2023 AFPM Summit Recap: Cutting-Edge Insights on Digital Transformation in Asset Inspection

Shaping the Future

Optelos participated in the 2023 American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) Summit, which brought together industry leaders, experts, and innovators for a four-day event of knowledge exchange and collaboration in Grapevine, Texas from October 2-5, 2023. This year, the spotlight was firmly on the digital transformation occurring within the industry, especially as it relates to asset management and inspection, topics of paramount importance in a rapidly evolving energy landscape. The Optelos hub lounge in the City Hall pre-function area was very busy for the entire event. 

Several summit presentations by industry leaders offered insights into the future of asset inspection, revealing how cutting-edge technologies and innovative strategies are redefining safety, efficiency, and productivity in the fuel and petrochemical sectors.


Digital Transformation: The Key Focus

Digital transformation in asset inspection is a multifaceted concept encompassing the utilization of data, artificial intelligence, and advanced data capture technologies to revolutionize traditional inspection processes. The 2023 AFPM Summit included presentations on several topics related to adopting these new technologies that provided invaluable insights into the digital future of asset inspection.

“This event was a great system of connecting and networking with like-minded people!”

Erik Botsford, ExxonMobil

Optelos SVP Clint Palermo demonstrates the Optelos platform at the 2023 AFPM Summit, showcasing how visual data management is in integral capability for a successful digital transformation of asset inspection initiative.  

Digital Transformation Presentation Highlights

There were several presentations throughout the four-day event which covered the efforts of industry leaders to leverage the advancement in new digital technologies to improve operational performance, efficiencies and capabilities in asset management and inspection. Specifically, the following four presentations covered the aspects we believe to be most critical in digitally transforming asset inspections: drone data capture, 3D digital twin model leverage, and effective visual data management. 

