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Grid modernization is an idea that takes on classic utility challenges and new ones too. Many long-standing assumptions about generation, climate, and customers are changing. As a result, utilities are changing too.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) established its Grid Modernization Initiative in response to changes in societal values. The DOE strategy addresses sustainability, security, reliability, resilience, flexibility and overall affordability. That last one is the real pinch point!

Each of the goals is do-able on their own. However, taken together grid modernization is forcing utilities to implement novel and innovative responses. Answers lie beyond the reach of simply doing more of the same. Comprehensive solutions demand elegant new approaches to make changes in the right places.

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped.” ―Malcolm Gladwell

How can elegant solutions be identified? Grid modernization is a transition to new ways of understanding, thinking, and working. Information powers them all (explore).

Data, analytics, and modeling sit at center stage. And, as with most leadership efforts, nothing moves forward without crystal clear communication. Reflect on these areas when assessing grid modernization readiness.

  1. Customary design and planning tools rely on very simplified models of the power system. They use timeworn methods. Quite simply, they are not up to the task. The goals necessitate a real-world real-time view of the entire electric system, including customers.
  2. Many new devices are coming on-scene. Adoption must push beyond the proof of concept stage. Management at scale depends on automation. Automation hinges on digital twin simulation of the physical. Expanded models, adequate to support operational systems, are essential to reaching the goals.
  3. To ensure security and resilience, utilities must reduce vulnerability. The goal is to anticipate, prepare for, and effectively respond to emergencies. Threat locations, impacts, asset details, and weather forecasts must be understood in light of the overall electric system.
  4. Real-time measurements increase situational awareness. They provide inputs for decision support. This relatively new style of information is key when it is tied to assets and customers. The modern workforce can change how they work with a real-time view on their device of choice.
  5. Common power flow, operations, and control systems are often very conservative. Slow to change, many neglect today's brilliant computing techniques. Obsolete concepts break down when it comes to distributed generation, transportation electrification, and energy storage. Only a new information framework can handle the complexities of a modern grid.
  6. Atop the technical needs, is the necessity to communicate better with every stakeholder. Employees, regulators and customers want to see the plans and the progress. Colorful new visualization techniques can be used to communicate ideas more clearly.
  7. Information systems to support grid modernization must operate at scale. They will include more detail, external data sources, real-time inputs, and advanced analytics. However, changes to information technology infrastructure cause ripples.

When I worked at the utility, I had to reject several interesting point solutions that did not fit well into the enterprise. Today, services-based architectures enable enterprise solutions to integrate well while respecting security protocols for both applications and data.

Esri helps utilities address the information solutions critical for grid modernization. Location technology ties utility information together. ArcGIS Utility Networks enable elegant approaches to each of the above considerations. They do it in cost-effective ways. To see how location technology supports grid modernization, download our free e-book.

Everyone wants to return to normal from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Many wonder - What is okay at the current recovery stage?

A group discussion about recovery took a turn for the worse. I asked - “Does anyone know what stage of recovery we are actually in today?” No one was confident in this simple yet essential information. Information feeding public health procedures was contradictory. It was not current or clear-cut.

Utility safety, like COVID-19 recovery, rests on clear concise communication. Many accidents result from communication mistakes. Customers get dropped unintentionally by switching errors. Lineworkers are injured when they contact energized equipment.

Misidentified equipment and out-of-date maps are two causes that sadly reappear again and again These are avoidable. Employees need current information to remain safe.

When it comes to safety, you do not take someone else’s word for it. You check for yourself. You verify switching and blocking instructions with your own maps and resolve any discrepancies. I heard this every day over the utility radio. Field staff and dispatchers cross-checked each other and adjusted for any oversights. They all need the very latest network maps.

For most of my career, I maintained one of the special circuit map sets – so I had the newest updates. These rode in my car in dedicated boxes right next to my hardhat and boots. I kept them up to date, just like the sets in the trouble trucks. However, even in the very best-case scenario, these yellowed papers were a full month behind. 

This is the information age. Within arm’s reach, we have a device that puts all human knowledge in our hands. The real-time state of the electric system can be communicated immediately and securely to everyone that needs to know.

Mobile apps put current maps in the field. Similarly, they also bring immediate updates back from the field. ArcGIS location technology shows field employees details of the equipment right where they stand. They can even see real-time data like equipment loads and temperature (example).

Clear communication is vital in everything we do. For COVID-19 and utility work, current information steers proper procedures and safety.

What if the map update time was reduced to zero with mobile apps? Every user would have live information to make the best decisions for safety and service.

To find out how live location-based information helps help utilities operate safely, visit our safety industry page.

Underground cable failures are the worst outages. Pick your least favorite place for corroded cables – direct buried, 1970’s cable in preassembled flexible conduit, or maybe collapsed ducts. These all turn fault locating and cable repair into a nightmare.

With a grim outlook for permanent repairs, attention may turn to temporary measures. Anything to get the customers back in service! Those bring safety concerns. I have used traffic ramps, cable tied to trees, 24 hour guards, and jet turbine generators more than once. What practices and tools can help manage old cable and improve asset management?

I recently visited a utility engineering office. A large paper map hung on the wall – the cable replacement plan. Millions of dollars! All in one region, faded yellow highlighter outlined the neighborhoods for replacement over the next five years.

I asked why. Those areas were based on campfire storiesTales of extended outages that “made it into the newspaper” years ago. Today that would be on Facebook. The focus on this region was based on hazy executive promises to “do something about it”. The plan was not even based on cable age - it was an enduring kneejerk reaction driving asset management.

Obvious questions revealed opportunities for improvement:

  • Is this the oldest cable? Not necessarily.
  • Are other areas in need of work? Surely.
  • Is this the best area to focus on? Debatable.

What would be better?

If the idea is to replace old cable, it would be better to determine where cables are oldest. That would at least be defensible when asked  - Why is the utility working there and not over here?

What would be better?

Age is not always the best indicator of asset health. Better yet would be to consider the current asset condition. Include the last periodic inspection, or data gathered the last time a crew did their safety inspection before normal work. Adding knowledge of past faults and historic failure rates would be very insightful. Definitely better.

What would be better?

Not all cables are used in the same way. Some extend to only a few customers – some serve critical loads. Radial sections have no switching options. Looped segments enjoy alternate feeds making restoration much faster and easier. Prioritizing work based on asset criticality and restoration effort would take cable replacement to a whole new level. Now we are getting somewhere!

What would be better?

Top it off with information about the environment. Soil conditions, imagery, weather, and customer demographics all bring new perspectives. Optimize the whole asset management process. Balance asset performance against cost, resources, reliability, and compliance. So much better!

Wrap Up

Enterprise asset management (EAM) systems handle many aspects of the asset life cycle. However, they are blind to the spatial relationship of assets between each other, outside influences, or customers. Understanding these connections is essential to optimized asset management.

The data often rests in different systems – in silos. What is needed it to unite asset data with the network connectivity model, outages, customers, environmental factors. See all the data in one place – organized around location. It is the one thing in common.

Most utilities already use GIS for asset management in some capacity. Yet, how they use it is changing. ArcGIS is a complete GIS. Complete means it contains all the elements needed to solve asset management challenges, not just make conventional maps.

These capabilities unite asset information. Combining asset health data and real-time feeds show how the network is performing. With location as the centerpiece, a total view bonds maintenance, capital, and operational strategies to improve key performance indicators and business results.

The next time you see an engineer go to look at the faded cable replacement map remind them it could be better. Optimize the process and get that information in a web browser, a phone app, or right in CAD. Use location technology.

To find out how ArcGIS can help utilities optimize asset management, download our free e-book.

