Pipeline infrastructure is notoriously difficult to modify, let alone optimize. There are thousands of ever-moving variables, and each of them can multiply the complexity of any proposed change.
All that’s about to change, thanks to a visionary start-up that’s leveraging the potential of the Industrial Internet and the power of GE’s Predix platform.
On September 28, 2016, Calgary-based Stream Systems launched SimOpti, a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service application that allows clients to create, customize, and test their pipeline networks in a virtual and visual environment. The SimOpti digital sandbox saves companies the time and expense of building physical proof-of-concept models, not to mention juggling data in old-school spreadsheets.
Stream Systems, a Zone Calgary Startups company, was formed in 2014 to help oil and gas companies address complex network optimization problems. It quickly became apparent to Allan Chegus, Stream Systems’ founder and president, that the prevalent approach to network optimization—building stand-alone models to represent the proposed changes and solutions—was too expensive, too slow, and too static. If a client wanted to tweak any variables within the model, the process would have to start all over again.
Traditionally, the client is entirely dependent on an external service provider. “That way of doing business is not just going, it’s gone,” says Chegus.
The future belongs to applications like SimOpti, which will put tools directly into the hands of the client. Using SimOpti, oil and gas companies can easily tweak their planned pipeline networks—anytime, anyplace, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional modeling.
According to Chegus, using the application is as easy as playing with blocks. “Think of SimOpti as a tool kit and think of our models as Lego models,” he says. “The idea is that you can assemble these models on your own.” With instructions so simple a six-year-old can do it? Not quite—but while the science and math under SimOpti’s hood is complex, the intuitive interface is designed for non-engineers and engineers alike.
A modeling system, no matter how sophisticated, is only as good as the data it uses. That’s where GE and the Predix platform come in. “We’re integrating with GE because Predix provides secure access to client data needed for our simulations,” Chegus says, adding that GE offers an ecosystem for software geared towards industrial needs and applications. “Stream Systems is providing the intelligence application tool kits that will help companies extract the data, and the environment in which they can use that data to make intelligent decisions.”
Are you adding or reducing pipeline capacity? Planning to refurbish a terminal? Maybe you’re figuring out how to absorb new assets, or pondering the real cost of a joint venture that will alter how your asset work together? SimOpti allows you to play around with all of these variables.
“We’re de-risking innovation,” Chegus says. SimOpti lets users experiment and push a planned system to its limits without real-world consequences, until they find the best solution.
Chegus also sees SimOpti as the industry’s best bet for optimizing current pipeline capacity. “Stranded pipeline space is as a big a threat to the industry’s efficiency as blocked pipeline projects,” he says. The SimOpti software allows users to identify—and use—that stranded pipeline space, increasing capacity without building a single new kilometer of pipeline.
It’s a sufficiently compelling story that four of North America’s largest pipeline companies are already on board. Once Stream Systems proves to the industry how effective the software is in practice, Chegus believes that SimOpti will transform the way that companies work with and optimize their assets. “The sky’s the limit,” he says.