USGIF GotGeoint Blog USGIF promotes geospatial intelligence tradecraft and a stronger community of interest between government, industry, academia, professional organizations and individuals focused on the development and application of geospatial intelligence to address national security objectives.
If you would ask me among all the new technologies on display here and at other events which will likely dramatically reduce the bottom line of utilities in the transmission business I would say unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. For example, every utility which has transmission lines spends large sums on overflying, typically with very expensive helicopter flights, transmission lines for vegetation management to monitor the trees to prevent them from interfering with transmissions lines. If instead this could be done with much less expensive UAV flights, the savings would be huge. But right now this is not possible, because commercial operation of UAVs is only allowed by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) with visual line of sight (VLOS) rules.
The potential ROI of using UAVs for vegetation monitoring are expected to be sizable, but this requires the FAA to change regulations to permit operating of UAVs with beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) rules. Today at DistribuTECH2016 Eileen Lockhart of Xcel Energy with partners Environmental Consultants Inc and Flot Systems gave a presentation that showed just how close we are to UAVs operating under BVLOS rules becoming a commercial reality for electric power utilities.
Xcel Energy, which has electric and gas assets in eight states, is the fourth largest utility in the U.S. They have partnered with EEI, EPRI, INL and others in the utility sector to show the way in the application of UAVs in the utility sector. This includes working with the FAA to push forward the practical application of UAVs in the utility sector. Their objectives are improved safety for utility employees and the public, reducing risk to and improving reliability of the grid, and reducing the cost of operating and maintaining grid infrastructure. The technologies involved include GIS and geospatial analytics in addition to the UAVs themselves. Expected sources of major savings are reducing the need for expensive helicopters and plane flights and the time utility employees have to spend in the field.
Xcel launched their UAV Proof of Concept project in 2015 with seven UAV missions in transmission, gas operations, energy supply, and electricty distribution.
Transmission line and tower inspections
Substation facility rating data collection
Pipeline bridge and river crossings inspections
High pressure pipeline inspections
Coal/ash storage inventory (volumetric)
Wind turbine blade inspections
Storm damage assessment
Just last week (Feb 3, 2016) Xcel with its partners completed the first beyond visual line of sight mission with UAV flights over 20 miles of transmission lines. They are convinced that BVLOS flights will become a commercial reality in the near future. The UAV flights will not be flown by Xcel itself but by contractors such as Flot Systems operating with FAA licences. Xcel has not yet calculated ROIs for the applications using UAVs, but plan to do so soon.
Worldwide there is increasing demand from building and infrastructure owners for service provision throughout the entire life cycle of a building or infrastructure. This represents a distinct break with the design/build tradition which has dominated construction for years. At the Year in Infrastructure conference in London, a dominant theme was the growing recognition of the importance of full lifecycle management of infrastructure. I found it symptomatic of the direction of the construction industry that fully one third of the 54 finalists for the annual Be Inspired Awards involved mapping, rehabbing, retrofitting, replacing and managing existing infrastructure. This is my classification of these Be Inspired finalists;
Patrick MacLeamy, Chairman of buildingSMART and CEO of HOK, has been pushing a very simple message about the U.S. construction industry for years. Buildings are too expensive, are too inefficient to operate and maintain, and don't last long. As a result the U.S. construction industry is falling behind the Nordic countries, the U.K. and Singapore. His solution is a full life cycle approach to construction. Information has to be shared between owners, designers, contractors, operations and facilities management over the entire life cycle of the building or infrastructure.
Over 50% of the cost of maintaining a building is operations and maintenance which is comprised of administration, maintenance and repairs, and restoration projects. In several countries BIM has become essential for design and construction. But many including the UK government believe that the full value of BIM can only be found during the operational life of the building where the majority of the life cycle costs occur. The UK government has said that "the 20% saving refers to CapEx cost savings however we know that the largest prize for BIM lies in the operational stages of the project life-cycle".