A Virtual User Conference

The first ESRI virtual User Conference July 13-16, 2020 (UC) is now over. The theme, How GIS is Interconnecting Our World struck a chord with over 86,000 people. As the hundreds of on-demand demonstrations, technical sessions, user presentations, and partners unfolded, it was clear that understanding precedes action. Furthermore, the best way to gain that understanding is with what is arguably the most powerful technology in the world – GIS.

 

Normally in San Diego, Esri would expect under 20,000 attendees. The virtual format opened the impressive content to new viewers and many additional people from customer organizations. 71% of participants were first-time attendees, and involvement from outside the US was significantly up over prior years.

 

For the first time, users had ready access to virtually all the ESRI staff in every discipline at UC. This was a fantastic opportunity to answer every question and chat with experts.

At the plenary sessions, everyone had a front-row seat! Jack Dangermond inspired viewers and showed several captivating videos that demonstrated how ArcGIS is being applied around the globe. The plenary sessions can be viewed on YouTube.  

The virtual map gallery is publicly accessible and continues to be a big hit showing some of the best digital cartography at UC. Anyone can get a crisp ESRI T-shirt at the new online Merch Store without traveling to San Diego and waiting in line at the convention center.

 

 

 

It wasn’t the same as a live gathering, but in some ways it was even better. How else could you get to every session you want to see? And, review it again later?

 

Trends in GIS

Reflecting on the week, several trends emerged.

  1. GIS applications are becoming dramatically easier, more powerful, and more available. The true power stems from frictionless access to virtually everyone – utility employees, executives, field staff, customers, regulators, and the media.
  2. Geospatial Hubs are organizing information sharing - improving relationships, collaboration, and cooperation.
  3. GIS systems are becoming more interconnected creating a geospatial infrastructure to address business and societal needs and create value.
  4. GIS is becoming more real-time, connecting sensors, the IoT, and remote sensing. This boosts situational awareness from the control room to the service truck in the field.
  5. Geographic science is gathering more knowledge. It helps understand more data inputs and greater complexity. Most importantly, it applies additional knowledge to solving real problems and meeting strategic business objectives.

New Developments

It would be impossible to capture all the exciting new developments. Here are a few that caught my special attention:

 

ArcGIS Pro is more tightly connected to Autodesk tools like BIM360. Users can now connect to CAD data stored in the cloud, use CAD within GIS, and even push CAD updates to GIS including #UtilityNetworks. Non-spatial objects in ArcGIS Utility Network accurately model complex fiber networks, conduits in duct banks, and other forms of connected information. Deilson da Silva explains this starting 6:25 in this video.

 

ArcGIS LocateXT extracts location information, text, and dates from unstructured documents and adds it to maps. Think about MSWord, email, csv, txt, pdf files, and all the useful information they contain in your organization. 

 

ArcGIS Pro Time Series Forecasting Advanced tools ingest space-time data like energy usage and use machine learning techniques to make accurate predictions about the future.

 

ArcGIS Analytics for IoT – Suzanne Foss explains how to work with big data, data in real-time, or near real-time, to drive insight and take action.

 

Video Game visualization engines are being used for stunning immersive visualizations like wildfires.

 

Field Operations got a lot of attention from utility users with new capabilities and the streamlining of workflows in the new ArcGIS Field Maps.

 

Site Scan for ArcGIS is taking off as a cloud-based solution for automated drone flight planning, and image processing and analysis, that leverages the existing GIS. Drone image data immediately available throughout the organization. It can be published on a map to ArcGIS Online to communicate and share. ArcGIS can now work with stacks of imagery to perform trend analysis, prediction, and change detection.

 

Wrap-up 

Thank you for being our customers and business partners. Esri was founded to help solve some of the world's most difficult problems. We support our users' important work with a commitment to science, sustainability, community, education, research, and positive change.

 

Please consider joining the Esri GeoConX event in the fall. The 2020 GeoConX Conference is going virtual. The world's largest and leading utility and telecom GIS conference will be an immersive virtual experience for the GIS community.

 

Let’s all look forward to the great work we will review together next year at UC in 2021.

By Tom Coolidge and Tom DeWitte

“Tell me about yourself.” How many times have we all heard those words from others trying to understand us and our life journey to a point in time? The natural gas distribution industry and transmission industry have similar but different life journeys to an improved level of safety resulting from better knowledge of their assets. Both initiatives behind these stories now are almost ten years old.

In the distribution industry, the initiative is known as Tracking and Traceability. In the transmission industry, it’s known as Traceable, Verifiable, and Complete. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) launched both initiatives.

For those not familiar with Tracking and Traceability in the natural gas distribution industry, this initiative is about improving the information a natural gas organization maintains about an asset, such as a pipe segment, a valve or a fitting. It is important that a natural gas organization knows who manufactured the asset, who enhanced the asset (i.e. applied a protective coating), by whom and when was the asset tested, and by who, where and when was the asset installed. Like very protective parents, safety demands the need to know from where the asset came, where the asset has been, what did it do, and where is it currently. Through the efforts of multiple industry organizations, including the Plastic Pipe Institute, the American Gas Association, pipe manufacturers, and others, Tracking and Traceability was born to supply the facts required for a better answer.

In the natural gas transmission industry, PHMSA introduced the Traceable, Verifiable, and Complete requirement. Traceable in this context means records that can be clearly linked to original information about a pipe network component. For instance, this might be a pipe mill record or purchase requisition. Verifiable records confirm the documentation used for traceability. An example of a verifiable record is a pressure test complemented by pressure tests or field logs. Complete records are those that finalize documentation of a pipe network component. For example, a complete pressure testing record should identify a specific segment of pipe, who conducted the test, the duration of the test, the test medium, temperatures, accurate pressure readings, and elevation information as applicable.

While, as you can see, the journeys are in different forms, they bear obvious similarities. And, a geographic information system (GIS) is at the heart of both.

 

Capturing the Life Journey of an Asset

Capturing a complete traceable set of information for an asset requires an information system with unique capabilities. A traceable system of record needs to be able to store the following types of information about an asset:

  • Documents
  • Photos
  • Digital descriptors
  • Location
  • Geospatial representation

 

To meet the needs of a gas system, this information system also needs to be able to provide this information to the gas organization staff both in the office and in the field.  When in the field this information needs to be available whether the mobile device is connected or operating in a disconnected state.  That is a pretty tall order of capabilities.  Of all the different types of information systems available today, only a GIS has the capability to store all these components of information an asset collects over its life journey. 

Over the course of an asset’s life journey there will also be many tests and inspections.  These, too, need to be associated to the asset for the asset’s life journey. Additionally, these inspections and tests need to be available to employees both in the office and in the field.  A field cathodic protection technician needs to not only know where a cathodic protection test point is located, what type it is, and who manufactured it, the technician also needs to have access to the history of inspections taken at the test point.

This is why the gas industry is increasingly looking to their GIS as the foundation of their plans for implementing a system of record that meets the needs of traceability.

 

Tracking Changes to an Asset over Time

Meeting the needs of Traceability also requires knowing when the information about an asset was changed, who made the change, and what was changed. This set of information needs to cover every change made to the information about the asset over the life of the asset. Accomplishing this requires both the ability to track the edits made to the asset record, and the ability to archive the history of changes.  This audit trail of changes to the GIS-maintained assets must be persisted for the life of the asset.

The greater the portion of an asset’s life journey that can have an unbroken audit trail, the more verifiable the information about the asset. Accomplishing an unbroken audit trail of the operational life journey of an asset requires a GIS which is also a fully integrated platform.  One that allows the editor tracking to begin in the field when the asset is initially installed and placed into service. This field-initiated audit trail must be part of the GIS’s security system for capturing who recorded the installation of the asset.  This capture of who recorded the installation, and when was the installation recorded, must be system managed so that users are unable to “fake” the system by manipulation of the recorded date time, and user information.

