Companies working with subterranean pipelines have a challenge: how to best understand the current state of underground infrastructure.
The challenge is compounded by the fragmented nature of associated documentation - much of which could reside in different locations and have different owners. Detailed joint- and weld-level information can be critical to effective repairs and servicing and the more advanced information maintainers possess, the better the mitigation and correction efforts.
The ability to review a comprehensive digital representation of an underground pipeline can be a game-changer and is reflective of the promise of digital twins.
A digital twin is a digital replication of a physical entity – in this case, an underground pipeline. This digital representation provides a detailed view at the object’s lifecycle including historical data, sensor data, maintenance and decision logs, etc. A digital twin requires an informational connection between the cyber-object and the object itself, thereby creating context for the digital representation from sensors or other IoT devices. A digital twin of this type integrates a continuous of real-time or near real-time data such that the model changes as the actual, physical object changes.
Providing owners, managers, and maintenance personnel with a deeper understanding of the underground state-of-affairs related to pipelines can be incredibly helpful in extending its life and efficacy. Knowing contextual information is also of vast importance. For instance, if repair crews arrive to address issues with a length of pipe in a forest, advance knowledge allows them to arrive with the proper heavy equipment including tree-clearing tools. In other words, knowing about the nature of the problem is only part of the challenge - a notification that lacks environmental context is only partially helpful.
Beginning with a technical audit of the existing application to determine data gaps or other technical challenges, the team developed specifications for new custom APIs that allow users to query and retrieve information followed by subsequent compression of asset retrieval.
The infrastructure was melded to defined RBAC (Role-based Access Control) and ACLs (Access Control Lists). Underground RFID tags on pipe joints and welds can be tagged with GPS data to increase the fidelity of a 3-dimensional representation of the underground pipeline. Couple that with satellite data and the maintenance and upkeep of the tubular channels beneath the ground becomes much simpler.