Asset information modelling (AIM) proposes a cheaper, quicker and more accurate way of creating models of Gas Transmission assets. Why’s that important? Investment Delivery Engineer Martin Cahill explains.
Keeping accurate records of our assets, such as precisely where they are and what condition they’re in, is essential for National Grid Gas Transmission. With 26 compressor stations and almost 8,000km of high-pressure pipeline on our network, these records help us to run our business as safely and cost-effectively as we can.
We’ve traditionally recorded details of our assets in a 2D electronic format or as hard copies, and they’ve depended on the continuous transfer of data to remain accurate. It’s a time-consuming way of doing things, difficult to keep track of whether records have been kept fully up to date, and the data has often contained errors.
As you may know, we’ve been moving away from this type of modelling for some time. Through a project called Building Information Modelling – or BIM – we’ve been creating more easily visualised 3D designs, which contain all the critical data about an asset. This information can then be used to improve the way we manage and plan maintenance for the assets throughout their lifetime.
Building on the success of BIM
Our AIM – or asset information model – project is all about building on the success of BIM. An AIM contains all the information necessary to support the management of a specific asset. For example, its precise location, operational data, information about work carried out and its existing condition.
Through BIM, we’ve already proved that the laser scanning of sites brings huge time and cost benefits in creating these 3D models. AIM takes this work a step further by adding sophisticated component recognition software to the mix. This software can quickly identify assets picked up in the scans and convert them into detailed 3D models.
This rapid recognition has the potential to save time and cost – and simplify the process to such a level that any skilled engineer will be able to take a laser scan of an asset, add it to the software back in the office and build up an accurate asset information model.
In the first stage of the project, we’re exploring whether the software can actually deliver the cost and time savings we’re looking for. Then, in the longer term, we’ll look to build a library of complex gas components that the software will be able to identify from just the basic shapes picked up in scans.
Early estimates suggest that the software could reduce the time it takes to design a 3D model of a site by at least 40%. When we’re talking about our business, which has around 650 sites, these time and cost savings will, we hope, add up to significant business value.
What the project AIMs to achieve:
- Faster production of intelligent 3D models
- Generate accurate records that can capture and reference key asset data
- Assist in the understanding and management of an asset’s condition and the delivery of any future work.