Verifying the completeness of the information about an asset includes verifying the integrity of the information.  An integrity that can be sustained as an unbroken audit trail for the operational life journey of the asset.      

Conclusion

A modern GIS, one that has been architected to be a platform solution, capable of collecting new assets both in the field and in the office is the foundation technology for a successful traceability program.  The information collected about an asset includes its documents, manufacturer specifications, installation photos, location description, geospatial representation, inspections, and tests. This complete set of information needs to be available to utility staff when they need it, regardless of location or device.  The verifiability of this information needs to include a system-managed audit trail capability, which cannot be manipulated and persists as an unbroken recording of the life journey of the asset.

Only a modern GIS can answer the question; “so, tell me about yourself”.

Global Pandemic

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic is affecting everyone. People and utilities adopt new behaviors – almost daily. They ask themselves not only “how do we get through this?” But also, “What good can be harvested?”

 

Staying close to home, my wife and I went for a long walk on Sunday afternoon. We have taken two more since then. When we come out of this trying time, some new actions will stick– like more Sunday afternoon walks. In a way, it has been beneficial to be forced to think differently about quality time together. We saw the value in doing things in a new way. We will keep this habit.

 

Utilities Adjust

The Edison Electric Institute said, “a large percentage of a company’s employees (up to 40 percent) could be out sick, quarantined, or might stay home to care for sick family members.” A workforce deficit of 40 percent would challenge long-standing comfortable work habits and patterns. Utilities cannot close their doors. They must maintain safe operations. Moreover, what if a storm hits?

 

Utility staff are resilient. We serve our customers – every time. We rise to the occasion.

 

My engineering staff started asking about working from home in the 90’s – it never really caught on. Now, just like that - employees are working from home. Field employees are each taking a separate vehicle to worksites and working staggered shifts. Some are taking company vehicles home and reporting directly to their first job rather than to a central meeting point. It makes sense.

 

Limiting virtually all gatherings and meetings tests our conceptions of communication and collaboration. And, it just blows up the paperwork culture.

 

Employees are not able to turn in paperwork in the same way. Some are using the postal service to deliver their papers to the home of the person that handles it next. Sub-optimal at best! Mail service is being disrupted in some countries upsetting this seemingly simple paperwork workaround.

 

Locating Improvements

In their personal lives, utility employees shop, file taxes, bank, pay bills, and enjoy entertainment electronically – remotely. Could a utility do more things like this – of course.

 

What value could be added to workflows? Plenty!

 

Entering data directly at its source, without paper, delivers several benefits. Errors drop and throughput increases. Less handling cuts out delays in data entry. Timeliness of information skyrockets. The entire organization enjoys a real-time view of activities improving management and business decisions.

 

Most utilities rely on GIS in some way. However, some still view this as a “Maps and Records” responsibility - not grasping its superior communication principles. A modern GIS plays a critical part in communication. It pushes and pulls information specific to each person’s role and interest. Even external stakeholders like customers and local governments get exactly what they need. And, it does all this while addressing hardware and data security in a comprehensive manner.

 

 

Common Communications Using GIS

  • Assign and close work assignments
  • Examine current conditions and reference information
  • Consume status dashboards
  • Access public-facing web maps and apps
  • Collect data
  • Navigate and track locations

 

Communication is essential – it is the foundation of leadership. These resources bolster every utility employee. For example, the call center sees the current status of daily work. They also understand large project progress, and storm response. Mobile communication tools that rejuvenate existing workflows also scale up readily for emergency response. Utilities that see GIS this way use it to drive their tabletop exercises. All emergency staff practice with the same tools they will use in actual conditions (see an example). Because they are straightforward, foreign crews easily use them too. 

 

Wrap-Up

COVID-19 impacts are increasing daily and likely to affect utility work for some time. Utilities are reaching for ways to keep employees and customers engaged. They need ways to manage information without handing papers from one person to another. Customers want to know what is happening. Employees need to get information without walking down to the wall map in the conference room or a co-worker’s cubicle.

 

ArcGIS is a fully modern GIS. It has wonderful communication capabilities that can be stood up very quickly. These help organizations adapt to changing conditions. The next time you take a walk at your home office, consider how advancements in communication could result in permanent improvements to existing workflows.

 

To find out how a modern GIS can improve communication, visit the electric utility page. 

I recently attended the first meeting of a new summit, Utility GIS Applications, in Atlanta, Georgia. This vendor-neutral event was led by utility representatives to showcase how GIS is transforming utilities. Topics focused on mobile applications, data collection, asset management, and outage restoration. Special thanks to Brandon Raso from Puget Sound Energy. Brandon did a remarkable job chairing the program.

The format was unlike any other conference I have attended. During the two days, the group never separated; they met over breakfast and stayed together for breaks and lunch. This provided continual quality time for in-depth conversations. With an attendance of about 40, the atmosphere was ripe to network with others that share interests and struggles. While most attendees represented electric utilities, several from gas and water contributed markedly to the content.

 

Here are my top four observations:

 

  • Community—Utility GIS professionals are hungry for a greater sense of community to share and learn. Large utility events often make it tough to add more than a couple of new connections to your LinkedIn network. In Atlanta, a fun icebreaker enabled everyone to meet early in the program. Even the introverts enjoyed the format that started personal conversations with like-minded people. Periodically, discussion questions provided a change of pace at each table. Each table reported its conclusions to the entire group, providing additional perspectives and enhancing the conversation.
  • Data capture—Presentations shed new light on the state of the art for technologies like GPS units, drones/imagery, and lidar—even lidar surveys inside manholes! These capabilities integrate tightly with GIS, enabling rapid and accurate data collection. Good data directly supports activities like enhanced asset and vegetation management.
  • Mobile applications—The original mobile solution—the "tree killer" paper map—is still alive and well. Modern mobile apps clearly represent the low-hanging fruit for utility work. They can improve data completeness, accuracy, and timeliness while updating antiquated workflows. Fieldworkers do not want heavy, ruggedized laptops; maybe they never did. They expect intuitive phone/tablet apps that work like the apps they use in their everyday life. Everyone agreed that these tools must make the work experience better to avoid their being used as truck wheel chocks.
  • User involvement—A clear theme emerged from the stories of success and failure. New technology represents a big culture change for users. They want to understand the why and have input. Intentional change management pays huge dividends. Early and continual user engagement is fundamental to ultimate success. The voices of experience repeatedly claimed that bringing food really helps those meetings with field staff!

 

Modern GIS capabilities line up very well with the changing needs of a modern grid. Utilities face similar technical challenges and yet often address them differently. This stems from their goals, system characteristics, information systems, and resources. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; a wide variety of proven GIS solutions exist to meet every need.

 

Today, location-aware apps are prevalent across modern society. Even individuals with very little disposable income routinely rely on them. We treasure our smartphones that provide efficiency, accuracy, and convenience based on location.

 

Someone commented that they gave up trying to outsmart their iPhone and now simply leave the location services setting on all the time. Why? Because the apps do not work right when it's turned off! Nothing works right without location—very profound.

 

Utilities consider the location of assets, employees, weather, customers, work, traffic, and more. This makes GIS the ideal platform to gather all types of data and understand its business value, simplify communication, and create situational awareness.

 

To find out how proven GIS solutions can address utility challenges, visit our electric industry webpage.

By Tom DeWitte and Tom Coolidge

Installing the correct components when constructing a new pipe system or replacing an existing portion of a pipe system is critical to the safety and reliability of the overall pipe system.  When dealing with buried pipe utilities such as natural gas, water, district heating, district cooling, and hazardous liquids, this is a real issue.  Every year field crews inadvertently make the following mistakes:

   -install polyethylene assets that have been sitting in the service yard for too long

 

   -contractor installed a component for a utility company that is not on the utility companies’ approved manufacturer list

 

   -field crew installed a pipe system component which is no longer compatible with company standards. 