Road and highway infrastructure
Highway construction is being transformed, due in part to the arrival of autonomous vehicles. I've blogged about the startling (at least to traditional construction contractors) vision of the future of highway construction of the Chief of Surveys at the Oregon Department of Transportation (DoT) which targets the full lifecycle of highway assets from planning through design and construction and operation and maintainenance. Some large construction projects are already being designed, built and operated and maintained with a full lifecycle perspective.
Industry surveys report that up to 80 percent of a utility's resources and budget can be spent on operating and maintaining existing utility infrastructure. Surveys also show that aging utility infrastructure is a top priority for most utilities.
Be Inspired Awards: Mapping, Monitoring, Rehabbing, and Replacing Infrastructure
One of the projects focused specifically on full lifecycle data management for highway construction. The project, which was submitted by the Roads Directorate, Denmark, is for the $ 580 million 39-kilometer Herning – Holstebro highway which includes eight interchanges, four railway crossings, and five bridges. The important achievement of the project was to create a digital workflow with meaningful requirements for sharing data among disciplines and across the entire project lifecycle. The project was a finalist for the year's Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Roads.
Seven of the finalists' submissions involved renovation, rehabbing, and retrofit. An outstanding example of a rehab project is the Bond Street to Baker Street Tunnel Remediation Project. This is a London Underground project in the UK. It involved the replacement of the existing elastoplastic concrete lining of a 215-meter tunnel segment on the Jubilee Line with a spheroidal graphite iron lining - all while the line was running at full capacity. This achievement won this year's Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Rail and Transit at the Year in Infrastructure 2015 conference.
Two of the finalists' projects involved replacement. An example of a replacement project was the Decommissioning and Replacement of Del Rio Bridge on US 20 this was carried out by Harper-Leavitt Engineering for the Idaho Transportation Department with minimum disruption to traffic.
Five of the finalists submitted projects that involved monitoring and extracting more value from existing transportation and utility infrastructure including rail, electric substations, electric and water and waste water distribution networks.
An example is a project submitted by SA Water which won the Be InspiredInnovation in Asset Performance Management Award. The project involved integrating a hydraulic model and an operational analytics tool with network sensors to help them optimize their network. These tools enable them to optimize chlorine dosing for different water sources (runoff, desalinization, rivers), minimize electric power costs, and improve water quality by mapping water age across their entire network. SA Water have not only been able to reduce their power bill by A$3 million, but also have cut their network operating costs by nearly a A$ million. It has also resulted in improved water quality. More fundamentally it has given them much greater insight into sources of revenue and the costs of various aspects of operating a water network.
Four of the finalist projects involved mapping and historic site protection. An example is a gas main project submitted by Utility Mapping Services Inc. This project involved creating a 3D map of underground utilities along a stretch of highway with complex utility infrastructure woven through dense commercial and residential areas with limited right-of-way and heavy traffic congestion. Most critically from a safety perspective, there were no utility strikes on the project. As a result the 3D model is credited with reducing construction time from 10 to 7 weeks. Most importantly from a budget perspective, there were no change orders and the total cost of the project came in at 10-15% less than estimated in the absence of a 3D model.
Another example is a project submitted by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Singapore intends to be the world's first "smart nation". Part of this initiative involves developing a virtual Singapore that is intended to be the source of authoritative information about Singapore for use by government agencies. The project involves capturing large amounts of data using multiple rapid mapping technologies including oblique imagery, airborne laser scanning, mobile laser scanning, and terrestrial scanning. The data has been compiled into 3D city model in a single database repository which includes geometry, topology, semantics and appearance. The database relies on CityGML, a standard managed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), for the database schema and for data exchange. The total volume of data is more than 50 terabytes. The database is open and accessible to all government agencies. The most challenging part of the project has been the development of business processes and technologies for ensuring the data remains current. At the the Year in Infrastructure conference in London the SLA the won the annual Be Inspired AwardforInnovation in Government.
Smart substations are an essential component of the next generation of the electric power grid. But for many utilities they have become a severe bottleneck because of limited substation design resources. Enabling external contractors to participate efficiently in substation design is becoming an important strategy for alleviating this problem. After a year in which Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) had failed to complete 60% of its substation design projects, PG&E embarked on an innovative project to enable external contractors to participate efficiently in the substation design process. This achievement won this year's Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Utilities at the Year in Infrastructure 2015 conference in London.
