- KCI Technologies assisted Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) with a gate and regulator station mapping project to improve utility asset management
- The project focused on locating and verifying entire footprints of both active and abandoned gas lines at four facilities
- Bentley’s mapping and collaboration software enabled KCI to develop and implement innovative solutions to identify and manage BGE’s complex infrastructure network
- KCI set new standards for utility asset management to improve operational safety
Safety is a major concern for utility companies like Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) who are responsible for a vast and complex network that carries electricity and natural gas to homes and businesses throughout major metropolitan and rural areas. Many of these companies rely on paper maps and field records, which can often become outdated once repairs or upgrades are completed.
Conflicts with unmapped or abandoned utilities and substructures can be dangerous to field crews and the public. Inaccurate data can lead to significant issues with abandoned infrastructure or unexpected field conditions, causing construction delays and budget overruns, impacting the ability to meet customer demand, and resulting in unsafe conditions with potentially devastating consequences. This challenging project focuses on locating and verifying the entire footprint of several natural gas facilities in Baltimore, Maryland. Natural gas distribution systems require large clusters of equipment and a complex network of pipes with related control systems and other infrastructure.
When planning construction activities, relocation of infrastructure is often required. It is therefore critical for BGE to locate these assets so that records related to these facilities accurately reflected existing conditions.
BGE realized that they needed a solution that could accurately map and create 2D drawings, as well as 3D models representing existing conditions at four sites. A gas over-pressurization incident that occurred elsewhere in the country prompted many utilities to reevaluate their asset management systems and the accuracy of their record maps. This incident occurred when an unmapped section of an abandoned gas main that contained pressure sensing lines was disconnected in error, and regulators sensed low downstream pressure and opened to full flow. Over-pressurization of the system led to a catastrophic explosion.
BGE contracted KCI Technologies Inc. to map two gate stations at a point where natural gas changes ownership from a major transmission company to the local distributor and their network. KCI was also charged with mapping two regulator stations that reduce pressure in the lines that deliver natural gas to area homes. To perform the work, they completed survey-grade LiDAR and unmanned aerial vehicle mapping to create an accurate 3D building information model (BIM) of each facility. For aboveground features and inside sewer hole vaults, KCI completed high-resolution 3D LiDAR scans. They compiled dozens of separate scans into 3D point clouds containing millions of individual measurements with +/- 0.1-foot accuracy. KCI also piloted the use of an AM Gradiometer (AMG) technology to detect and help model and visualize existing underground infrastructure. The patented nondestructive AMG uses AM-band transmissions from radio station towers to illuminate underground objects and anomalies. “KCI's innovative approaches to identifying underground assets offer our clients the appropriate resources to ultimately manage their complex infrastructure,” said KCI’s Practice Leader Charbel Khoury.
Engineers then integrated traditional subsurface utility location data, AMG findings, the LiDAR point cloud, and high-resolution drone survey grade mapping to accurately depict both aboveground and underground infrastructure. The complex 3D models were created so that they could be deployed using a Microsoft HoloLens headset to allow BGE personnel to complete virtual walkthroughs that are tied to the actual geospatial location and asset management data for each site.
KCI used Bentley’s robust ProjectWise collaboration platform to coordinate the multidiscipline technical team. ProjectWise functioned as a hub for all survey, subsurface utility engineering, geophysical survey data, modeling and document preparation efforts, allowing both the modelers and engineers to access the same measurements and field data. They then used Bentley’s MicroStation to generate the detailed 2D drawings, BGE’s top priority, for each of the four sites.
“Three-dimensional models have become great reference documentation for construction plan development, but we’re looking to take that to the next level,” said project manager Ron Dove. “Clients are beginning to look at technology enhancements, such as digital twins, to optimize operational performance, predict maintenance, and ultimately identify problems before they occur. This situation, along with the benefits of accurate as-builts for existing infrastructure, provides our clients with the ability to operate their infrastructure more safely.”
By efficiently coordinating the multidiscipline design team piloting these innovative technologies and approaches, KCI established and employed a new, more efficient, and more accurate approach to mapping aboveground and belowground facilities. Overall, at the four sites, KCI surveyed, modeled, and/or created construction documents for:
- 80,000+ square feet of sites, including topography, fence lines, building slabs, buildings, gas transmission piping, and associated equipment and valving
- 5,000+ unique elements
- 6,000+ linear feet of piping, including aboveground and underground bulk gas transmissions lines (some as small as ¼-inch sensing lines)
- 5,000+ linear feet of conduit for power and controls
- 300+ different valves for running gas utility systems
As a successful pilot, the BGE gate and regulator station mapping projects offer utility owners a unique and innovative approach to identifying and managing their complex infrastructure network. KCI’s fundamental commitment to test and deploy multiple cutting-edge technologies combined with the quality, accuracy, and usability of the deliverables sets a new standard for managing utility assets.
“As an engineer at BGE, we have been challenged by executive leadership to make innovation more than just a thought, but a reality,” said BGE Gas and Plant Operations General Engineer Bobby G. Henry III. “Our team has developed an ongoing relationship with KCI to develop and implement an innovative solution that identifies important underground assets without excavating the entire asset. The implementation of this technology through 3D modeling and HoloLens products has provided BGE the ability to become a front runner in underground asset identification.”
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