AWS for Industries

Building digital twins with IBM for energy and utilities customers on AWS

We really need to kick the carbon habit and stop making our energy from burning things. Climate change is also really important. You can wreck one rainforest then move, drain one area of resources and move onto another, but climate change is global.” —Sir David Attenborough

Greenhouse gases that are already present in the atmosphere will drive most of the climate change that will occur over the next 10 to 20 years. In 2016, the UN Environment Programme estimated that the financial impact of climate change will grow to USD$140–300 billion per year by 2030 and USD$280–500 billion per year by 2050.

SGN (previously Scotia Gas Networks) is one of the largest gas distribution networks in the UK, serving over 5.9 million customers. The company maintains and operates a vast network of pipelines, gas holders, and other infrastructure.

The UK is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To help reach this goal, SGN needs to replace fossil fuels, such as natural gas, with green alternatives. This is one of the most pressing challenges facing the UK’s energy system and energy security, as reliance on imported fossil fuels makes the UK vulnerable to supply disruptions.

SGN’s Gas System of the Future digital twin project is a first-of-its-kind undertaking that is essential to achieving this goal. It addresses challenges like reducing the cost of green hydrogen, optimizing the transfer of energy between energy carriers (or vectors) including electricity and hydrogen, and accommodating a mixture of natural gas, biomethane, and hydrogen in the network. In addition, the digital twin project will provide operators with an up-to-date view into the state of the network to improve safety, reduce supply interruptions, and protect vulnerable customers.

SGN led the project—partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, DNV, Esri, National Grid ESO, and National Grid Gas to win funding for the Gas System of the Future—Digital Twin project through the Alpha Phase of UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)—to discover, prototype, and scale various use cases with the aim of assessing how digital twins will help SGN and the UK energy sector accelerate toward net zero targets and benefit consumers.


Figure 1 SGN solution architecture

Figure 1. SGN solution architecture

The innovation in this project revolves around connecting and interoperating multiple digital twins from different energy ecosystem partners using an open-data approach that spans multiple energy vectors, including hydrogen, biomethane, natural gas, and electricity.

A digital twin is a living digital representation of a physical system, regularly updated with data to mimic the structure, state, and behavior of the physical system to drive business outcomes. To guide digital twin building, AWS developed a leveling index with four levels: level 1 (descriptive) focuses on the visual representation and analysis of the physical system design; level 2 (informative) integrates near real-time Internet of Things (IoT) sensor data to visualize the current state; level 3 (predictive) makes predictions about future states using models; and level 4 (living) uses updatable models that can mimic behavior changes in the physical system over time to provide actionable insights. This leveling helps determine the complexity and business value that can be achieved for different digital twin use cases. The digital twins built by SGN and partners are between levels 3 and 4, using machine learning (ML) to predict and update models in near real time.

Figure 2 AWS digital twin leveling indexFigure 2. AWS digital twin leveling index

Across the broad range of data and source systems, there was a diverse set of users and stakeholders who were interested in the incredible insights available via digital twins. In order to ensure that it accounted for each user, the project looked at different perspectives—or personas—for digital twins.

The project evaluated more than 15 personas and 57 user stories with a focus on putting digital twin capabilities to the following aims:

  • addressing problems and opportunities around SGN’s existing natural gas network
  • evaluating opportunities for SGN’s H100 innovation project to develop a world-first green hydrogen-to-homes heating network on the Fife coast in Scotland

The project team shortlisted three personas and seven user stories for prototyping, which was delivered in sprints over a 2-month period, with playbacks to prove key interactions and capture feedback from sponsor users and project partners. The solution prototyping focused on developing digital twins of the following types:

  • hydrogen gas digital twin—hydrogen production and optimization manager: A mixed-integer programming model was built to forecast hydrogen production and storage. To visualize 3D representation of the plant, we used AWS IoT TwinMaker, which makes it simpler for developers to create digital twins of real-world systems such as buildings, factories, industrial equipment, and production lines. A live dashboard provides updates to changes in the parameters, providing what-if scenario simulation.
  • natural gas digital twin—high-pressure gas control manager: DNV gas modeling tools were integrated into the solution to provide modeling of the gas network and to determine critical pressure failures in the event of a peaking plant being dispatched to the network.
  • natural gas digital twin—local authority planner: DNV gas modeling tools and ESRI ArcGIS were integrated into the solution to provide planners with tools to determine planning feasibility.

Figure 3 SGN digital twin screensFigure 3. SGN digital twin screens: current status, what-if simulation, input prediction, and plan

The twin runs on AWS, using AWS IoT TwinMaker to marshal and visualize the hydrogen plant and DNV Synergi Gas tools to model gas demand and the impact on the network of additional demand. Additionally, it uses Esri ArcGIS to visualize geospatial data and optimize potential connection routes and IBM App Connect Enterprise (ACE) to integrate the Synergi Gas tools.

IBM is drawing on expertise from its Energy, Environment, and Utilities (EE&U) Consulting Go-to-Market team, the Global Center of Excellence for EE&U, the Digital Twin Centre of Competence, and the Technology Group Client Engineering team to deliver the project, which includes developing a proof of concept built on AWS, DNV, Esri, and IBM technologies.


The initial phase articulated the project’s value to SGN, its customers, and the wider energy ecosystem, including lowered hydrogen production costs, reduced risk from peaking plants (gas turbines that generate electricity) to the security of supply, and improved local planning.

IBM, AWS, and a multiparty group demonstrated how digital twins can facilitate transformation and optimization of the gas network and introduce green hydrogen as a viable energy vector. Learn more about how IBM is using AWS services to build digital twins. Visit IBM’s AWS Partner page for more information about IBM offerings on AWS.


Fabio Braga de Oliveira

Fabio Braga de Oliveira

Fabio Braga de Oliveira is a senior solutions architect at AWS based in Munich. He carries a wealth of experience from various industries – Automotive, Industrial, and Financial Services, working in the last 19 years as a software engineer/team lead/solutions architect. His professional interests go from big to small: he loves event-driven architectures to help build complex, highly efficient systems, and he also works on small devices, building devices fleets to collect data and supporting companies to drive new insights, using analytics techniques and machine learning. Nowadays, he is helping the IBM team in the DACH/CEE region with application modernization (Serverless, Containers) and IoT workloads. Fabio works closely with IBM and Nordcloud in the DACH/CEE region, specifically supporting application modernization (Serverless, Containers) and IoT workloads and pushing new solutions for automotive and related industries.

Ambika Godbole

Ambika Godbole

Ambika, an enthusiastic advocate of digital twin technology, is an associate partner at IBM Consulting in London. With a rich professional background, Ambika has accumulated extensive experience across diverse industries, including energy and utilities, CPG, and retail. She is dedicated to using her expertise to help clients overcome their business challenges. In her role at IBM Consulting, Ambika is at the forefront of innovation, driving the adoption of digital twin solutions in the fast-evolving landscape of technology and business.

Faisal Nazir

Faisal Nazir

Faisal is CTO for digital twins, tech lead for GenAI on Cloud, and AWS chief architect at IBM Consulting. Faisal is also a visiting professor of GenAI at York St John University. Faisal was formerly an ML specialist solutions architect and AIML Tech BD at AWS. Faisal is interested in topics such as generative AI, ML, blockchain, and quantum computing. He is the author of Quantum Computing Using Amazon Braket SDK (Manning Publishing). In his spare time, Faisal attempts (and often fails) to make money in the stock market using ML.