PG&Es Substation Engineering Services had deployed a new substation design system that integrated electric and physical design to approximately 80 internal design employees. The new system halved the average time required per drawing from 24 to 12 hours. This resulted in efficiency gains of about $ 5 million in savings per year on contracted projects.
But PG&E found that it still had a substation design backlog. PG&E's strategy for accelerating substation design relied on the expanded use of external contractors to augment its stretched internal resources. However, as its use of external contractors grew, PG&E found that efficiency decreased because the overhead associated with external resources was very high compared to internal resources. PG&E's solution was to develop a distributed engineering design system that allowed engineers anywhere in the world to collaborate efficiently on substation design. PG&E’s distributed substation design environment reduced the average time required per drawing for external contractors by a third, making external contractors nearly as efficient as internal designers. Altogether the distributed engineering design system saved $7.3 million in costs annually. Also since less travel was required, a side effect of the project was a reduced carbon footprint.
A highlight of the Year in Infrastructure conference in London are the Be Inspired Awards. The annual Be Inspired Awards competition brings together infrastructure professionals and members of the media to share innovative practices in infrastructure project design, engineering, construction, and operations and to celebrate the extraordinary work of the world’s architects, engineers, contractors and owner-operators. Infrastructure projects submitted for the awards range across 18 categories. One of them is Innovation in Utilities and Communications. This year's finalists provide examples of where the leading utilities in the world are investing in new technology to help them fundamentally transform the world's electric power system.
3D model of underground utility infrastructure
The location of existing underground utility infrastructure is more often than not poorly known which creates significant risk for infrastructure and highway construction projects. In this project Utility Mapping Services (UMS) created a 3D model of the existing underground and above ground infrastructure to reduce the risk associated with constructing an eight inch natural gas pipeline along a major highway.
To increase reliability for customers Puget Sound Energy planned the installation of an eight-inch, high-pressure natural gas main along one mile of SR 510 in Lacey, Washington. A major risk was that the project corridor includes complex utility infrastructure woven through dense commercial and residential areas with limited right-of-way and heavy traffic congestion. Creating a 3D model of the existing underground infrastructure enabled the design team to adjust the pipe elevation and horizontal alignment to avoid potential utility conflicts during design before a shovel touched the ground. The 3d model of existing utility infrastructure dramatically reduced the costs associated with unnecessary utility relocations, avoidable construction delays, and contractor change orders. It also allowed for tighter contractor bid estimates by providing a more accurate design. UMS's subsurface utility engineering (SUE) services group had been using new remote sensing technology such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) which allowed them to acquire 3-D data on existing underground utility infrastructure. The new SUE application created much greater value for the customer because UMS can now clearly convey to the client the issues presented by existing infrastructure and work with their design and construction teams and the utility infrastructure owners to minimize utility relocations and avoid surprises from buried unknowns.
Inshaat Utilities Management System
Inshaat is a system developed by the Municipality of Dubai to manage utility construction projects by automating drawing validation. It is intended to enable external consultants to submit drawings, engineering and other files via the Web. The system automatically checks submitted drawings against the utility's CAD standards and utility network engineering rules, and then converts and integrates the drawings with the master municipal network. Members of the design and engineering teams, management and other stakeholders can access drainage, sewerage, and irrigation network information via the Web. Making the entire project process digital not only reduced the municipal department staff’s project drawing validation time by 95 percent but also reduced paper usage in utility construction projects by 90 percent.
Engineering Contractor Collaboration Solution
Smart substations are the key to the next generation of the electric power grid. But for many utilities they are a bottleneck because of limited substation design resources. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) embarked on an innovative project to streamline the substation design process. PG&Es Substation Engineering Services deployed a new substation design system to approximately 80 internal design employees with efficiency gains of about $ 5 million in savings per year on contracted projects. PG&E hoped to realize similar benefits by extending it to external contractors. Enabling contractors located throughout the country to work in PG&E’s substation design environment not only enabled more effective, efficient, and secure collaboration with external contractors, but allowed PG&E to expand its substation design capacity by bringing in external contractors.
