Year in Infrastructure conference highlights digital twin innovation

At the Year in Infrastructure conference, hosted by infrastructure software company Bentley Systems, audiences were told that adoption of digital tools for infrastructure delivery and operations will only accelerate after the experience of COVID-19.

With global investment in infrastructure as method of economic recovery coming together with the impetus for more sustainable methods of construction and mobility, efficiencies through using digital tools are becoming unavoidable.

Through the use of digital twins for modelling and simulations in the design and construction phase, or for monitoring asset and network performance in the operational stage, more environmentally friendly materials can be used, waste can be reduced, while costs can be reduced and timelines shortened.

In addition, as COVID-19 has demonstrated, projects will still need to continue even when workforces are dispersed, either working from home, or across countries without being able to easily meet in person.

These factors have meant that digital tools such as those supplied by Bentley Systems are invaluable for infrastructure builders, managers, and operators.

Another macro factor that is impacting on the adoption of digital tools in the infrastructure space is the possibilities of big data and IoT. With more data being collected than ever, modelling and simulation software will be needed to make sense of this data and allow it to be seen as a productive resource.

One example of the benefit of digital twins can be seen in the adoption of digital engineering tools in the design and construction of the world’s tallest rail pier girder bridge in northern India. Constructed by Indian Railways, the railway bridge is required to support high-speed and broad gauge trains for the next century in difficult terrain. Seismic events and strong winds were also a concern for the 141 metre tall bridge.

On of the Year in Infrastructure Awards finalists, Indian Railways is using Bentley tools including OpenRail, PLAXIS, and STAAD, and the project has been able to make savings of US$24.61 million ($34.58m). These efficiencies were found through the better selection of types of materials and construction methodologies.

Once the bridge is complete, embedded instruments and drone surveys will be used to monitor the health of the bridge remotely, with a digital twin used to simulate how the bridge is behaving and the effect of inputs. This will ensure the infrastructure manager will be able to make timely decisions to ensure the sustainability of the bridge.

Aurizon targets net zero operational emissions by 2050

Aurizon will invest $50m in low carbon locomotives such as battery and hydrogen-powered trains to meet a net zero goal by 2050.

The freight hauler and network owner will also look to maximise the benefits of the electrified freight network in Queensland, particularly as more renewable energy is fed into the grid.

Managing director and CEO of Aurizon, Andrew Harding said that the company was confident that technology would meet the company’s goals.

“We are confident that rapidly-advancing technology in the rail sector will unlock major benefits like we are seeing in motor vehicles, energy generation and general industry. Our focus will be low-carbon technology for our locomotive fleet which accounts for more than 90 per cent of Aurizon’s CO2 emissions.”

In addition to actions undertaken internally, Aurizon will also push for government action.

“We directly advocate for policy actions to increase the use of rail freight on key national freight corridors. Our aim is to ensure that rail freight remains competitive and part of the solution as the economy transitions to a low-carbon future,” said Harding.

The company’s commitment follows the latest Sustainability Report from the freight operator. In the report, Aurizon advocates for lowered electricity costs to reduce the risk of substituting electric locomotives for diesel-powered trains. In addition, Aurizon outlines that the company has been advocating for greater infrastructure investment, improvements to regulation and finding efficiencies at interfaces between modes.

To meet the goal of lower emissions, Aurizon said that it would be making significant investments in new rollingstock shortly.

“Aurizon is already working with other railroads and manufacturers on the early development of battery and hydrogen-powered locomotives for deployment in a heavy-haul railway environment. This includes options of upgrades to the existing fleet and new rollingstock. We would expect to see prototypes trialling on our network by 2025, as technology advances and costs come down further,” said Harding.

“Locomotives are long-life assets of 20 – 30 years. We have some significant decisions ahead in renewing our locomotive fleet – potential game-changers for the freight industry – when we invest in the next generations of rollingstock to power our business through to 2050.”

Moorebank Intermodal Terminal. Graphic: MICL

Moorebank Logistics Park recognised for sustainability

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) has awarded the first stage of the Moorebank Logistics Park an Excellent Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating for design.

The IS rating scheme seeks to evaluate and promote sustainability in infrastructure programs, projects, networks, and assets, and looks a broad range of indicators to assess a projects governance, economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Excellent is the second highest rating a project can receive.

