Bentley Variety Show Stars Digital Twins

First up: Singapore’s city model and the biggest dam in Southeast Asia.

Hui Yung Teo, senior principal surveyor at Singapore Land Authority presents at Year in Infrastructure 2022. (Picture courtesy of Bentley Systems)

Hui Yung Teo, senior principal surveyor at Singapore Land Authority presents Singapore’s journey to a complete digital twin of the city — and its challenges — at
the Going Digital Awards 2022, formerly known as  the Year in Infrastructure. (Picture courtesy of Bentley Systems)

Bentley’s annual showcase of customer projects took on a new name this year in London and became the Going Digital Awards. 

The venue was again in London, though upscaled to London’s swankiest hotels, split between the Intercontinental Park Lane and the even swankier Four Seasons across the street, both a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace.

With the new name, the conference swings toward recognizing customers who have fully digitalized their design and construction processes or who intend to. Gone are the days when merely implementing a digital process put you in contention.

The range of projects was enormous. Here we have Singapore, a city/state with more than 5 million people, that is determined to digitalize every square inch. What’s the big deal? It’s a small island, you might say. But Singapore is like a complex layer cake, with half of it under the table if you consider all the levels below.

On the other end of the scale, we have the city of Perry, Iowa, population 8,000. In between are 34 other teams, all proud of their latest highways, railroads, road test tracks, hydroelectric plants, and so on. So many projects and not enough time. We apologize to all those whose projects we did not get to see.

Singapore—Asia’s Most Digital City

Singapore is determined to be seen as modern and what could be more modern than having a full digital version of itself? Singapore’s Land Authority (SLA) won the Surveying and Monitoring category with its SG Digital Twin Empowered by Mobile Mapping project. The city has plied every street and alley in Singapore, recording all the eye can see—literally with laser accuracy—making a 3D map of the city.

SLA used the term “digital twin” only in the title of its project—and that was probably at Bentley’s insistence.

We asked why the city would take the time and trouble to map a city all over again. Hadn’t Google already gone and traversed every street with its multilens, 360-degree cameras for its Street View—as it generously had for quite a bit of the world?

“They only have video images,” says Hui Ying Teo, senior principal surveyor for SLA, about Google Street View. “You can’t measure anything.”

If you want to put a bench on the sidewalk, for example, and want to take measurements on the sidewalk, you can’t use Google’s Street View.

Using LiDAR scanners on road vehicles and aircraft, SLA generated 600 billion points and 25 terabytes of data.

The resulting models will be used by Singapore city planners and other government agencies. Businesses, such as contractors on infrastructure projects and other businesses, can apply to use the models.

SLA used Bentley’s Orbit 3DM to manage the vast amount of data generated by this project and to create a 3D model on a secure cloud that multiple stakeholders could simultaneously access.

Dam Digital Twin

Sarawak Energy Berhad was a finalist in the Process and Power Generation category for making a digital twin of the Bakun Hydroelectric Plant.

Sarawak Energy Berhad was a finalist in the Process and Power Generation category for making a digital twin of the Bakun Hydroelectric Plant.

A hydroelectric plant in Malaysia had a digital twin made of it by Sarawak Energy Berhad, a utility that is wholly owned by the Sarawak government.

Sarawak is the largest state of Malaysia by area but third in population (2.45 million, less than half the population of Singapore). Sarawak occupies the Northwest section of the island of Borneo. Here is the Bakun Dam, the largest in Southeast Asia, according to the presenters. The river that is dammed, the Rajang River, is Malaysia’s longest.

Sarawak Energy prides itself on being greenest of all the power utilities in the country—not hard to believe as hydroelectric power plants generate energy without burning fuel. It must be pointed out, however, that dams rely on the flooding of a valley on one side, an ecological disaster for the existing ecosystem. The Bakun Dam flooded an area the size of Singapore.

The Bakun Hydroelectric Plant generates more power (2,400 MW) than is needed in the island of Borneo. That’s according to plan, say the presenters, who want to make Malaysia the “battery of ASEAN[i] countries,” exporting electricity through submarine cables to its neighbors.

The Bakun Dam came online in 2011. Sarawak has made a dynamic visualization of one unit of the turbine generator system. The solid model was made with MicroStation from as-built drawings, survey and drone-based photogrammetry. Assets were tagged and inventoried to create smart piping and instrument diagrams (P&ID) using Bentley’s ContextCapture.

Making a digital twin of such big project in such a remote location was not without its challenges. Thousands of paper drawing and PDF as-built drawings had to be converted into vector format. The network slowed to a crawl when packed with large datasets. The project team could not stop the power plant from functioning to see what it needed to model and had limited access to areas of the generator-turbine systems, which were available only during scheduled downtimes.

It didn’t help that COVID-19 was at its peak and the team members had to work apart from one another.

The team used a hybrid model to make the digital twin, using both precise CAD geometry and photogrammetry models constructed from smartphone photos and 3D meshes from LiDAR scans. Bentley’s ContextCapture was able to handle both types of data.

Sarawak Energy estimates that it saved 70 percent of the time it would take to make a complete set of as-built models by using Bentley’s integrated applications.

Bentley’s PlantSight was used to get visuals of the plant’s assets and integrate them with third-party software.

Having a digital twin is expected to allow Sarawak Energy to reduce staff at the power station by 30 percent and reduce travel back and forth to the plant by 40 percent.

The massive hydroelectric plant is a national treasure—and security is tight. The Malaysian government did not want plant data to be available off-site. The modeling team had to convince the government that security of the data was ensured by using Bentley’s secure cloud, aka BECS, or Bentley Enterprise Connection Services, which locks down data and authorizes every request for access.

Documents and CAD data in various formats and data from various sources necessitated an integration of only three types—SAP S/4HANA for asset maintenance records, OpenText Extended ECM for engineering documents, and Microsoft SharePoint for documents and media. Once collected, visualization of the digital twin in the making was provided with PlantSight.

A fully rendered walk-through of the plant was created with Bentley’s LumenRT to help onboard new employees.

The presenters concluded by saying that their digital journey has only begun and the digital twin of the Sarawak Hydroelectric Plant is still in its infancy. They hope to end with a functional digital twin, one which allows anyone to see the plant operating in real time wherever they are—as long as they are authorized, of course.

To be continued…

[i] The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.