For the first time in a hundred years, the electric power utility industry is undergoing a momentous change. Distributed renewable power generation, especially solar photovoltaics (PV), is introducing competition into an industry that has been managed as regulated monopolies. Consumers with solar PV panels on their roofs (and in not-too-distant future with Tesla batteries in the basement) and companies like Solar City (co-founded by Tesla co-founder Elon Musk) are fundamentally changing the traditional utility business model. A recent report from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) report refers to disruptive challenges that threaten to force electric power utilities to change or adapt the business model that has been in place since the first half of the 20th century.
As a result, every aspect of the the electric power industry is changing. One of these changes involves the role that geospatial data and technology play in the electricity industry. In the past, geospatial has been a tactical tool — it was (and still is) used in a variety of applications — in outage management, asset management, mobile work- force management, energy density modelling, vegetation management, demand modelling, transmission line siting, substation siting and design, energy performance modelling of buildings, disaster management, and mapping renewable resources, to name just a few. However, with the changes that the industry is undergoing now, geospatial is poised to become a foundation technology for the smart grid.
The Energy Issue of Geospatial World Magazine explores the impact that this momentous change is having on the application of geospatial technology in the electric power utility sector. Below I'm providing an overview of the material relating to electric power you'll find in this issue.
GIS has been widely used by utilities for years for automated mapping/facilities management, back office records management, asset management, transmission line siting, and more recently for design and construction, energy conservation, vegetation management, mobile workforce management (MWFM), and outage management (OMS). Now, utilities are integrating GIS with automated meter infrastructure (AMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Intelligent design has crossed over from the office to the field in utilities, also enabled by the capabilities of GIS, says Smith. Geospatial-related analytics (spatial analytics) is seen as one of the key aspects of success for electric utility operations in the smart grid era. Looking for patterns and correlations between different land, weather, terrain, assets, and other types of geodata will be increasingly important for utilities. Power-related analytics with geospatial components include network fault tracing, load flow analysis, Volt/VAR analysis, real-time disaster situational awareness, condition-based maintenance, and vegetation management. The smart grid is all about situation awareness and effective anticipation of and response to events that might disrupt the performance of the power grid. Since spatial data underlies everything an electric utility does, GIS is the only foundational view that can potentially link every operational activity of an electric utility, including design and construction, asset management, workforce management, and outage management as well as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution management systems (DMSs), renewables, and strategy planning.
Peter Batty reports on the major growth in geospatially-enabled Web and mobile applications with a special focus on the open source geospatial community and the significant impact of these technologies in the utility sector. "In general, there are a lot of geospatial open source software components available now that have the capabilities and robustness to be used in serious enterprise applications." John McDonald, Chairman of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel has been a firm believer for a long time that geospatial information is part of the foundational platform for smart grid. SGIP has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Open Geospatial Consortium with the goal of incorporating more geospatial standards into SGIP standards. Cindi Smith of Bentley goes even further and argues that “geospatial technology is already a foundational component of electric power utilities’ IT/OT systems. Smart grid simply brings more focus to the role it can play by virtue of the visibility of smart grid projects and processes in a utility and their need to exploit the vast amounts of data produced by the smart grid." Loek Bakker & Jan van GelderIt of Alliander, a Dutch utility company, describe how essential it has been for Alliander to integrate GIS, ERP and SCADA systems for a correct picture of its assets. As electric utilities evolve into increasingly data-driven organisations, Jeffrey Pires and G. Ben Binger describe how GIS is fast emerging as the backbone for data management platforms.
Cities are beginning to develop 3D models of underground infrastructure motivated by new underground remote-sensing technologies and by ROIs of up to of US$21.00 saved for every US$1.00 spent on improving the quality level of subsurface utility information. Steve Dibenedetto, Senior Geoscientist and Technology Manager, Underground Imaging Technologies (UIT), part of Caterpillar describes new remote-sensing technology for detecting and geolocating in 3D underground utility infrastructure such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Electromagnetic Induction (EMI).