 

Without real-time field validation, these honest mistakes typically do not get identified until after the construction is complete and the pipe components have been covered over.  This latency in identification leads to expensive post-construction repairs. 

 

Real-time Validation

If the field construction crews could be notified that a specific pipe component about to be installed does not meet the requirements for valid installation, the previously listed issues could be eliminated. What field crews need is real-time validation.

 

Configuring Collector for Real-time Validation

In early 2019 Collector for ArcGIS was enhanced to support arcade scripting in the web maps which provide the configuration of Collector’s behavior.  As noted in previous blog articles, this opened the capability for real-time decoding of a pipe component’s barcode.

 

-Tracking and Traceability 2019: Part 1

-Tracking and Traceability 2019: Part 2

 

The ability to add arcade scripts to the web map pop-up provides an advanced configuration ability to provide field crews with real-time validation.

 

What’s a field person to do?

A field person can easily use this real-time validation capability.  Since Collector runs on Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, they could check the validity of pipe segments, plastic device and plastic fittings while unloading them from the delivery truck.  All the field person would have to do is to use their smart phone running the Collector to scan the barcode using the device’s camera.

Screenshot of portion of Collector pop-up

 

Collector will automatically decode the barcode information and open a pop-up window with the validation results.  Invalid pipe segments, devices and fittings never reach the installation trench.         

Keeping invalid pipe components out of installation trenches improves safety, system reliability, and eliminates unwanted costs. No one wants to have to re-dig the construction location to remove the invalid pipe components.

 

How is this possible?

Esri makes real-time validation possible by allowing arcade scripts to be added to the web map configuration file.  More specifically the arcade script is added to the pop-up configuration in the web map of the pipe, device or fitting layer.

Screenshot of portion of pop-up layer configuration

 

With the arcade script added to the desired layer pop-ups, the web map is now ready for real-time validation.  For the field user, initiation of the validation process occurs automatically when the field user presses the “Submit” button in the upper right corner of the Collector display.

Screenshot of top portion of Collector application

 

The pressing of the “Submit” button after collecting some information such as scanning of a barcode also automatically opens the pop-up to show the validation results.  It really is that easy to deploy and that seamless an experience for the field user.            

What is the script doing?

The logic in the arcade script is the key to enabling Collector to perform real-time validation.  What must the script do? 

The simple answer is that it must be able to acquire the information needed to answer a question.  For example, a core validation for plastic pipe construction is whether the polyethylene plastic material is too old.  Polyethylene plastic is susceptible to the suns UV rays.  Let a roll of medium density polyethylene pipe site in the service yard for over 3 years and the sun’s UV rays will have degraded the material to the point where it should not be installed. The information needed to assess whether the role of pipe is too old is the date of manufacture and the current date.  The date of manufacture is acquired form the scanning and decoding of the ASTM F2897 barcode.  The current date is acquired from the mobile device itself.  Subtract the manufacture date from the current date and you have a time difference.  If the time difference exceeds the industry recommended shelf life then that roll of pipe is invalid and should not be installed. 

Here is a snippet of the arcade script to determine whether the polyethylene plastic pipe or component has exceeded the recommended shelf life.

Portion of arcade script to determine material shelf life

 

Where can I get these scripts?

Many people have told me that they find it easier to modify someone else’s script than to write one from scratch. With that statement in mind we have written arcade scripts against a UPDM 2019 data model and the ASTM F2897 barcode standard to address three validation scenarios.

  • Scenario 1: Material for HDPE and MDPE has exceeded its shelf life
  • Scenario 2: The manufacturer of the pipe system component is not on the utilities approved list.
  • Scenario 3: The specific size and model of the component is not part of the utilities set of codes and standards.

 

These arcade scripts are available for download from the following location on geonet. https://community.esri.com/docs/DOC-14615-tracking-and-traceability-2020-scripts In addition to the scripts are detailed instructions on how to configure and deploy the scripts into your ArcGIS Enterprise or Online organization.  That’s right, web map based arcade scripts not only work for ArcGIS Enterprise environments they also work for ArcGIS Online organizations.

 

What else can Collector real-time validations do

In addition to the real-time validation scenarios previously listed, there are other opportunities for applying real-time validation.  For example, you could create custom barcodes for welding and plastic fusion operators.  The custom barcodes could embed the worker’s operator qualifications. A Collector web map embedded arcade script could decode that scanned operator’s badge barcode and immediately determine whether the operator is qualified and whether the qualifications are still valid.

The advanced configuration capabilities of web maps with arcade scripting open capabilities that previously required complex and expensive customization.  The universal use of web maps in web applications and mobile applications such as Collector allow this configuration to be done once and utilized across Windows mobile devices, Android mobile devices, Apple mobile devices, and web applications. 

 

And did I mention that these real-time validations work even when the device is disconnected from the network?

 

PLEASE NOTE: The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s position, strategies, or opinions.

 

 

By Tom Coolidge and Tom DeWitte

 

Part 3 of 3

This the third and final blog in a series that explains how the ArcGIS platform with the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extension and the Utility and Pipeline Data Model (UPDM) can be utilized to model a cathodic protection system.

 

What is a cathodic protection zone and why does a pipe organization need to understand it?  

 

Cathodic Protection Zones

What is a CP zone? In the second blog of this series we described the components which comprise a cathodic protection zone and how UPDM 2019 provides a template for organizing the information about those components.  But, a cathodic protection zone is more than its components.

Cathodic Protection System

A cathodic protection zone is really an electrical circuit.  Electricity flows through it to protect the connected components from corrosion. So, to understand what a cathodic protection zone is, we need an understanding of the connectivity between the components.  But even that is not enough. In addition to understanding connectivity we need to understand what connected components have characteristics which will cause the flow of electricity to stop. 

 

This means the GIS model representing the cathodic protection zone needs to know that plastic pipe is non-conducting and will therefore stop the flow of electricity.  The GIS system needs to understand that devices and fittings can be insulated, and this will also stop the flow of electricity. 

 

The ArcGIS Utility Network Management extension provides this higher level of understanding within ArcGIS.

 

Defining the Cathodic Protection Zone

To create a cathodic protection zone within the utility network, all PipelineLine, PipelineDevice and PipelineJunction features must have their CPTraceability populated. Additionally, the test points must be configured as terminals and designated as a subnetwork controller.

The logic that defines how the utility network discovers a cathodic protection zone is as follows:

  1. Start the trace from the sources (Test Point(s))
  2. Use the utility network connectivity to begin traversing the system.
  3. Stop traversing the network when the trace encounters a feature with a CPTraceability = Not Traceable.

The tool within the utility network which performs this task is the “Update Subnetwork” geoprocessing tool.

 

When the “Update Subnetwork” is run, it aggregates the following PipelineLine features to create the subnetwork geometry.

  • Distribution lines
  • Transmission lines
  • Gathering lines

 

Additionally, the “Update Subnetwork” is preconfigured in UPDM 2019 to summarize the following information and write it to the subnetwork feature record.

  • Number of Anodes
  • Number of Rectifiers
  • Number of Test Points
  • Total Length
  • Total Surface Area

 

Defining Flow for Cathodic Protection

In the digital world of flow analysis, there are two types of flow networks; source, and sink.

  • SOURCE — A source is an origin of the resource delivered. For example, for a natural gas distribution system, sources of natural gas are the utility transfer meters within town border stations.

 

  • SINK —A sink is the destination of the gathered resource. For example, when modeling the Mississippi river basin, the sink of the pipe network is the outflow into the Gulf of Mexico, just south of the city of New Orleans.

 

A pressure system is another example of a source flow system. The source of gas to the gas pressure zone is the regulator device. A single gas pressure zone will typically have multiple regulators feeding gas into the pressure zone.

