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Richard Zambuni, global marketing director - Geospatial for Bentley Solutions, looks at the benefits software can offer to the regional utilities sector.
What range of solutions does Bentley bring to the Middle East's utilities sector?
The first branch of what we provide is our offerings to the ‘owner operators’ – that is utilities that work with water, wastewater and stormwater, and/or also with electric, gas, district heating and district cooling – basically energy utilities of some kind.
The other arm of what we do – which is particularly relevant to the Middle East – is foster relationships with the EPCs and construction companies, which provide a lot of turnkey services, whether it’s desalination, a new sewer network, a potable water network, substations, or building transmission distribution infrastructure for utilities.
Of course, most utilities have a combination of owner operator and EPC contracts, but it varies from region to region. Particularly in the Middle East, the EPCs have a bigger role to play than they would typically in North America or Europe. Bentley serves19 out of the top 20 EPCs worldwide.
Can you explain the benefits that these solutions provide?
Absolutely – let’s deal with energy utilities. In the Middle East, you have two very interesting things going on. You have a very fast-growing population, and there’s a dramatic need to build out infrastructure. That infrastructure will range from transmission distribution infrastructure and will include towers and wires, as well as substations and connectivity to premises.
The second issue is that the grid is being transformed. Although some people say that the phrase ‘smart grid’ is more of a marketing gimmick, it is definitely becoming more and more real. And smart grids deal with things like integrated multiple sources of power, including renewable energy and, increasingly, micro-generation, which is is crucial for industrial processes. The whole grid is being re-engineered to cope with different forms of energy being put into the grid at many different points.
What are the changes that are taking place to the grid right now?
The old grid – or the twentieth-century grid - was one where you had one or two power-generation points. The new grid is like a web, with multiple points of generation and as we get better storage technologies the grid will transform radically. The only thing that’s really holding back micro-generation significantly at the moment is storage. People want to store and then consume energy at a later date. So smart grids are another major issue that’s making things change both in the Middle East and elsewhere with regard to power generation. We support the re-engineering of the electricity grid to provide for all these new technologies.
What about the water side?
Basically, our technology allows you to design optimal networks. That means modelling potable water, wastewater and storm water networks to optimal designs. It also allows you to factor in all sorts of other issues such as the amount of water the network can handle, criticality analysis, pressures, transient analysis.
Can you give an example of where your products have been used in the Middle East?
In Egypt, our water products are fast becoming the standard for water and wastewater companies. A good example is the Aswan Water and Wastewater Company, which is now using several of our products.
Egypt has a very fast-growing population and has all sorts of problems with water quality. As it only has one river, you have to make sure the quality of the water is high and that you don’t have a lot of untreated sewage going into it. They want to extend and improve the quality of the potable water network and are using our software to do that.
What differentiates Bentley from the competition?
I think that Bentley has a focus on utilities that is probably second to none. If you look at what we offer end-to-end, from supporting the design of complex process plants, from desal to potable water treatment all the way through to networks, that’s pretty thorough.
We also provide the same services for power generation plants, either nuclear or conventional, and we can design the transmission networks and the substations, plus we have geospatial technology that underpins design platforms for network infrastructure.
So I would say we have the broadest offer on the market now and the broadest set of capabilities. We have some strong competitors in utilities, but it’s fair to say we have the broadest set of capabilities now.
How quickly can you implement your solutions?
With some of our water products, you can download them from our server and be using it almost immediately. You can either you can use them standalone or you can import data from various sources.
When you’re dealing with enterprise systems to support design, documentation and to support the management lifecycle of an energy utilites infrastructure, a project like that would take months to implement. We’re no slower than anyone else, and in some cases, we are faster.
What are the unique features of your new substation product?
Our Bentley Substation V8i product is the most unique product we have on the energy utilities side of the business. No-one else has the systems deisgned to offer the physical design of a substation – everyone else has to do that in multiple products and we do it in one unified environment and that can seriously impact an EPC or an owner’s productivity when designing substations.
Sometimes you need to have products that need to be tailored to suit local conditions around the world. Bentley Substation V8i is a product that can be used out of the box globally. When designing a substation, you need to design it around particular vendors’ equipment, assuming you’ve got those equipment types in the object library of the product. Everything else has a pretty standard design process.
But any design needs to incorporate electrical systems, wiring systems, the standard and control systems, a 3D physical design and connectivity for the transformers, A-frames and so on.
The problem is when you are using different products, it’s virtually impossible to manage the workload. The point is, we create a common information model of that substation – both a logical and physical model – and it’s all located in the one design environment.
How new is this product?
It’s completely new – we only released it in July. Previously, we, like others, were supporting substation design but in the old way and more complex way. This is a completely unique approach. We’ve just closed our second deal on it – we have one in Spain and one in Canada, so I think that’s going to be a very successful product.