The Indian on-going Restructured – Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Program (R-APDRP) is one of the largest IT initiatives by electric utilities anywhere in the world — in one integrated project, all state-owned distribution utilities in India are building IT infrastructure, IT applications and automation systems. The programme set out to create baseline data in the form of consumer indexing, GIS mapping and asset mapping. Reji Pillai & C. Amritha assess how GIS can be applied in this context.
Integrating geospatial and BIM is a key enabler for energy performance modeling which is a fundamental instrument for reducing the energy consumption and improving the energy performance of new and existing buildings. According to a report from Navigant Research, global zero energy buildings revenue is expected to grow from $629.3 million in 2014 to $1.4 trillion by 2035.
Wolfgang Eyrich of Entegra shares how Entegra’s primtech product, which is designed to help substation designers deliver designs based on integrated product modelling, provides a geographical context to substation designing.
Matt Zimmerman of Schneider Electric highlights one of Schneider Electric's key techologies "graphic work design" which is integrated geospatial and engineering design (CAD or BIM). Schneider Electric's geospatial division focuses on developing integrated, location-aware enterprise solutions such as integrated outage management (OMS), customer information system (CIS), GIS, and external weather reporting and forecasting service to help plan crew deployment during a storm. Matt foresees that location-aware predictive analytics for electric networks is going to be one of the major development areas for utilities in the future. Brad Williams of Oracle points out that spatial analytics is becoming a key technology for electric utilities because everything a utility does - customers, assets, and operations - involves location.
One of the biggest challenges that utilities are experiencing is increasing volumes of structured and unstructured data (big data) that is overwhelming traditional enterprise systems. The structured data comes from smart meters and intelligent electronic devices, and the unstructured data from social networks including Twitter, Google, Facebook and other social applications. Consumerization of geospatial technology (we are all GPS-enabled sensors) will enable crowd-sourcing new sources of information about electric power networks most of which involves location (big spatial data).
Improving process efficiency (also here, here, here and here) is a major challenge for the utility industry. Geospatial technology is a key technology that helps utilities improve the efficiency of their business processes (such as designing-constructing-maintaining and operating their network infrastructure) and the productivity of their staff.
An analysis a couple of years ago by Research and Markets entitled Global GIS market in the Utility industry 2012 - 2016 identified the key factors driving this market growth. These include the growing need for knowledge infrastructure, data quality, managing the mobile workforce, and changing the organizational structure of utilities. .
A major challenge for small to medium utilities is the increasing penetration of IT in the utility sector driven by the industry transformation associated with the smart grid. Small to medium utilities often don't have the in-house IT skills or the budget to implement GIS and other applications required by the industry move to smart grid.
Research and Markets has just released a report that covers the present global utility GIS market and its projected growth prospects for the period 2014-2018. The report covers the Americas, and the EMEA and APAC regions. To estimate market size and vendor share, analysts lookd at revenue generated from sales of software, data, and services in several segments including traditional GIS, GPS, photogrammetry and remote sensing, geospatial engineering, and other GIS applications.
The report was prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. Vendors included in the study are Bentley Systems Inc., GE Energy, Hexagon AB, Autodesk Inc., AvisMap GIS Technologies, Beijing SuperMap Software Co. Ltd., China Information Technology, Esri Inc., Google Map, Hitachi Zosen Corp., MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., Pitney Bowes Inc. and the US Geological Survey.
The report forecasts that the global utility GIS market will grow at a CAGR of 9.27 % over the period 2014-2018 with improving process efficiency a key market driver.
A key market challenge for existing vendors is the increasing penetration of open-source geospatial software into the utility market. According to the report many small and medium-sized organizations that cannot invest heavily in GIS solutions choose open-source software.
The report also expects growing demand in the utility market for 3D GIS software. The analysis foresees that 3D GIS software is expected to play a major role in the increased adoption of GIS solutions in the utility industry. According to the report large vendors are developing 3D GIS software, which is expected to drive the growth of the Global GIS market in the Utility industry during the forecast period.