Diagram of Pressure Zone

Within the utility network, a single domain may only have one type of subnetwork controller (Source or Sink). The gas pipe system tiers (System, Pressure, Isolation) are modeled as sources.  In UPDM 2019, the Pipeline domain models the subnetwork controller type as a “Source” to support the pipe system tiers.

 

The cathodic protection system of a pipe system is not as consistent a flow model as the pressurized pipe system. For the impressed current system, the rectifier would be the logical source and the anode would be an intermediate device.  For the galvanically protected system, the anode would be the logical source. Because of this inconsistency, it was decided that the best option was to make the test point the source as it is typically a part of both the galvanically protected system and the impressed current protection system.

 

Tracing Across a Cathodic Protection Zone

Now that the cathodic protection zones have been defined with the “Update Subnetwork” geoprocessing tool users can begin to perform traces across the cathodic protection system.  Some common questions to ask the utility network via a trace are:

  • Where is are the Test Points?
  • Where is the nearest test point?
  • Which pipe system components participate in the zone?

Outside of the trace tools simple attribute queries can be run to understand the following:

  • Which pipe system components are bonded?
  • Which pipe system components are cathodic protection insulators

With the cathodic protection zones defined in the utility network, these questions can be easily answered.

 

Conclusion

Data management and analysis of cathodic protection systems was a challenge in legacy geospatial systems.  Entering the information has always been a straight forward process.  Maintaining an intelligent representation of the cathodic protection system has historically been the challenge. With the utility network combined with the UPDM 2019 configuration, maintaining and analyzing a cathodic protection system is now an intuitive process.

 

If you missed the first two blogs in this series, we encourage you to check them out. The first blog provided an overview of how cathodic protection systems works to provide GIS professionals and IT administrators with enough knowledge to be able to correctly create a digital representation of a cathodic protection system utilizing UPDM 2019 and the utility network . The second blog went into detail on the use of UPDM 2019 to organize the digital presentation of the cathodic protection system.

 

PLEASE NOTE: The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s position, strategies, or opinions

By Tom Coolidge and Tom DeWitte

Part 2 of 3

 

Our first blog in this series provided an overview of how cathodic protection systems works to provide GIS professionals and IT administrators with enough knowledge to be able to correctly create a digital representation of a cathodic protection system utilizing Utility and Pipeline Data Model (UPDM) 2019 and the utility network.

 

This second blog goes into detail on the configuration of UPDM to manage the components which make up the cathodic protection system.

 

Many, many years ago, being new to the natural gas and hazardous liquid industries, the management of cathodic protection was a mystery.  The data about the cathodic protection system was not being stored in the GIS along with the assets of the pipe system.  When I asked the GIS staff about this, the common answer was that the cathodic protection group maintained their data separately. This leads to the next question. What system were they using?  The most common answer I got was paper and colored pencils. That’s right the cathodic protection data was being manually maintained on a set of paper maps with colored pencils.  And every winter the cathodic protection group would manually transpose the data from last year’s paper maps to the current year’s paper maps.

Over time, the cathodic protection data started to show up in more gas GIS systems.  Most often it was an incomplete representation of the cathodic protection system.  You might see some test points and anode beds, but they usually were not connected to the pipe system.  Additionally, other important information such as insulators and rectifiers were commonly not mapped.

 

Some natural gas or hazardous liquid companies did map the entire cathodic protection system. But they needed special tools to manage and maintain this information.

 

With the release of UPDM 2019 and the utility network, it is now possible to maintain the entire cathodic protection system with the standard data management and editing tools provided by Esri.

 

No colored pencils required!

 

UPDM 2019

The 2019 edition of UPDM provides a template for organizing natural gas and hazardous liquid pipe system information. This data model is an Esri-structured geodatabase.  It is written to be able to be used and managed with the standard data management tools provided by Esri’s ArcGIS products.

 

UPDM 2019 and Modeling Cathodic Protection Data

The release of UPDM 2019 introduces a new, simpler, and more complete data model for managing cathodic protection data in an ArcGIS geodatabase.  These changes are intended to be used with the ArcGIS Utility Network Management Extension to allow for the modeling of the cathodic protection system.

Cathodic Protection Components in UPDM

The discrete components of a cathodic protection system modeled in UPDM 2019 are anodes, rectifiers, test points, wire junctions, and insulation junctions.  The anodes, rectifiers, and test points are point features stored as asset groups within PipelineDevice featureclass.

These PipelineDevice features are not inline features of the pipe system.  Instead they physically sit adjacent to the pipe system.  These anodes, rectifiers, and test points are connected to the pipe system assets by wires and cables. The location where the test lead wires connect to the pipe system can be identified with the PipelineJunction AssetGroup type of Wire Junction.  The modeling of test junctions is not required, as the UPDM default rulebase for the utility network also allows the wires and cables to connect directly to the PipelineLine pipe segments.

 

The location of insulators can be specified with the PipelineJunction AssetGroup type of Insulator Junction.

The wires and cables are classified as bonding lines, rectifier cables, and test lead wires. Within UPDM they are stored in the PipelineLine featureclass.

Modeling Insulating Components

Within UPDM 2019, management of insulating pipe components is key to successfully modeling cathodic protection systems. From the perspective of modeling cathodic protection systems, the management of insulators is the defining of whether a pipe system component can be electrically traversed.

  • Pipe system component is insulating       = Not traversable
  • Pipe system component is not insulating = Traversable

 

In ArcGIS and the utility network, we simulate traverseability with tracing.  This means that if a pipe system component is not insulated, it is traversable which means it is traceable when defining a cathodic protection system.

  • Pipe system component is insulated       = Not traversable             = Not traceable
  • Pipe system component is not insulated = traversable                    = Traceable

 

In UPDM 2019, determination of whether a pipe system component is traceable is defined with the attribute: CPTraceability.  The following UPDM featureclasses which participate in the utility network have the CPTraceability attribute:

  • PIpelineLine
  • PipelineDevice
  • PipelineJunction

 

This attribute is assigned a coded value domain called: CP_Traceability.  This coded domain has the following values:

 

Code

Description

1

Traceable

2

Not Traceable

Coded Value Domains for CP_Traceability

Within the utility network properties predefined in UPDM 2019, this attribute has been associated to the network attribute: cathodic protection traceability. This allows the value to be utilized within the trace definition which is used to define the cathodic protection zone.

 

Within UPDM 2019, a pipe system asset is defined as being insulated by setting the BondedInsulated attribute to a value of “Insulated”. The following UPDM featureclasses which participate in the utility network have the BondedInsulated attribute:

  • PipelineLine
  • PipelineDevice
  • PipelineJunction

 

The attribute BondedInsulated has been assigned the coded value domain: Bonded_Insulated.  This coded value domain has the following values:

               

Code

Description

1

Bonded

2

Insulated

Coded Value Domain for Bonded_Insulated

 

Management of Bonding Lines

Bonding lines are the wires which are used to extend the electrical connection of the cathodic protection system.  They are used to span pipeline assets which are non-conductive.

Example of Binding Wire Spanning Plastic Pipe Segment

 

In some legacy GIS systems, the management of bonding lines was tedious. Data editors were required to draw in the bonding line and insure that is was connected to the metallic pipe system components on each end of the line.  In the UPDM 2019 configuration, the need for geometry feature creation has been minimized by allowing an attribute on the non-conductive pipe system asset which is being spanned to indicate that the asset has been bonded.  Instead of drawing the spanning bonding line, a user simply needs to change the attribute value of the attribute: BondedInsulated to a value of “Bonded”. This means that within the Utility Network, the spanned feature can be considered traceable.

 

Automating Cathodic Protection Data Management

The previously described attributes, Material, BondedInsulated and CPTraceability are the PipelineDevice and PipelineJunction attributes which UPDM 2019 and the utility network use to define a cathodic protection zone. The attributes AssetType, BondedInsulated and CPTraceability are used with PipelineLine.

