WA10EL195 - E-learning through scenarios and 3D models

Challenger Institute of Technology’s, Australian Centre for Energy Process Training (ACEPT)

Executive Summary

Challenger Institute of Technology’s Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training (ACEPT) worked with two specialised organisations, 3D Millipede and ISA Technologies, to develop an easily accessible animated 3D oil and gas processing plant model/simulator.

Whether they are based on off-shore rigs, in the desert or on campus, learners can use this resource to safely gain ‘hands on’ insight into the workings of sometimes complex machinery and manipulate process variables and experience the results in real time.

Previously this type of simulation was only possible using very expensive software, but this model requires a standard computer and free software as it uses the industry standard – PDF (Postscript Document Format).


The Challenger Institute of Technology’s Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training (ACEPT) is the leading provider of process operations training.

To develop workplace skills in process engineering ACEPT has a full-scale onsite ‘process train’ (plant and process control equipment) that provides a learners with hands-on experience in a real life industry environment. It is an exact replica of what is used in the oil and gas industry and the only one of its kind in Australia.

elearning_through_scen_1.jpgSimulation training ensures that students are trained to a competent standard in a safe environment prior to operating the process train. It also allows remote students to keep pace with campus based learners in gaining a thorough understanding of the operation of the plant and process control equipment.

Learners are can be trained to a competent standard in a safe environment whilst operating the process train. They understand and then apply complex concepts and processes both of which areelearning_through_scen_2.jpg critical to being able to operate a process train within the oil and gas industry.

In 2009 through an E-learning Innovations project, an interactive 3D model for ‘tilted plate separator’ was developed. This is a crucial and complex piece of equipment used to remove oil from water. Correct operation is vital to ensure that the discharge water, whether it is to be used in other processing or released to the environment, is free of contaminants.

The 3D model was developed using the latest Adobe PDF technology, an industry standard format. The project achieved a very successful outcome with the development of a learning model that offers an intuitive way for learners to understand and learn complex processes.
This 2010 project enabled Challenger’s ACEPT to further enhance and invest in the model for the tilted plate separator by exploring the implementation of a virtual environment for scenario based learning. This supports learners in dealing with real life dangerous situations in a simulated environment.

What was done

Challenger Institute of Technology worked with two specialised organisations on this project.
  • 3D Millipede: The Millipede Group specialises in 3D visualisation drafting and related services for architecture, engineering, environmental impact studies, inventions, education and training. www.3dmpg.com.
  • ISA Technologies: A specialist information technology company with core competencies in the areas of high performance computing and visualisation. www.isatechnologies.com

elearning_through_scen_3.jpgUsing the output of the 2009 project as a starting point, interactive 3D animations were developed showing the internal view of the process during operation.

Using the expertise of the 3D Millipede and ISA Technologies and using the latest Adobe PDF technology the resource can be accessed on any standard computer.
Learners are able to rotate machinery models so they can view different angles and parts of the equipment to gain a full understanding of how it works. By clicking on various points on an image of the process plant, learners can access explanatory text, audio and animation.

The animations include opening of valves, changing displays on gauges and visualisation of the fluid levels. Additional detail has also been added to the text learning materials to cover the additional equipment incorporated into the visualisation.

Benefits experienced by Challenger Insitute of Technology's ACEPT

This new tool is gives ACEPT additional ways to support off-campus and remote students. We can now provide a practical informative tool that is very different from 'textbook' learning and can be used by the students to gain knowledge and skills that supplements a number of subjects.
It is also useful for on-campus learning where lecturers can use it to demonstrate to the class.

There is great potential for these 3D PDF models to be created for all sorts of processing plants using the original computer aided design (CAD) drawings as a basis to develop highly interactive training materials. Challenger ACEPT has shown the 3D PDF model to oil and gas companies it partners with and is in the process of creating further simulations for other pieces of processing plant equipment.

Lessons learnt

This project required careful scoping with the external organisations to ensure the correct technical information was included. It was also important to clearly identify what features were added because they would be useful educational tools, rather than just adding every feature that was possible.

For future developments of this nature I would increase the use of early stage storyboards to clarify project intent and layout considerations. This would streamline development stage discussions and reduce the need for late stage changes and corrections.

The results

The project successfully produced an enhanced 3D visualisation of ACEPTs ‘tilted plate separator’. It enables learners to manipulate process variables and experience the results.

Previously this was only possible with expensive simulation software. This product only requires a standard home computer and free software as it is all contained within a PDF.

This model gives students a thorough exploration of the inside workings of the equipment. Learners are able to select their desired flow rate and starting conditions, within the normal process limits. The animation is then started including a clock to show the real time it would take. Learner can adjust the process starting points to see the impact of different conditions and to get a feel for real response times before operating actual equipment.

The addition of a scenario based assessment component to the PDF 3D model developed in 2009 enables students to respond to a crisis replicating a real-life dangerous situation in a online environment. This means that learners can be trained to a competent standard in a safe environment whilst operating the process train.

This project allows learners to reflect, analyse and adjust their responses to complex concepts and processes. These are critical skills to for workers operating a process train within the oil and gas industry.

The final 3D PDF file can be downloaded below.The PDF is 11.5 MB

Reflections and suggestions

Working with specialised external personnel allowed us to develop a tool with more features than would have been thought possible. The collaorative development process allowed suggestions to be made by the developers that were more efficient and effective than in the original scope.

Framework connection

The national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework funds and supports E-learning Innovations projects which aim to embed e-learning into the national training system by supporting and enabling innovation in training design and delivery, at the state and territory level.

This project allows industry professionals to see that effective training can be delivered in a way that reduces the plant access required. It also enables remote students greater access to formalised training. Using e-learing tools such as this one reduces the need for formal classroom time.


This is a Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Challenger Institute of Technology, with seed funding from the Framework.

For more information


Greg Guppy
Director Defense and Resource Industries
E-learning through scenarios and 3D models
Challenger Institute of Technology
Phone: 08 9494 8902
Email: greg.guppy@challenger.wa.edu.au

For more information on the Australian Flexible Learning Framework:
Phone: (07) 3307 4700