The world of energy and utilities has been undergoing sweeping changes over the last 10 – 15 years. Much of this is being driven by the global move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Enabling much of this energy transition is the industry’s ability to coordinate the merging of operational technologies (OT), with information technology (IT), and engineering technology (ET).
Bentley’s Year In Infrastructure Going Digital Awards held in Singapore in October 2023 provided a snapshot into major initiatives where industry leaders are partnering with Bentley and mastering complex ETOT/IT projects that ensure the reliable delivery of energy around the world. In the energy breakout session during the event, Mark Biagi, Senior Director, Energy Industry Solutions, Bentley Systems noted the importance of this emerging operating model: “This is a glimpse into the future of in frastructure engineering where immersive technology blurs the line between the physical world and where the digital world that combines many assets from many subsystems into a connected ecosystem.” It is this connected, digital ecosystem that is the foundation for the new energy environment that is increasingly distributed and renewable.
Below we take a brief look at some of the Going Digital award finalists and examine why these projects (and their leaders) are helping shape the future of energy delivery.
First is the Full Lifecycle Digital Application on Xianning Chibi 500kV Substation Project with Powerchina Hubei Electric Engineering Co., Ltd. Based in Xianning, Hubei, China, this award-winning project is a key part of meeting the challenges of Xianning’s power load growth demand and in optimizing the power grid to improve power supply reliability. The project presented complex topography, requiring a compact layout, compounded by a short construction period. Faced with coordinating multiple engineering disciplines, and the realization that traditional workflows were insufficient to timely deliver the project within budget, Power China worked with Bentley Systems to achieve full lifecycle digitization, including integrated 3D/4D modeling and digital twin technology, highlighting the power of digitally-enabled multi-discipline collaboration.
Throughout each stage of the project the digital designs enabled effective communication and collaboration with all necessary parties from initial design through construction. This approach also helped reduce the actual area required for the substation by a large amount (.97 hectares). These types of efficiencies from digital solutions will be a key success factor in these demanding operating environments.
Another project of note that was a finalist at the Going Digital awards ceremony was with Belgium’s electric system operator, Elia. Reflecting on the project with Power China above, Elia is another example of how the utility industry needs nimble digital solutions and tools as it ramps up its renewable energy portfolio.
This project focused on transitioning their obsolete drawing file management system and engineering processes to a centralized digital platform and smart digital workflows. Elia engineering leadership needed integrated technology management and digital twin solutions. Working with Bentley Systems solutions and tools that facilitate intelligent engineering and effective management workflows, Elia management expects to save 30,000 resource hours annually.
One impressive result of these resource hours saved, beyond the obvious cost savings and efficiencies, is how digitization improved safety. By leveraging reality-based models and understanding the as-is or as-built situation, site visits were reduced AND scenarios were anticipated like clashes and deadly short-circuits incidents, increasing safety.
A third example of where digital success equates with operational success is found with the Qinghai Kexin Electric Power Design Institute in the Qinghai Province in China and their 110kV substation and transformation project. Underscoring the gravity of this project, and others like it, this project took place in an area with mountainous terrain where six town in the region were experiencing constant long-term power outages. More than just “keeping the lights on,” this project drastically improved living conditions and continues to promote economic activity
The Qinghai Kexin Electric Power Design Institute team selected Bentley’s open applications, facilitating collaborative design workflows and real-time rendering to achieve refined, coordinated design of the substation and facilities amid the natural surroundings. The result was a 35% improvement in design quality and construction efficiency. Developing a precise design saved 30% in material quantities and avoided resource waste to reduce the project’s carbon footprint. The 3D models and digitized data provide the basis for intelligent digital plant operations and maintenance, while the successful project delivery drives digitalization, setting a benchmark for power industry projects in China.
This project in the Qinghai Province demonstrates how digitization positively impacts local communities well beyond the substation fence. After the project is completed, it will provide stable power supply for the production in the six local towns and better life for local people, and improve the local industrial structure and living conditions, as a result significantly increasing social and economic benefits.
Congratulations to all of the Going Digital award winners! These projects have all amply demonstrated that ET/OT/IT are not just buzzwords, and that as the physical energy world continues to evolve at a quickening pace, the right digital solutions and tools aligned with project objectives can create business and technical value in the most challenging technical and topological environments.