 

Attribute Purpose

PipelineLine

PipelineDevice/ PipelineJunction

Determine material type

AssetType

Material

Determine whether bonded or insulated

BondedInsulated

BondedInsulated

Determine CP traceability

CPTraceability

CPTraceability

 

To provide automation and improve data quality, attribute rules were written to auto-populate the CPTraceability attribute based on the values of the AssetType, Material, and BondedInsulated attributes.

 

To explain the logic embedded within the CPTraceability attribute rules here are three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Metallic Pipe Segment
    • Asset Type           = Coated Steel
    • Bonded Insulated = null

 

  • Scenario 2: Insulated Gas Valve
    • Material                = Steel
    • Bonded Insulated = Insulated

 

  • Scenario 3: Plastic Pipe Spanned by Bonding Line
    • Asset Type           = Plastic PE
    • Bonded Insulated = Bonded

 

In each of these scenarios the CPTraceability attribute is automatically populated by the UPDM 2019-provided attribute rules.

  • Scenario 1: Metallic Pipe Segment
    • Asset Type           = Coated Steel
    • Bonded Insulated = null
    • CP Traceability   = Traceable

 

  • Scenario 2: Insulated Gas Valve
    • Material                = Steel
    • Bonded Insulated = Insulated
    • CP Traceability   = Not Traceable

 

  • Scenario 3: Plastic Pipe Spanned by Bonding Line
    • Asset Type           = Plastic PE
    • Bonded Insulated = Bonded
    • CP Traceability   = Traceable

 

To have the CP Traceability attribute correctly set, all the editor must do is insure that the Material/AssetType and the BondedInsulated attributes are correctly set.

 

Conclusion

The new enhanced representation of cathodic protection data in UPDM 2019 makes managing a digital representation of your cathodic protection data easier. This enhanced presentation can be created and maintained with the standard tools provided by ArcGIS Pro and the standard capabilities provided by the utility network. 

 

In the third and final blog of this series, we will dive into how the utility network enables organizations to understand cathodic protection zones, discover when an insulating fitting or device stops the electric circuit of the cathodic protection zone, and which pipe materials are non-conducting. 

 

All of this is done without colored pencils.

 

PLEASE NOTE: The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s position, strategies, or opinions

On January 28, 2020 over 13,500 utility professionals gathered in San Antonio TX for the annual Distributech conference to learn about the latest innovations in the electric utility industry. This year Distributech was huge and the action never let up.

 

The Esri booth flooded each day with visitors learning ways to geo-enable the modern utility – using the complete ArcGIS platform to accomplish digital transformation. Two themes rose to the top – Grid Modernization and Field Mobility.

 

Visitors enjoyed demonstrations in the following areas: Asset management, Safety first, Customer engagement, Grid Mod, Network management, Analytics, Field operations, Innovation, Real-time/IoT, and Emergency management.

 

The demonstration theater seemed to run almost non-stop drawing crowds and often filling the adjacent isle addressing such topics as:

  • Esri - Maps and Data for Utilities, ArcGIS Utility Network,  Seeing your Business Holistically and in Real-Time, Enabling your Field Workforce with Apps, Leveraging drone Imagery for Mapping Inspection, Utility of the Future
  • SAP/Critigen – Integration of Spatial Data using SAP HANA and ArcGIS
  • UDC – Moving Utilities from a Reactive to Proactive Reliability Approach, Utility Network Migration – Getting Down to the Details
  • EPOCH Solutions – EpochField: Field Work Management Made Simple
  • DataCapable – How Dominion has Transformed Safety and Reliability, How Central Hudson Gas and Electric has Transformed Safety and Reliability with a New Platform
  • 3GIS – Avoiding Fiber Deployment Roadblocks, Accelerating Speed to Activation
  • Critigen – EAM, ADMS, OMS, Design, Esri’s Utility Network, Mobility, What should we do first?

Business Partners Bring Advanced Solutions

Esri had a very large business partner presence. Critegen, Cyclomedia, DataCapable, EOS Positioning Systems, Epoch Solutions, SAP, UDC, and 3GIS all presented solutions in the Esri booth. In total, 44 Esri business partners exhibited this year demonstrating the heightened interest in real-world solutions. Numerous companies expressed a desire to form new partner relationships to leverage with wide-spread adoption of ArcGIS in utilities worldwide.

 

A formal press release announced an exciting new partnership. Electric, gas, and water utilities will now be able to leverage both ArcGIS Utility Networks and the Open Systems International, Inc.(OSI) monarch operational technology (OT) platform as they become more tightly integrated.

 

"Many of our utility customers are adopting new Esri technology, such as ArcGIS Utility Network Management, which provides advanced network modeling capability," said Bahman Hoveida, president and CEO of OSI. "We are very excited about our partnership with Esri, as it will enable us to provide the best technical solutions to our joint customers, leveraging the latest functionality ArcGIS Utility Network Management provides."

 

Presentations

Esri’s Bill Meehan presented to an engaged audience on why Field Mobility is more than just giving maps to field workers! Bill discussed ways to improve entire workflows with accurate data, and awareness/ access for everyone. Leading utilities are using ArcGIS mobile solutions to improve KPIs in every corner of the business.

 

Remi Myers shared about Analyzing Lightning Events to Improve Electric System Reliability. Remi hit on some very popular themes of Network Management, Big Data, and Analytics. He processed over 600,000 lightning strike data points in a live demo that identified broken grounds on a utility’s transmission system – impressive!

 

Make Plans to Join Esri Next Year

Make plans to join us next year when Distributech will return to sunny San Diego on February, 9-11, 2021.

 

Continue the Conversation

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By Tom Coolidge and Tom DeWitte

 

We were struck recently in reading NACE International’s estimate of the money spent each year on corrosion-related costs for monitoring, replacing, and maintaining U.S. metallic pipe networks. The estimated annual tab is $7 billion for gathering and transmission pipelines and another $5 billion for gas distribution pipelines. That’s $12 billion each year!

 

Metallic pipe has been around for a long time. It has been used by the gas utility and pipeline industries since the 1800s when cast iron pipe first replaced wooden pipe. Advances in metallurgy through the years have steadily resulted in different types and better quality of metal for pipe networks. Today there is a lot of metallic pipe of one kind or the other in the ground. In fact, even after much cast iron and other metallic distribution pipe have been replaced by plastic pipe, there remains today several hundred thousand miles of in-service metallic pipe in America’s gas and hazardous liquids transmission and distribution networks. Much of it is old, and all of it is subject to corrosion.

 

Most people understand that if you put iron or steel in contact with moisture and oxygen, the metal will begin to rust or corrode. What most people do not understand is that this basic electro-chemical process can be slowed or even halted.

 

Gas utilities and pipelines understand that, though. That’s why today they dedicate considerable human and financial resources to the cause of cathodic protection. They do it because they are committed to safe operations, and they do it for regulatory compliance as cathodic protection has been required for much of America’s pipe networks since 1971.

 

This is the first blog of a series that explores how ArcGIS provides capabilities for the management of cathodic protection networks.

 

Protecting the Pipe from Corrosion

There are several methods to protect metallic pipe buried in the ground. One method is to apply a coating to the pipe to form a barrier between the metal pipe and the corrosion-causing mixture of water and air.

Coated Metallic Pipe

 

This is very common for natural gas and hazardous liquid carrying pipelines.  But it is not perfect, as a single scratch through the coating layer diminishes the protection.  A second method is to manipulate the same electro-chemical process which causes corrosion to instead protect the pipe from corrosion.  This method is called cathodic protection. Two common forms of cathodic protection are galvanically-protected and impressed-current protection.

