How Virtual Reality Compresses Operators Learning Curve in Oilfields

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Oil and Gas producers had laid off experienced staffs and shut down unprofitable wells to reduce their operations costs when the oil prices dipped to a low of $20 two years ago.  Today, with the recovering of the oil prices, many companies have started to increase CAPEX investment and revive some of the delayed projects to increase production.  The same drilling rigs and processing plants are complex facilities and require experienced operators to operate around the clock at remote locations are facing huge obstacles in regaining lost experienced workers and reskilling new workers following the current downturn. A lot of best practices and knowledge were lost when experienced staffs left the companies during the oil price crisis.  Aging and retiring workforce are compounding the staffing problems, exasperating the current shortage of experienced staffs.

Operator competency is fundamental to achieving project ROI

26% of all accidents were due to Operational Errors in a typical plant operation

Inadequate training of operators is one of the main causes of major hazard incidents at oilfields, causing production stoppages and endangering workers’ safety. Field operators must be adequately trained not only to efficiently operate and maintain the facilities but also handle safety-related operations in proper procedures and on time to minimize unplanned shutdown which is crucial to achieving the overall project ROI.  Training new staffs to reach that level of operational efficiency can take many months before they get familiar with the operations and the facility, often costing the companies millions of dollars in lost production annually due to operator errors.

According to an EY’s study, oil and gas companies can minimize staffing volatility and narrow their future talent pool needs by adopting the technology.    This will help to improve a company’s ability to retain institutional knowledge which can address the rapidly aging workforce in the industry.

How to shorten operator learning curve

A trainee practices “closing the valve” in an emergency scenario

Traditional classroom training is often conducted in a dry and less engaging environment that reduces training effectiveness.  Progressing new operators from classroom to on-the-job training at remote sites without preparing them well can be costly in term of lost productivity, higher training costs and higher safety risks.  Therefore, compressing the learning curve for scale is imperative for companies to succeed in the fast-changing energy landscape.   With the recent advancement in Virtual Reality (VR), companies have started to adopt the technology to improve the effectiveness of their training facilities.

A What-if “small explosion” at the site-How should the operator react?

Unlike a traditional classroom environment, the VR immersive training system facilitates interaction between equipment and environment and scenario simulation close to the actual conditions, accelerating the transfer of knowledge and best practices during the process. Operators can practice operating procedures of real experiences until perfection in a safe and controlled classroom environment before they get deployed to the actual sites – onshore or offshore.    As a result, trainees get up to speed earlier with better knowledge retention, enabling them to hit the ground running to sustain efficiencies at production sites.

Combining VR and Process Simulation to create a truly immersive training environment

Pairing the 3D virtual plant walkthrough environment with a dynamic simulation of process control seamlessly are crucial to providing a fully immersive training environment for the operators.  Trainees can acquire real experience of navigating and handling actual equipment on-site that is linked to the backend control room, accurately mimicking the interaction between the equipment and process control at the actual sites.  This provides a realistic virtual learning environment, which prepares personnel to act and communicate appropriately in any ‘What-if’ scenarios, supporting the capture and knowledge-transfer of best practices, increasing efficiency and reducing costly errors or maintenance.    Benefits include:

  • Reduction of time-to-value and costs of on-the-job training by 30-40%
  • Reduction of startup time when recovering from plant shutdown by 15-20%
  • Reduction of maintenance costs up to 3% annually.
Data transfers easily between different elements in a fully immersive training platform


A model of the process and control as part of a full VR/AR immersive training system

Are you ready to enable your operators with real-life training to improve productivity while reducing training costs?

Download the Industry Solution sheet to learn how you can implement a full Virtual Reality Immersive Training solution to effectively train your field and control room operators, operating supervisors, and other plant equipment operators while making “learning by doing” training exciting and fun.

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