Virtual Reality Gains Momentum as GPA Members Seek to Pilot its Effectiveness

The May 2023 article in CompressorTech2 magazine highlighted how GPA Midstream member companies are using virtual reality (VR) to transform operator training for gas compression skids, based on VR learning modules rolled out by Oklahoma State University’s Institute of Technology. As OSUIT doubles down on VR as a superior learning medium to train the midstream workforce of the future, GPA Midstream member companies are evaluating VR for a variety of use cases ranging from pig trap operations and pipeline excavation to meter proving.

Of particular interest to midstream operators is the ability to simulate abnormal operating conditions that are hazardous for training purposes in the real-world. This includes gas leaks, spills, pipeline ruptures, pressure abnormalities and fire or explosion events — all of which pose real operating risks and consequences.

The continued collaboration between Tulsa-based XALTER and GPA Midstream member companies is gaining momentum as more companies recognize the value of VR for recruiting digitally-native technical talent, while improving safety and operations. In a collaboration between OSUIT and Energy Transfer, XALTER created a virtual pig trap training module that allows unlimited operator practice reps to safely launch and receive pigs, while complying with permitting, PPE, and other requirements. The plan is to enhance the VR pigging module in 2024 with a range of abnormal operating conditions aligned to operator qualification requirements.

The latest XALTER initiative includes an exciting meter proving VR training module for Targa Resources’ fractionation and LPG export facility in Mont Belvieu, Texas. The VR learning project kicked off in Q3 2023 and is expected to roll out in Q1 2024 as part of a vision to improve operator training and proficiency to avoid costly product cross-contamination from frequent meter proving procedures.

“I continue to believe that VR will play an important role in how the modern workforce trains and learns," says former GPA Midstream chairman Clark White, Executive Vice President at Targa Resources. "Technologies like VR will become more important as midstream gas tries to recruit young digital-native talent into our industry. These workers have grown up using smartphones and playing video games, so they expect their future employers to use modern technology in the workplace. To future-proof our workforce, the midstream gas industry needs to stay current to remain relevant.”

Clark also encourages his GPA Midstream peers, noting, “Our Mont Belvieu meter prover project is validating that both younger technicians and older supervisors alike are embracing VR technology for training, as they find it more engaging and effective. VR won’t replace our hands-on training, but it will complement it by providing our staff with unlimited practice reps of key task procedures anytime, anywhere.”

GPA Midstream member companies can get inside a VR headset to experience VR training for themselves at upcoming GPA Winter/Spring events where XALTER will be providing live VR demos and technical presentations for training and operations professionals. Click these links for sneak peek video previews of compression skid and pig trap training in VR.

GPA Midstream member companies interested in learning more about how they can access VR technology for recruiting, operations and safety can contact XALTER or GPA Midstream leadership. XALTER is providing GPA Midstream with an exclusive program to allow companies to pool resources to create VR content for their individual MRO and EHS training.