Galvanically Protected

 

We Need a Sacrifice

A galvanically-protected cathodic protection system is also called a passive-cathodic protection system.  It is passive in that no foreign electrical energy is needed.  Galvanic protection works by connecting a more electrochemically active metal into the system than the pipe system which is being protected.  This electrochemically active metal is simply a hunk of metal buried in the ground near the pipe system. This component is called an anode. Common materials for anodes are zinc and magnesium. In a galvanic protection system, the anode gives up electrons to the pipe system.  This sacrifice of electrons results in the anode corroding instead of the pipe system.

Impressed Current Cathodic Protection

Charge It

Impressed-current cathodic protection systems are typically used to protect large pipe systems such as transmission pipelines.  The rectifier inserts direct current (DC) voltage into the cathodic protection system.  A rectifier cable connects the rectifier’s positive terminal to the anodes within the anode bed.  A second rectifier cable connects the rectifier’s negative terminal to the pipe system.

 

The Electric Circuit

The foundational concept to keep in mind when trying to understand cathodic protection is that the components of a cathodic protection system are connected to form an electric circuit.  If the circuit is broken, then the metallic pipe system components will lose their protection and the rate of corrosion will accelerate. If not corrected, the pipe system components will weaken and eventually fail.

 

Soil Is A Conductor

With cathodic protection, it is important to remember that the soil between the anode and the metallic pipe acts as a conductor.  The soil as a conductor of electricity completes the electric circuit connecting the anode to the metallic pipe.

 

Material Type Matters

The material of the pipe system components is critical to a cathodic protection system.  Some materials such as polyethylene (Plastic PE) are non-conducting and act as insulators. These insulating materials break the electric circuit.

Cathodic Protection System With Insulating Plastic Pipe

 

In addition to plastic pipes and plastic components acting as insulators and breaking the electric circuit, metallic components can be manufactured so that they, too, can be insulating devices or junctions.

Cathodic Protection Systems Separated By An Insulating Valve

 

Managing Cathodic Protection Data with UPDM

Management of the cathodic protection components in a Geodatabase is not difficult.  The anodes, rectifiers, and test points are typically modeled as point features.  The test lead wires; bonding lines, and rectifier cables are modeled as line features. Utility and Pipeline Data Model (UPDM) 2019 provides a template data model for managing these cathodic protection components.

 

Where data management of the cathodic protection systems gets challenging is the defining and maintaining of the cathodic protection zone.  The cathodic protection zone is the combination of pipeline, pipe devices, pipe junctions, cathodic protection devices, and cathodic protection lines, which together form an electric circuit.

Cathodic Protection System

Conclusion

Data management and analysis of cathodic protection systems was a challenge in legacy geospatial systems.  Entering the information has always been a straight forward process.  Maintaining an intelligent representation of the cathodic protection system has historically been the challenge.

With the utility network combined with the UPDM 2019 configuration, maintaining and analyzing a cathodic protection system is now an intuitive process. 

 

About This Blog Series

This blog article is the first of a three-part series explaining how the Esri ArcGIS platform with the Utility Network Management Extension and the Utility and Pipeline Data Model (UPDM) can be utilized to manage a digital representation of a cathodic protection system.  It is intended to provide GIS professionals and IT administrators with enough knowledge of how a cathodic protection system works to be able to correctly configure and deploy UPDM and the utility network.

 

The second blog article will go into detail on the configuration of UPDM to manage the components which makes up the cathodic protection system.

 

The third blog article will explain how the utility network uses its capabilities to model the cathodic protection system.

 

PLEASE NOTE: The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s position, strategies, or opinions.

By Tom Coolidge and Tom DeWitte

 

Gas utility and pipeline GIS data management is increasingly important.  With a pipe network typically geographically widespread, topologically complex, and buried underground, the performance of many tasks and workflows, in a wide range of functional areas and roles, necessarily involves application software operating on a digital model of the pipe network and the surroundings through which it passes.

 

These models are only as good as the data available to them.  Today’s pipe network GIS typically contains extensive and detailed information about each and every component of the physical network, what is going on within it, the natural and man-made surroundings through which the pipe network passes, and activity occurring around it.

 

Models most often are built from that data in one of two ways – depending upon whether the objective being examined is around “where is it located” or “how is it connected.”  Linear referencing is the model building method for the first, connectivity modeling for the second.  While both methods create a network model, they do it in different ways.

 

Before arrival of the shared centerline feature class with ArcGIS 10.8/Pro 2.5, pipe network modelers to satisfy both modeling needs had to create and maintain multiple digital mirror representations of their real pipe network.  One of these was defined by linear referencing.  Linear referencing is a language that expresses pipeline attribute and event locations in terms of measurements along a pipeline, from a defined starting point.  The network model in Pipeline Referencing is established by the sequence of strictly increasing or decreasing measures on a continuous, unbroken non-branching run of physical pipe.

 

Another was defined by connectivity.  Connectivity describes the state where two or more features either share a connectivity association, or the collection of features are geometrically coincident at an endpoint (or midspan at a vertex), and a connectivity rule exists that supports the relationship.  For those to whom connectivity associations is a new term, they are used to model connectivity between two point features (Device or Junction) that are not necessarily geometrically coincident. An example of this in a pipe system is a ****** bolted to a valve.  There is no pipe component between the ****** and the valve in the physical world.  Now with connectivity associations in the utility network, this point to point connectivity can be correctly modeled in the digital world.

 

Traditionally, each of these ways was enabled by a separate set of data – one for linear referencing and another for connectivity modeling.

 

Multiple types of operators manage natural gas or hazardous liquids pipe networks and face the challenge of needing to create and maintain multiple models.  One type is vertically-integrated gas companies.  They span all or part of the way from the wellhead to the customer meter and typically operate an integrated pipe network that includes multiple subsystems – for example, transmission and distribution subsystems.  Historically, these subsystems have been modeled separately.

 

Transmission pipelines also face the same challenge, not because they operate multiple subsystems, but because the range of application software their GIS needs to support requires access to both kinds of models.

 

Moreover, all types of operators are searching for better interoperability among software systems at the enterprise level.  They also are experiencing the convergence of information technology and operations technology systems.

 

For all these reasons, a better solution to the need to create and maintain multiple digital models of the real pipe network is needed.

 

The Solution: Unified Pipe Data Management

Esri’s vision for pipe network operators is to create a single representation of the entire pipe network that mirrors the real network and can support both types of model building.  This removes the traditional barriers between industry subsystems – for example, between transmission and distribution subsystems – that result in data silos.  A single representation also enables users to work with that digital network just as they do with the real network.  Linear referencing and connectivity modeling now can be performed on the same single network representation.  We call this new data management capability: Unified Pipe Data Management.

The solution for vertically-integrated gas companies also is the solution for standalone transmission pipeline operators that, while they don’t operate multiple industry subsystems, have a need for both types of models to satisfy the data input requirements of the range of application software being supported by their GIS.

 

A single representation of the pipe network requires a unique data organization approach to store the entire pipe system—from wellhead to meter—and support the information model requirements of the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extension and Pipeline Referencing. Esri’s Utility & Pipeline Data Model (UPDM) 2019 is a data model template that provides this data organization.

 

Benefits Of Both Extensions Working On the Same Geodatabase

The ability for Pipeline Referencing and the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extensions to work on not just the same geodatabase but the same feature classes within the enterprise geodatabase, provides important benefits to pipe network operators.  First, the two extensions bring important advancements in essential industry-specific data management into Esri’s core technology.  This relieves the need for Esri business partners to fill capability gaps and frees them to extend the capabilities further and focus on adding value to uses of the data.  At the same time, it gives pipe network operators the opportunity to mix and match application software built on ArcGIS from multiple Esri business partners.  In addition, the ability for both extensions to work on the same geodatabase simplifies staff training, provides better management of high-pressure distribution pipe, and improves scalability and performance for operators of larger pipe networks.

