Virtual reality, a training tool for gas carriers

TRAINING. Video games, cinema, amusement park, virtual reality is experiencing an unprecedented craze. It is now possible for anyone (or almost anyone) to pilot a spaceship, walk on Martian soil, meet a long-lost creature or else… to learn how to lower the gas pressure on a distribution station. Admittedly less impressive, this last application is nevertheless an increasingly widespread use of virtual reality : the training of professionals. This is a path in which GRTgaz has committed itself, which has entrusted the company Middlelevr with the design of a virtual gas distribution station in order to train its operators.

Wishing to modernize its training course, the French gas transportation giant naturally turned to virtual reality. But it was still necessary to find a company capable of providing an application that is both playful and realistic, respecting the safety requirements of a field as sensitive as gas transportation. This company is MiddleVR, founded in 2012 by Sébastien Kuntz. The company, located in the suburbs of Paris, specializes in supporting companies in their virtual reality projects. In recent months, it has set about building a fully functional gas distribution station in a virtual universe. MiddleVR engineers created a device modeled on an existing station with the help of GRTgaz agents. The more than 20 years of experience of these officers has made it possible to design the most credible and realistic environment possible in which students will learn the gestures as if they were on a real station.

“In my opinion, if you had done this in real life, you would be dead “

Halfway between theory and practice this training puts an operator equipped with an HTC Vive headset and a control in each hand facing gas lines, levers and other tools to measure pressure. The apprentice is then guided on the gestures to be performed by a trainer who follows the action on a control screen outside the simulation. The operator can then learn or perfect the control methods of a distribution station: open and close a valve, check the pressure using a tester, find a failure… all this with formidable precision and without the slightest risk. Mistakes of beginners here have only virtual consequences, and opening the wrong valve does not send you to the hospital.

Accident scenario

Not content to seize a rapidly expanding technology, GRTgaz will also facilitate its training circuit. Indeed at present, the gas carrier has only one center dedicated to practical training, located in Picardy, as explained to Sciences et Avenir Joël Rennié, head of the operations division : “Our agents are distributed throughout France, and when we want to train them, we have to bring them to Compiègne, for 3 days”. Not always obvious when it comes to upgrading the thousand technicians in charge of network maintenance. This is where the device developed by Middle VR comes into play : composed of a headset, two controls, a few cables and a computer, the whole is easily deployable and multiplierable, which allows a trainer to meet his students in the four corners of France. The student and teacher can also be in 2 different cities. The other major advantage of the simulation : the possibility of putting the apprentice in front of a problem impossible to reproduce on a real test station, as evidenced by Joël Rennié : “Before virtual reality it was impossible to confront our agents with certain breakdowns, or simply with an accident scenario. Now operations, even the rarest, can be simulated without the slightest risk”. Excited by the result GRTgaz already imagines future applications and why not the use of augmented reality to directly assist agents in the field.

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