  • “Benefits of Drone Use in Industry” (Phillips 66): Srinivasan ‘Cheenu’ Vanchinathan, Director of Refining Digital Operations at Phillips 66, shared their progress in adopting and leveraging drone technology to improve their asset inspection programs. The presentation demonstrated:
    • How drone technology can significantly enhance safety by reducing the need for workers to access high-risk areas, while also increasing inspection accuracy and efficiency.
    • Drones are a more technologically efficient way to do certain kinds of inspections (electrical, tanks, pipe racks, etc.). It is also safer because the technology is increasingly better able to keep people from being exposed to inspection-related dangers, such as working at elevation, near pressurized lines and high temperature equipment.
    • How to get started with your own drone inspection program:
      1. What it takes to start a drone program at your facility: the people, process and technology,
      2. Drone program considerations and best practices,
      3. What a hybrid approach looks like (drones + legacy inspection methods). The early results clearly indicated that P66 is supportive of further adoption and application of drone inspection in their maintenance program.
    • “The Digital Reality Ecosystem: How ExxonMobil is Moving to a Visual Way of Working through Open Asset Digital Twins” (ExxonMobil): Athicha Dhanormchitphong, Digital Realities Architect at ExxonMobil, presented the ExxonMobil’s Digital Reality Ecosystem (DRE), aka the Industrial Metaverse, and the benefits it promises with its ability to digitally visualize their sites and offer seamless, immersive and connected experiences of their asset portfolio.As this is an emerging technology space, there are several technologies that need to be investigated and developed as the Industrial Metaverse develops. This session explored the existing and potential industrial use cases of the metaverse, augmented/mixed reality to illustrate the various functions, applications, and benefits of the technology. ExxonMobil shared their three-phase roadmap for implementing their vision (they’re nearing the end of phase 2), the elements and use cases of their DRE, and the opportunities that exist by integrating 1D, 2D and 3D data through simulation data integration and field enablement. This very informative and engaging session on the digital transformation of asset inspection was perhaps the best of the Summit.
      1. How ExxonMobil is moving to a visual way of working utilizing innovations and new technologies and their 3 phase plan for implementation,
      2. The components of the ecosystem in the process of being developed by ExxonMobil, and
      3. The vision for the future development steps required to achieve their goals of digitalizing and automating the asset inspection and management processes to realize greater operational efficiencies.
AFPM features over 70 training sessions by SMEs on relevant topics and trends in the energy industry
  • “Digital Twins: Demystifying Asset and Visual Twins – Insights into Digital Twins, Keys to their Successful Creation and Value” (Motiva Enterprises): Digital Twins can be used to model and simulate the structure and behavior of equipment, systems, and processes of a refinery, petrochemical or chemical facility. This session sought to more clearly explain what a digital twin is as it relates to the ‘Asset’ and ‘Visual’ virtual representations of physical objects. This is different from the other type of digital twin, which is more of a computer model or predictive algorithm. Motiva’s presentation was supported by key use cases that are commonly faced by every operating facility, along with actual achieved benefits they have experienced. The presentation session covered:
    1. A practical explanation of Digital Twins in their primary forms,
    2. Guidance on the accepted prerequisites, methods, and required level of effort to craft and deploy Digital Twins in oil and gas,
    3. The challenges of sustaining a Digital Twin program (a lot has to do with effective data capture via rigorous procedures and ongoing visual data management), and
    4. The achievable benefits to be realized from Digital Twin initiatives supported by actual use case experiences. Digital twins in this context are also often referred to as “reality models”.
  • “Delek’s Eye in the Sky Autonomous Drone Program: (Delek US): Ido Biger, EVP & CTO Delek US. After looking into the oil and gas future challenges and opportunities, Delek US adopted the ambitious vision to become a key player in the energy market and initiated its comprehensive journey involving people, processes, technology, and culture. This highly visual,  well attended and interactive presentation covered:
      • The Delek US autonomous drone inspection program using BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) to provide their sites with enhanced capabilities on emergency response, thermal anomaly detection, OGI leak detection, flue gas line inspection, distribution line inspection, site security surveillance (including employee parking lots), and site perimeter security inspection.
      • How Delek US is embracing drones and new technology to deliver new asset inspection insights, digitalize and automate asset inspection and site monitoring, and enable increased asset insights and employee productivity through the use of new transformative technologies.
Delek US EVP & CTO Ido Biger presented their progress in adopting and leveraging autonomous drones and visual data management for asset monitoring, site security, and asset inspection. 

Key Takeaways

The broad range of topics covered on the digital transformation of asset inspection at the 2023 AFPM Summit left attendees with several key takeaways:

  1. Safety and Efficiency: The adoption of digital technologies in asset inspection is enhancing safety, reducing risks to human inspectors, and significantly improving efficiency while decreasing reportable incidents.
  2. Data-Driven Decisions: The future of asset inspection is inherently data-driven. Advanced data analytics and AI are invaluable tools for predicting maintenance needs and optimizing inspection schedules.
  3. Integration is Key: To maximize the benefits of digital transformation, it’s crucial for organizations to integrate various technologies and solutions cohesively into their inspection processes, as well as their data management platforms, to enhance team collaboration and data access/leverage.
  4. Cost Savings: Digital transformation in asset inspection is not just about efficiency; it’s also about cost savings. Reducing downtime, travel costs, and human error all contribute to a healthier bottom line. Drones and effective digital data leverage will ultimately become a competitive point of differentiation, separating the leaders from the laggards.


The 2023 AFPM Summit was a resounding success, shedding light on the rapidly evolving landscape of the digital transformation of asset inspection in the fuel and petrochemical industries. As the industry continues to embrace digital transformation, the integration of cutting-edge technologies into asset inspection and maintenance programs, such as drone inspection paired with visual data management and AI analysis systems like Optelos, promises to redefine the future of asset inspection. These new technologies are making asset inspection programs safer, more efficient and automated, and reducing costs.

If you would like to learn more about how you can begin your digital transformation journey, click on the “Get Started” link below to submit a question, request more information or a demonstration tailored to your industry and application.