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Continuing the Conversation: Digital Transformation of the Energy Sector

Highlights from ESI LIVE France's 2021 panel of distinguished speakers

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
By Marc Rousset

Actors in the energy sector are being pushed more than ever to respond to the scaled-up increase for electricity at a reasonable cost and in strict compliance with quality and safety. They need to reinvent the way they provide energy to decarbonize transport, industries, and cities, while at the same time rethinking the energy cycle from production to recycling. While reexamining the way they will do business in the future, energy providers are increasingly stepping into digitalization, starting to investigate Industry 4.0 technologies and what it means for them.

This was the context of the Energy Session presentations during ESI LIVE France 2021 (available only in French). Let’s look back at some of the highlights from the presenters explaining how they innovate and move towards the Digital Transformation by modeling their equipment “as built” and “as used” to evaluate performance as well as optimize the maintenance plan and the dismantling of obsolete installations.

Innovation in the nuclear industry: why risk it?

Michael Dessagne, Innovation Officer at Framatome and keynote speaker for ESI LIVE France 2021, made “the shift towards the Digital Transformation”, which was the topic of his presentation, and explained why it is the basis of innovation for the nuclear industry. He described that the standard way of implementing innovation in other industries cannot be forcefully replicated in this industry. Why? Because the nuclear industry faces challenges related to a very specific regulatory environment; there must be an extreme emphasis on safety during the service of a nuclear reactor, with zero room for error during production, as well as massive financial impacts of any modification to the plants or component conception.

So, why bother with digitalization at all?

Because managing the complete lifecycle of a nuclear plant, from green- and brownfield to decommissioning, is a tremendous task. Energy companies can only complete this task safely and cost-effectively by applying digital resources. From evolving towards innovative plant designs to gaining confidence about the lifetime extension of plants and controlling the cost of dismantling and decommissioning - for such a high-tech sector, where know-how is vital, the Digital Transformation holds the key to excellent overall performance.

New dismantling service models were presented in more detail by Remi Thouvenot, Technical Lead Engineer at Framatome, who illustrated the need of having a ‘back office’ for decision making during a dismantling project based on the Hybrid Twin™, which combines real data & simulation, to ensure the economic efficiency of the project.

Guillaume Tremblay, Technical Director at Nuclear Valley, gave a global overview of the electronuclear sector. In addition to the recovery plan and the associated financial promises to support innovation for the energy actors, Guillaume explained the importance of having the nuclear sector transformation supported by a technological platform able to propose numerical application for decision making.

Innovative Examples in the Nuclear Industry

Now, with all of this in mind, let’s look at some innovative examples shared at the ESI Live France event.

A Digital Reactor Project by EDF R&D

Didier Banner, Digital Simulation Program Manager at EDF R&D, presented their Digital Reactor project, consisting of a Hybrid Twin™ for each nuclear reactor in service. This project will support decisions related to managing a nuclear unit from an economical point of view, and, globally, to better manage the hazards of electric production. This project couples EDF and ESI technologies, leading to a model that supports decision making, not only based on average data but adapted to each nuclear production center.

‘The Spot’: Framatome Design School

Jean-Marie Hammy, Advanced Reactors & Design School (AKA ‘The Spot’) Department Manager at Framatome, added to Michael Dessagne’s presentation mentioned earlier by detailing Framatome Design School’s initiative as a breakthrough in the standard way of capitalizing on current know-how. For example, to convey their knowledge in complex nuclear engineering systems, Framatome used ESI’s Virtual Reality Solution, IC.IDO, to add their expertise and know-how related to radioactivity limits to create a virtual nuclear environment

Quality Machining During the Manufacturing of Nuclear Components

ESI knows that Digital Transformation is also key during the manufacturing of nuclear components, especially when production tools are changed, to increase productivity while ensuring the quality of these components. This key topic was presented by Alexandre Brosse, Process Simulation Engineer at DTIMLT-F Framatome, showing Framatome’s process for quality machining using ESI Smart Manufacturing Solutions. This will eventually be completed using a Hybrid Twin™.

Digital Transformation for the Wind Energy Sector

The nuclear sector is not the only one facing the Digital Transformation challenge – the wind energy sector is feeling the effects too. Thomas Duffey, Mechanical Engineer at EDF Renewal (EDF RN), showcased the request for higher performance in the wind sector around the predictive maintenance of wind turbines. By coupling Virtual Prototyping of a critical mechanical component with data coming from the ‘in service’ use of the windmills, they plan on seeing drastic improvements in the conception, lifetime, and predictive maintenance of the component.

Stay in-the-know

ESI LIVE France’s Energy Session, together with the testimonials of this outstanding panel of experts, helped participants better understand the energy sector’s challenges and, even more, the solutions possible with Virtual Prototyping and the Hybrid Twin™ to support their Digital Transformation. Stay engaged with ESI and keep abreast of the most relevant, up-to-date information on what’s happening in the energy sector by following our dedicated Energy Channel on LinkedIn!

For more information visit ESI's dedicated Energy section

Learn more about this topic by following our Webinar Series: Challenges of the Nuclear Sector

Marc Rousset

Channel Director for the Energy Industry

At the age of 26, Marc Rousset received his Ph.D. in applied Mechanics at Paris University VI in 1985. From 1985 to 1997 he worked at Framatome, the French leader in the Nuclear Power Plant sector. He held several management positions for various activities related to the development of Virtual Simulation software tools. In 1997, he joined ESI Group, the world-leading innovator in Virtual Prototyping solutions and global enabler of industrial transformation. Today, he holds the position of Industry Channel Director for Energy Industry.