficiency of product transfer. 


A terminal management system (TMS) digital twin brings information regarding installations, loading, and unloading infrastructure together into a unified digital workspace to achieve these goals. The result is a single-source-of-truth environment where advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) can be used for decision-support, and facility performance can be continuously optimized based on an up-to-the-minute digital replica of the plant.

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But what is a digital twin? It has two main components:


  • A plant twin, is an exact 3D model of the facility, including every valve, tank, pipe, compressor, pump, etc. It is developed using both 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) drawings and details the dimensions and layout of the terminal, providing an interactive platform for users to explore any structural elements down to the component level.
  • A performance twin, is built from the plant’s data streams, such as maintenance history, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) performance figures, duty cycles, real-time data from sensors, and SCADA systems, along with other IoT-enabled elements of the terminal.
Creating value with digital twin 

Siemens has developed a TMS digital twin that offers an open and flexible terminal automation system designed to give operators the ability to manage their entire ecosystem of digital assets. The secure digital twin interface provides real-time data, such as load rack, tank gauging, and alarms with full-color graphic displays. It also integrates critical field devices, such as pre-set controllers, driver interface devices (DIDs), metering and other functions, which are at the heart of any terminal bulk plant. 

This enables the Siemens TMS digital twin to capture and analyze operational data to help terminal operators make decisions based on an accurate, up-to-the-minute digital image of their facility.

The Siemens digital twin can be implemented on existing terminals. It also can be applied to greenfield projects in a manner that helps even before the plant becomes operational by validating the expected efficiency and/or throughput of a design before the plant is physically built.

Digital twins have emerged as invaluable tools for optimizing products, processes, and performance across industries, including oil and gas. They enable predictive maintenance and complex simulations in a risk-free, virtual environment.


In today’s uncertain and low-oil-price environment, these capabilities are particularly beneficial to bulk storage and terminal facilities. Where profitability is highly contingent on maintaining safety, plant availability, and efficiency of product transfer, a digital twin ticks all the boxes.

Digital twin technology has the potential to create significant value for oil and gas companies. But companies need to be ready to embrace the new technology to disrupt and fundamentally change some of the operating models. We believe that digital twins will play a pivotal role adding resilience and efficiency to the industry’s operating and business models. Companies need to act boldly and embrace the disruptive potential of digital twins, or they risk being left behind by competitors and new players.

This article was initially published in the Tanks and Terminals magazine


For more information, please see here

May, 2020

By:  Waqar Khan, Portfolio Lifecycle Manager, Siemens Energy, Oil and Gas Process Solutions


Combined picture credits: Siemens AG