A Tale of Two Cities: Enterprise GIS in Torino, Italy and Huntsville, Alabama

By Cyndi Smith, Richard Zambuni

The city of Torino (Turin), Italy is a major business and cultural center in northern Italy. The city has a rich culture and history and is often referred to as "the Capital of the Alps.” What does this ancient city have in common with Huntsville, Alabama – home of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Monte Sano Mountain? As it turns out – plenty. Utilities in both cities undertook impressive programs to implement comprehensive engineering and GIS systems integrated with ERP (enterprise resource planning) to improve overall productivity throughout their respective multi-utility enterprises.

Torino City Scape
Turin City Scape. Image courtesy of Roberto Borgo. (Click for larger view)

IREN ENERGIA is one of the main Italian multi-utilities comprising companies that manage water, electricity, public lighting, gas and district heating networks. With strong ambitions to continue its pattern of growth in Italy, the company began planning a next-generation GIS called “New SIT” a few years ago. The goals behind this new GIS were to achieve even higher efficiency in the management of the multi-utility networks that the company operates. The objective was to achieve a minimum of 20% increase in productivity (by way of reduction in manual labor) across many functions such as planning, engineering design, field engineering, and customer service, all of which use the new system.

Across the world, Huntsville Utilities, which is owned by the city of Huntsville in Alabama and provides electric, gas and water services, was investigating a similar endeavor. As a public utility, Huntsville Utilities answers to the people it serves, and its decisions are based on what is best for its customers. As IREN launched its New SIT initiative, Huntsville Utilities began working toward a solution to consolidate independent design and mapping standards across its electric, gas and water departments and move toward an integrated engineering design and GIS system.

Bentley Geospatial Server integrates engineering design, GIS data, and SAP to deliver increased productivity across multiple enterprise functions. (Click for larger view)

Like IREN, Huntsville was implementing SAP and had very specific goals of improving work order and design processes while building an intelligent as-built model of its utility networks in an open, accessible GIS. Both utilities had a variety of solutions they had implemented over the years, but chose to capitalize on Bentley’s GIS solution based on Bentley Map, Oracle Spatial, Bentley Geospatial Server and Bentley Geo Web Publisher. Bentley Geospatial Server enabled the design processes to be integrated with SAP and was also instrumental in supporting the work order process in both utilities.  Huntsville also used Bentley Expert Designer to simplify cost estimating and design cost comparison, and to ensure the consistent use of compatible units in the design process.

While each utility had, and continues to have, unique requirements, their approaches shared two fundamental principles: the use of a spatial database (Oracle Spatial), and integrated engineering and GIS data managed in the same environment and readily accessible to multiple organizations through a common spatial server and Web publishing environment.

As Mario Cipriano, chief information officer at IREN Energia explains, “We have ambitious plans for our company and these plans predicate a cutting-edge GIS. We wanted a system that was powerful, flexible and based on a service-oriented architecture. The value of the system lies in the fact that the GIS and engineering data are not kept in separate databases or in functional silos. The goal of this project from day one has been to have a single source of data available to anyone who manages or supports the utility networks in any function, be that planning, engineering design, field engineering, customer service and more.”

IREN began this effort in 2007 and Huntsville Utilities got started on parts of this project in 2009. Today, both utilities have successfully deployed their systems and have been reaping the expected benefits as well as building new projects on their visionary architecture. 

For example, AES Torino is the utility company that manages the gas distribution network and the district heating network in Torino and in the adjacent area of Moncalieri. AES Torino was established as a joint venture of IREN and ITALGAS S.p.A. to integrate the management of Torino’s gas and district heating distribution.

Bentley sisHYD let AES Torino combine engineering models and GIS data to improve their district energy network design process. (Click for larger view)

In the spring of 2011 a new project began in order to evaluate a district heating network extension to a new area in northeast Torino. The goal of this project was to plan the replacement of the existing centralized heating systems (fed by mineral oil and natural gas) with heat exchange substations and to substantially extend the existing district heating network. Completion of this project would deliver district energy distribution to about 70% of the city, enabling valuable benefits in sustainable development, energy efficiency and air quality improvement.

AES took advantage of the IREN integrated GIS architecture to share information among multiple offices to plan and evaluate the project. Information about the buildings came from IREN, the parent company of AES, which produces the district heating energy. AES also took advantage of Bentley sisHYD, an analytical modeling and network design application delivering the thermal-hydraulic calculations necessary to understand the likely behavior and performance of the extended network. Data were easily extracted from the enterprise Oracle database and imported into Bentley sisHYD for these thermal-hydraulic calculations.

The use of Bentley sisHYD allowed engineers to analyze, design and optimize the district heating network with high precision integrated thermal-hydraulic models, in a geospatial environment. This reduced manual trial-and-error work, saving 20% of operations time. The Bentley sisHYD application allowed them to make reliable decisions based on accurate simulations, and to quickly identify the best possible calibration hypothesis. This process helped the AES designers to define how to develop the district heating in the northeast area of Turin to reach all the targeted buildings with new connections. The extension will serve a population of about 180,000 inhabitants and support about a 16,000,000 cubic meter flow.  The system entails about 140 km of double pipelines and 2,400 heat exchange substations. 

This district heating development project is significant for the improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of Torino. The environmental benefits include an estimated annual reduction in emissions of 178 tons of NOx (nitrogen oxides), 32 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide), 56 tons of SOx (sulfur oxides), and three tons of dust. 

As these cities continue to undertake new projects and initiatives to meet the ongoing challenges facing today’s multi-utilities, the forward-thinking decision they made to establish an open, common geospatial environment leveraging the Oracle Spatial database will prove to be a winning long-term strategy.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bentley Systems is a sponsor of the Location Intelligence & Oracle Spatial Users Conference, May 23, 2012 in Washington, D.C.


Published Monday, January 30th, 2012

Written by Cyndi Smith, Richard Zambuni


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