Last year I blogged about a report on grid cybersecurity that was released by US Representatives Ed Markey and Henry Waxman. The U.S. bulk power system is relied on by 300 million people and is comprised of 200,000 miles of transmission lines and about a thousand gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity. It is valued at over $1 trillion. Most of the bulk power grid is owned and operated by private companies, municipally- and coop-owned utiltiies.
The report makes the case that the components of the grid are highly interdependent. An outage in one area can lead to cascading outages in other areas. The classic example occurred in 2003 when four high voltage power lines in northern Ohio brushed trees and shut down. A computer system error caused a cascade of failures that left 50 million people without power for two days across the United States and Canada and cost the economy an estimated $6 billion.
This report makes the case that grid vulnerabilities pose substantial risks to U.S. national security. It cites a 2008 report by theTask Force on Department of Defense (DOD) Energy Strategy that said that “critical missions . . . are almost entirely dependent on the national transmission grid." About 85% of the energy infrastructure upon which DOD depends is commercially owned, and 99% of the electricity DOD consumes originates outside of DOD. In most cases, neither the grid nor on-base backup power provides sufficient reliability to ensure continuity of critical national priority functions and oversight of strategic missions in the face of a long term (several months) outage. An October 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office said that 31 of DOD’s 34 most critical global assets rely on commercially operated electricity grids for their primary source of electricity.
I remember a startling statistic in an Energy Information Adminstration (EIA) publication that the failure of 4% of U.S. substations would result in 60% of the U.S. losing power. The Markey and Waxman report also cites a declassified National Academy of Sciences report that found that physical damage to large transformers could disrupt power to large regions of the country and take months to repair.
Last Thursday the Wall Street Journal published an article citing "a previously unreported federal analysis." The article said that
"The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation's three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse, people familiar with the research said.
"The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out nine of the country's electric-transmission substations on a summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.
"A small number of the country's substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions. The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months."
The Acting Chairman Cheryl A. LaFleur of FERC issues a statement in response to the Wall Street Journal Article About Grid Security.
"We take seriously our obligation to the American people to protect the reliability and security of our nation’s energy infrastructure and to enhance its resilience. Experts from FERC and other federal agencies work continuously with the electric industry to assess the threats posed by physical attacks, cyber intrusions, and severe weather; perform sophisticated modeling to identify and address vulnerabilities; and provide advice on security techniques and best practices. FERC also oversees mandatory reliability standards for the electric industry, including cyber security standards and standards that require planning for contingencies and emergency operations. On Friday, March 7, 2014, FERC ordered mandatory standards to protect critical facilities from physical security threats and vulnerabilities. At the same time, no single action or approach is sufficient. Building a resilient grid requires a comprehensive and ongoing assessment of how the system is planned, constructed, operated, and secured under a range of conditions.
"Today’s publication by The Wall Street Journal of sensitive information about the grid undermines the careful work done by professionals who dedicate their careers to providing the American people with a reliable and secure grid. The Wall Street Journal has appropriately declined to identify by name particularly critical substations throughout the country. Nonetheless, the publication of other sensitive information is highly irresponsible. While there may be value in a general discussion of the steps we take to keep the grid safe, the publication of sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility, and gives those who would do us harm a roadmap to achieve malicious designs. The American people deserve better."
In light of President Obama's recent Executive
Order on cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, security has become
even more critical and most utility folks realize that utiltiies need to get very serious about it. The Cooperative Reserach Network has developed a guide on cybersecurity for utilities. And a new security standard for MultiSpeak was released in
January 2013 that goes beyond secure sockets (SSL) and transport layer
security (TLS) and implements message-level security.
If you haven't paid much attention to cybersecurity for utilities, a recent article about a gaping hole that would allow intruders to crash substations provides serious motivation to take cybersecurity more seriously.
A few months ago, two engineers, Adam Crain of Automatak and independent researcher Chris Sistrunk, discovered a potentially catastrophic vulnerability in the electric grid. They found that a flaw in multiple vendors' software that is used to monitor substations makes it easy for an internet intruder to disable substation monitoring and potentially cause a widespread power outage.
