Industry: Utilities/Power Generation Innovative technology and efficient collaboration deliver modernized Big Bend Power Station in Tampa, Florida
Product: OpenBuildings, ContextCapture, Descartes, LumenRT, MicroStation, Navigator, Pointools, ProStructures, STAAD
User: Sargent & Lundy
Country: United States

Use of Digital Twins in the Preparation of Safety Plans for Copel’s Dams
Product: OpenBuildings, ContextCapture, Descartes, iModel.js, LumenRT, MicroStation, OpenBuildings, OpenRoads
User: Companhia Paranaense de Energia (Copel)
Country: Brazil

October 21, 2019

Digital Twins Help Power Operators Improve Design Accuracy, Project Savings, and Regulatory Compliance

Utilities are increasingly adopting digital twin workflows to improve cross-discipline collaboration in project delivery, to streamline maintenance and inspection work, and to meet compliance reporting requirements. Among the Year in Infrastructure 2019 nominees are two power operators that are implementing digital twins: Sargent & Lundy on the USD 853 million Big Bend Power Station in Tampa, Florida; and Companhia Paranaense de Energia (Copel) for its Copel dams safety plans in Brazil.

In 2018, Tampa Electric Company (TEC), an Emera company providing power to more than 750,000 customers across West Central Florida, initiated a modernization project for its Big Bend Power Station to convert from a coal to an efficient gas-fired combined-cycle facility. The Big Bend Power Station is located on a 1,500-acre site with four coal-fired units and a combined output of more than 1,700 megawatts. The four generating units were added over 15 years, and a natural gas peaking unit was installed in 2009 to provide additional power during peak demand.

To continue providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective power while meeting growing demand, TEC initiated the modernization project to eliminate coal consumption in generating electricity, and additionally sought to reduce water in the generation process, produce less wastewater, eliminate solid waste, and reduce air emissions.  The project includes repowering Unit 1 into a combined-cycle generating facility with two combustion turbine generators (CTGs), two heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs), and major modifications to repower the existing Unit 1 steam turbine generator (STG). The project scope also includes associated transmission and interconnection facilities and natural-gas infrastructure. 

Sargent & Lundy leveraged the full modeling functionality of MicroStation to continuously update the digital twin, which was created from multidiscipline design models and more than 2,000 files. MicroStation was also used to incorporate point-cloud data from laser scans of physical assets that were then enhanced with engineering components and as-built designs.

This digital context was used to design the plant with OpenBuildings and Bentley’s open simulation applications, including STAAD and ProStructures, were used to optimize the integration of pipe support auxiliary steel and to reduce field welds on galvanized steel, saving the project more than USD 500,000. Designs were also enlivened for visualization with the help of LumenRT.

Using a digital twin led to improved collaboration and increased focus on implementing best practices to ensure on-time delivery. A digital twin was used for visualization and design review workflows, which allowed the team to get immediate feedback with internal and external stakeholders, achieve an estimated 40% reduction in response time, and improve constructability, site safety, and long-term maintenance planning. These collaborative model reviews reduced drawing release quantities, saving approximately 200 resource hours. Also, leveraging digital context improved design accuracy by 20% and reduced site visits by half.

“Innovating with digital twins is a game-changer that allowed our designers to align all the engineering data into a single source of truth model so that they can design with existing conditions and see the impact of changes immediately,” said Edward Hanko, design manager, Sargent & Lundy. “Having this capability was invaluable, as it allowed our engineers to efficiently problem solve and be more confident in the impact of their designs.”

Recent legislation in Brazil required Copel to implement new safety requirements for the dams that it operates. Copel operates 30 of its own plants and has interests in 11 others, including 24 hydroelectric, two thermoelectric, and 15 wind power plants, with a combined installed capacity of 5,675 megawatts. Copel also has 4,647 kilometers of transmission lines and 45 substations to serve more than 4.6 million distribution customers and provides 33,495 kilometers of fiber optic and service to serve 178,000 telecommunication consumers. For many years, Copel has pioneered environmental impact studies and construction reports on hydroelectric plants and is committed to sustainable development.

The new federal legislation went into effect in 2010 and established a new national dam safety plan, the Política Nacional de Segurança de Barragens (PNSB), applicable to dams intended for storing water for all uses, including energy generation. The PNSB requires that a set of documents be drawn up for each dam to help management determine the safety of the structure. The documentation contains technical data from construction, operations, and maintenance, and serves as a tool for safety planning and management.

Until 2018, Copel had only a representative portion of the technical data of the oldest dams, and the majority were hand-drawn drawings, created when the dams were built, that have been damaged over time. Additionally, some of the dam structures had been renovated and altered without systematically recording the changes, creating concern that the drawings were no longer valid.
The team overcame many challenges to prepare documentation for the PNSB, including interpreting old drawings, overcoming difficult-to-access locations for surveying, and compiling decentralized information. Despite thorough surveying – electronic measuring tape, use of photographs for key elements – it has never been possible to record all details of these complex dams. The dam, spillway, power house, and some elements of the generation circuit, such as the water intake and penstock, are difficult to access, often due to rugged topography and naturally dense vegetation.

Copel determined that a new strategy was needed. Since most of the dam information was dark data, the team determined that they needed to create digital twins for each dam to federate reality modeling context, historical data, and new data that would be produced from Bentley’s open modeling and open simulation applications. Knowing that they would eventually need to comply with the Dam Safety Plan (PSB) for all 10 of its dams, Copel decided that the first step would be to conduct a pilot project and develop digital twins for three small hydroelectric plants: Marumbi, Chaminé, and Salto do Meio.

Surveys were conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles and all images were processed using ContextCapture. Additionally, the team also used OpenBuildings and Descartes to help build the digital twin. They extracted information for terrain and level curves and used OpenRoads Designer and MicroStation to complete the models. The team then created plan views, cross-sections, and visualizations with previously configured dynamic cross-section tools so that line thicknesses, hatching, and color met Copel’s engineering standards. Lastly, LumenRT provided a simple and intuitive interface to visualize and communicate information about each of the plants.

The use of drone surveys greatly increased the quality and richness of detail yet also reduced the time required to complete the work for each dam to 16 hours from the 120 hours typical of previous incomplete surveys. The team not only met the deadlines for the three plants piloted using this new digital twin process but were also able to meet the deadline for all 10 plants, surpassing customer expectations for quality, richness of detail, and time to capture and document the information. The new process not only helped to speed the time to create the reports and meet the PSB deadline, but also reduced labor resources to support the process by 87%.

“The use of this software, together with drone fly-through, provided rapid and detailed technical inspection to evaluate the safety of dams and related structures, allowing their registration and digital recording. Now, we have an updated, digital, technical archive, which makes it easy to manage our assets,” said Roberto Seara, manager of the department of civil engineering, engineering superintendency and Copel generation and transmission projects.

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