 

Summary

For decades pipe organizations have had to either implement multiple models stored in separate data repositories or had to settle for one data management method over the other.  With the release of ArcGIS 10.8/Pro 2.5, a single digital representation of the physical pipe system can be created and maintained.  This reduces IT administration and support costs by allowing server systems and database licenses to be consolidated.  For data editors, the process is simplified by providing a single editing experience regardless of where the edit occurs across the vertically-integrated pipe system.  For end users, using the pipe system data is simpler because there is only one representation of the pipe system to work from.

 

One is better than more.

 

PLEASE NOTE: The postings on this site are our own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s position, strategies, or opinions.

By Tom Coolidge and Tom DeWitte

 

Pipe network modelers have several important enhancements available to them at ArcGIS Pro 2.5 with ArcGIS Enterprise 10.8.

 

ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing and Utility Network Integration Enhanced

In an earlier blog post, we discussed the introduction of the shared centerline feature class as a key that enables the ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing and ArcGIS Utility Network Management extensions to work on the same geodatabase.  A shared centerline feature allows users to utilize those features to create and maintain LRS networks, with routes that are linear referenced, while also continuing to have the centerlines participate in and take advantage of utility network capabilities.  In Pipeline Referencing, an LRS network is a collection of routes measured to a specific location referencing method.  Availability of the shared centerline feature class is the first step in integrating Pipeline Referencing and the utility network.

 

With the release of ArcGIS Pro 2.5/ArcGIS Enterprise 10.8, support for measures on centerlines has been added to enhance integration with a utility network.  Start and end measures now are stored on centerline pipeline segments.  Also, calibration points are added at these centerline endpoints when a user utilizes centerlines in the create, extend, and realign route tools.

 

In addition, at ArcGIS Pro 2.5/ArcGIS Enterprise 10.8, two new geoprocessing tools are added to support ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing and utility network integration.  One is the Configure Utility Network Feature Class tool.  This tool configures a utility network pipeline feature class for use with a linear referencing system.  Another is the Update Measures From LRS tool.  This tool populates or updates the measures and route ID on utility network features such as pipes, devices, and junctions.

 

Taken together, these capabilities further strengthen the data management integration essential to the new pipe network modeling era ahead.

 

Benefits Of Both Extensions Working On The Same Data

The ability for the ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing and the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extensions to work on not just the same geodatabase, but the same feature classes within the same enterprise geodatabase, provides important benefits to all transmission pipe network operators. This is the case regardless of whether the transmission pipe is part of a standalone or vertically-integrated operator. Those benefits are amplified as the ability is enabled by industry-specific capabilities in Esri’s core technology.  

 

The year ahead promises to be a rewarding one as pipe network modelers take advantage of these new capabilities!

 

PLEASE NOTE: The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Esri’s position, strategies, or opinions.

The 2019 GeoConX meetup held at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, saw the largest number of utility and telecom GIS professionals ever gathered to share their work, collaborate on new projects, and discuss new ways of leveraging GIS and location intelligence to support utilities.  The theme was: Geo-Enabling the Intelligent Enterprise.

 

GeoConX 2019 had its highest registration ever with 1,192 attendees from 414 different companies,  a 25% increase over last year. This year’s conference also included the AEC Summit to kick things off and concluded with the Water Summit.

 

The event kicked off with a half-day opening plenary session featuring geospatial thought leadership from Jack Dangermond, CEO of Esri, along with ArcGIS user presentations and ArcGIS technology updates.

 

Highlights from the plenary included our local “host” utility – Southern Company’s use of GIS across gas and electric business units with over 4,800 named users. They easily share information and increase operational efficiencies while also bringing new business to Georgia. Energy Queensland made a fascinating presentation on their Look Up And Live application which is routinely reducing accidents and saving lives in Australia.

 

Undoubtedly the most unique part of the plenary was a fun “magic show” by Esri’s Bill Meehan and Brian Baldwin demonstrating the capability of real-time IoT sensor integration in ArcGIS (no actual magic required).  The opening session really set the energy for the rest of the week and there was a lot of buzz around improving common utility workflows. Here are a few highlights from the week.

 

Peer Connects 

Connecting with peers is what GeoConX is all about. Each of the various peer-connects sessions were well attended with excellent discussions of timely topics.

Esri Technical Sessions

Esri staff engaged attendees with technical presentations on a long list of interesting topics. These included: Utility Network, Machine Learning, Understanding Customers with Business Analyst, Gas, Electric, Administration Tips & Tricks, System of Engagement, and System of Insight.

 

User Paper Sessions

Throughout the week, many users of Esri’s ArcGIS shared how they are Geo-Enabling their Intelligent Enterprises. There were so many good presentations it was often difficult to decide which one to attend. Here is just a sampling of the Sessions:

 

Gas – Integrating Enterprise Systems, Improving Data Quality, Risk and safety, Improving Field Facility Data, Field Operations, Asset Management, Improving Data Quality,

 

Electric – Emergency Management, Utility Network Migration, Utility Networks in Production, Grid Modernization, System Operations, Field Mobility, Asset Management, Field Operations and Analytics.

 

Tech Updates, Hands-on Learning Lab, and Data Health Check

Numerous new updates to Esri technology were shown at GeoConX and following the positive feedback of the hands-on learning lab last year, the lab was brought back this year and even more Esri products were available for attendees to try out and play with, and training courses were available for attendees to work through while at the event. The Data Health Check-up team took appointments to review and analyze customer GIS data, focusing on features and attributes and made specific recommendations.

 

  

New Tech Highlights:

  • Machine Learning Tools An update to the machine learning tools in ArcGIS was shared in a session that focused on spatial tools for classification, clustering, and prediction. Some of tools shown were Random Trees, Density-based Clustering, and Geographically Weighted Regression. Also, show was the integration of ArcGIS with external machine learning frameworks like TensorFlow and Scikit Learn. Image detection for detecting features in imagery, such as poles and sidewalks, gained a lot of interest from fiber planners.
  • Field Apps– The demonstrated Esri field apps showed how you can coordinate field activities using Workforce, how to efficiently get to the location of work using Navigator, how to gain spatial awareness and mark up maps using Explorer, how to accurately locate, capture and inspect assets using CollectorSurvey123, and QuickCapture, and how you can improve accountability and enhance situational awareness using Tracker and Operations Dashboard.
  • Sensors, Big Data, and Analytics– Highlighted in this session was the ability to track field personnel as sensors, consuming their location with GeoEvent Server for visualization, geofencing, and storage for improved field operations and increased safety. GeoAnalytics Server was highlighted to help with the analysis of large collections of sensor data. Finally, a new Esri product in development was introduced: ArcGIS Analytics for IoT. This is a SaaS product that combines capabilities of GeoEvent Server and GeoAnalytics Server into a scalable, cloud-based product.
  • Business Analytics– New updates to ArcGIS Business Analyst were shown in a session that highlighted ways to improve customer engagement leveraging Esri Demographics . A crowd favorite was the improved dynamic infographics that can be configured and generated from apps across ArcGIS.

 

GeoConX Expo

Throughout the week, attendees had the opportunity to meet with Esri teams, including solutions engineers and product managers in the GeoConX Expo. Esri staff and representatives from over 60 Esri Business Partners presented solutions and answered questions. The floor was very active and fun this year with great snacks and a conversational tone that many really enjoyed.

 

 

Join GeoConX Next Year!

This year’s GeoConX was another great meetup for utility GIS professionals, and we look forward to keeping the conversation going throughout the year, and seeing everyone at GeoConx 2020 in Denver, Colorado.  Be sure to stay engaged with the community on GeoNet and follow us on Twitter @EsriElectricGas and on LinkedIn.