The engineers developed a program specifically to check for vulnerabilities in implementations of a widely-used communications protocol DNP3 that plays a crucial role in SCADA systems, where it is primarily used for communications between SCADA control centers, Remote Terminal Units (RTUs), and Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs). DNP3 allows remote substations to be monitored from a control center.
The first DNP3 program they targeted belonged to Triangle MicroWorks, which provides a DNP3-based data gateway for SCADA sytems. They found that Triangle was vulnerable to break in. They checked other vendors and found that they could successfully break into16 different SCADA vendors. They sent a detailed report to the Department of Homeland Security's Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT). The research showed that some implementations were third-party components in other software packages. This vulnerability can be exploited remotely (over an IP-based implementation) as well as from the local system (through a serial-based implementation).
The engineers then checked other vendors and discovered that they could break into nine other vendors' systems. The vendors impacted are by what ICS-CERT calls the "DNP3 IMPROPER INPUT VALIDATION VULNERABILITY" are Alstom, IOServer, Kepware Technologies, MatrikonOPC, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Software Toolbox, SUBNET Solutions Inc., and Triangle MicroWorks.
put either the master
station or an outstation/slave into an infinite loop or Denial of Service condition by
sending a specially crafted TCP packet from the master station or from an outstation on an
IP-based network. If the device is connected via a serial connection,
the same attack can be accomplished with physical access to the master
station or outstation. The device must be shut down and restarted manually to reset the loop
state. The IP-based vulnerability could be exploited remotely, but the serial-based vulnerability is not exploitable remotely. Local access to the serial-based outstation is required.
The result is that this type of attack prevents operators from seeing what is going on in substations.
It seems that this type of attack is difficult to prevent. Traditional firewalls are not designed to stop this type of intrusion because they have to let DNP3 traffic through. ICS-CERT recommends a virtual private network (VPN). Also apparenlty current cybersecurity regulations don't cover serial communications, even though serial communications are commonly used in substations especially with older equipment.
Infrastructure-excellence.com is hosting the second annual competition showcasing Excellence in Infrastructure— highlighting the best projects done in 2012/2013.
The winners will be given over US$10,000 in prizes by the competition sponsors. The competition is open to anyone 21 years and older who is planning, designing, building, and managing infrastructure projects. Project types may include the following:
Transportation (roads and highways, rail, airports, or bridges)
Land development (commercial sites, subdivisions, public parks, or recreation)
Water (distribution, water resources, dams and levees, or wastewater)
Energy (electric and gas distribution, electric transmission, and substation design)
I blogged previously about entegra, a company based in Germany that provides substation design solutions. Entegra's substation design application is called primtech
which has been optimized for designing large substations. It
includes an extensible library of intelligent 3D objects such as power
switches, transformers, isolators, insulators, chains, high-voltage
cables, high-voltage pipes, foundations, steel structures, and
terminals. Last year I blogged about Primtech's support for lightning protection design.
The most recent major addition for substation designers is clearance calculation which is included in primtech 12. Air Insulated substations require minimum distances between the different phases of live facilities as well as between live and grounded equipment. In addition minimum clearances are required between live facilities and surrounding fences and vehicle routes through the substation. Primtech is now able to automatically compute these types of clearances according to the IEC 60071-2 standard.
To do this requires a 3D CAD model of the substation and information for each piece of equipment indicating whether it is live, grounded, an insulator, a fence or a vehicle route. Based on this information primtech's Phase Checker automatically assigns each facility to the appropriate phase. The phase checking also allows you to verify that all of the live conductors and other equipment are properly connected.
Based on the 3D model and the phase assignments, all of the required minimum clearances for the whole substation can then be automatically computed. Primtech is flexible in that it allows you to specify particular areas where you are interested in looking at clearances. Primtech will then visually highlight the areas which do not satisfy the minimum clearances for phase to phase, phase to ground, phases to roads, phases to fences, phases to ground level, and insulators to ground level. In addition to computing clearances, Primtech can also automatically perform collision detection to detect mechanical interferences between different pieces of equipment.