Michael Yiend director of development at Qube, which manages the development of the Moorebank intermodal site, said that the rating highlights the innovations that were a part of the project.

The Moorebank Logisitics Park’s use of automation in particular helped the project reduce its greenhouse gas footprint. By using automated gantry cranes, straddle carriers, sortation systems and terminal operation systems, Qube can reduce energy use, while enhancing safety and productivity.

Overall, the site’s energy efficient design will save two million tonnes of CO2 equivalents over 40 years of operations, however through transporting freight via rail, rather than road, the site will contribute to a reduction of four million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

CEO of ISCA Ainsley Simpson said that with 70 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions enabled by the infrastructure sector, with the majority coming from transport, projects such as Moorebank are critical.

“Moorebank Intermodal demonstrates that freight infrastructure presents an opportunity for decarbonisation through better measurement, reporting and implementation of reduction initiatives.”

Ian Learmouth, CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) which invested in the project, said that Qube had exceeded Australia-first sustainability standards.

“Qube’s success reflects its commitment to sustainability and demonstrates the possibilities for decarbonisation across even the most complex infrastructure operation,” said Learmouth. Infrastructure is considered a challenging sector to decarbonise, yet this project shows that it also offers great potential. Qube tapped into that potential to find many creative ways to lower its carbon emissions.”

Half the energy required for the 243-hectare precinct will be generated by solar power, and the first warehouse will have one of the largest rooftop solar arrays in the southern hemisphere, generating 3MW. In addition, the project used a unique modelling technique to address climate risks related to the urban heat island effect, a first for Australia.

Learmouth said that the project would serve as a guide for future developments.

“The lessons learned from the design and construction of Moorebank will see the benefits of this project multiplied across the infrastructure sector – another significant step towards its decarbonisation and Australia’s transition to a clean energy economy.”

Simpson concurred.

“The leadership demonstrated thought this project could shift the freight industry to move beyond compliance on multiple fronts – decarbonisation, reliability and safety. It sets a new standard for intermodal infrastructure.

“There is real potential to influence wider supply chain activity, shaping a resilient freight sector that delivers innovation and improved productivity now and in the long term.”

associations

Global railway associations highlight post-COVID mobility improvements

A trio of global railway associations have noted that rail is part of the solution to the linked crises of climate change and coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a joint statement, the associations highlight how mobility is key to creating trade and prosperity, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe, rail accounts for 7.6 per cent of passenger and 17.6 per cent of freight transport, while only producing 0.5 per cent of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During the COVID-19 crisis, rail also provided an essential service, by enabling the movement of essential workers and crucial goods.

Noting that the current ways of doing business are not enough in future, the International Union of Railways (UIC), the International Association for Public Transport (UITP), and the European Rail Industry Association (UNIFE), set out areas where mobility will need to be improved, committing to a sense of urgency in updating transportation.

“Railways have demonstrated their resilience and their capacity to deliver essential services even in these difficult circumstances. We all know that railway and public transport are the key for a sustainable future, provided that they are able to implement seamless multimodal mobility networks,” said François Davenne, UIC director general.

The three primary areas for change are customer experience, increased capacity, and an increased recognition of the importance of collective travel on rail rather than in individual vehicles. Technologies such as flow management to adapt to consumer patters, the design of intelligent infrastructure networks to optimise existing systems, and autonomous rail vehicles are identified as areas for rail to pursue.

Together, the associations welcomed work done by the EU to boost rail travel, but also pointed to the need to continue to invest in infrastructure, rollingstock, and research to meet future challenges, said Philippe Citroen, UNIFE director general.

“UNIFE believes that the [European Commission]’s recent Multiannual Financial Framework and Next Generation EU proposals are powerful recovery instruments that can help complete EU Green Deal objectives, but they must be mobilised for the decarbonisation of European transportation. This is only possible through a greater multimodal mobility shift with rail at its backbone.”

Recognising the value of public transport will be indispensable to ensuring the resilience of cities in the future said Mohamed Mezghani, UITP secretary general.

“Public transport and the environment are inextricably linked and with a strong local network, emissions are lowered and our cities become healthier and more sustainable.”