17:59 22.07.2021


Digitalization as the key for the sustainable development of the energy industry

7 min read
Digitalization as the key for the sustainable development of the energy industry

Dmitrii Osyka, IT Director of DTEK, Head of the MODUS Digital Transformation Program


 The global coronavirus pandemic has given a powerful impetus to the development of the digital economy. Although energy is a fairly conservative industry, digital transformation processes have not spared it either. How exactly, we will tell you on the example of DTEK in the material below.

DTEK's MODUS digital transformation program was launched at the start of 2019, and all projects under this program have a planning horizon of 3-7 years. We've divided the digital transformation of a company into three waves. The projects were the first to start before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are talking about the digital transformation of the areas “Digital Mine”, “Digital Logistics”, “Digital Thermal Power Plant”, “Digital Networks” and “Digital HR”. The launch of the second wave coincided with the spread of the pandemic, but at DTEK its impact was minimal: the work system was adjusted within a year and continued to work as planned.


Our second wave projects are Digital Field, Digital Analytics, Digital Procurement, and Digital Office. The MODUS program strategy includes 11 directions (the third wave - “Digital RES” and “Digital Client”), and in total there are over 30 digital transformation projects. I would like to note that only the economic effect from the introduction of technologies at DTEK by the beginning of this year amounted to more than ₴320 million. For comparison: 2019, our first year of digital transformation, we completed with an economic effect of ₴100 million.


The safer, faster, more efficient


The goal of our digitalization program is to improve operational efficiency, business versatility and management, industrial safety conditions, market understanding, and customer communication. The energy sector of Ukraine has no other way, apart from passing the path of digital transformation, to become competitive and meet the challenges of the time.

Over the past year and a half, we have implemented a single in the country underground digital positioning system in the "Yubileinaya" mine, which is based on the previously launched Wi-Fi communication infrastructure. We detected defects automatically using computer vision and LIDAR scanning of networks, which increased the safety of the production process.


The next example. In the project “Maintaining the regime” within the “Digital Thermal Power Plant”, we digitalized analysis of the operation of power units, we created a system of prompts for machinists using tools and methods of machine learning (artificial intelligence). Thus, with the help of technologies in real-time, it is now possible to analyze hundreds of parameters and calculate the optimal model based on the historical data of the power unit's operation and provide hints to machinists, for example, about where it is possible to use fuel more economically. In two years of operation of this system at DTEK, we have achieved an economic effect of over ₴170 million.


For the "Digital Field", our team creates a digital twin of the field, which will optimally conduct the modeling and production process, and achieve maximum results from the field. Our digital twin includes a hydrodynamic model, a multiphase fluid flow model along a wellbore, a surface gathering network model, and a hydrocarbon production model. Their launch will allow us to maximize the technological potential, optimize costs and rationally develop fields.


For digital networks and the "Mobile Brigades" project (this project was also launched for both the Digital Thermal Power Plant and the Digital Mine), we have automated maintenance by bypass and repair crews. For this, a software package was developed that allows planning and setting tasks, keeping records of work performance, writing off materials, optimizing routes. The digital product comprises a mobile application and an SAP MRS planning module. The major changes in the process of repair work and equipment inspection were the abandonment of paper reporting and the transition to an online planning system. Besides the ease of managing digital requests, instead of paper ones, other data are also stored in the system database, for example, photographic records of damage, measurement, and, of course, reporting. At DTEK Kyiv Grids, we got the opportunity to carry out repairs on the grid by 15% faster and reduce the time spent by customers without electricity during emergency outages.


Digital breakthrough of renewable energy

Renewable energy is the youngest of all energy industries in the country, but gradually takes an increasing share in the structure of the Ukrainian generation. We can agree that renewable energy is initially more digital-born than coal or hydro, but there is still work to be done in terms of digital transformation processes. For example, our data engineers in the renewable energy sector are developing and implementing a unified data platform that solves the tasks of operational analytics - descriptive, predictive, and administrative.

The idea is to merge in one place all the performance indicators of equipment from different manufacturers and monitor the operational efficiency online, as well as create other analytical models, in particular, to prevent breakdowns, forecasting production, etc.

The platform is created using data-lakes, because of which it is possible to deploy intelligent (forecast) systems for detecting breakdowns, to determine the level of load on a solar panel or wind turbine. Indeed, for example, with the same light or wind strength, their efficiency may be different. Therefore, it is a subject of study of the situation to improve efficiency. The data is not in vain called the gold of the XXI century, their correct interpretation can increase the value of using solar panels and wind turbines, increase efficiency and reduce the cost of their operation.

Digitalization is one of the tools for implementing DTEK's corporate strategy, which envisages an increase in the share of electricity production from renewable sources to at least 33% by 2030.

Towards a digital future

At an early stage of developing a digital transformation strategy, we identified four segments of digital technologies for ourselves:

1) "hardware" – everything connected with the physical world, in particular, robotics and physical automation;

2) data and their processing – blockchain, digital twin, AI, and others;

3) processes and software – mobile and web applications, augmented and virtual reality, and the like;

 4) sensors and communication between them – NFC, RFID, Internet of Things, geotags, and more.

The list is not constant, because we live in a world where new technologies can appear and radically change the rules of the game quickly. Therefore, we are constantly looking for new ones.

The most recent example is 5G. At the end of June, DTEK, together with Vodafone Ukraine and Ericsson, announced the launch of the Smart Factory 5G project at the Corum "Svet Shakhtyora" machine-building plant in Kharkiv, which produces mining equipment. As part of the project, companies are developing a 5G Private Network, which will integrate mobile devices, production equipment, various control devices, and remote and automated control systems.

With 5G, we plan to use drones to survey hard-to-reach places in the enterprise, to improve the process of online delivery of equipment for the client. In the future, we plan to test 5G for the purposes of remote data acquisition from the roadheaders operating in the mines, as well as monitor the operation of machines at the plant to optimize equipment utilization. These are just the first pilot destinations, but in reality, the possibilities of 5G are much wider.

For example, according to the forecasts of the World Economic Forum, 5G can generate $13 trillion in value in the global economy and create 22 million jobs by 2035, artificial intelligence technologies - $15 trillion by 2030. China and the United States are talking about large investments in these areas, which indicates a significant geostrategic role that these technologies will play soon.

Speaking about the role of new technologies in the energy sector, I note that thanks to them, the industry is moving along the path of increasing sustainability. It is expected that 42 million people will work in sustainable energy by 2050, up from 11 million today. Therefore, it is time to start working on the issue of qualified personnel, it will soon be extremely relevant.