Pipeline Route Optimisation Method uses Geospatial algorithms to make linear routing decisions
Do more with less is a common theme in modern asset management. The number and scale of construction projects is reducing and, when they go ahead, planning must be optimised for maximum return on investment.
However, routing any assets is difficult in the modern world. The landscape is increasingly complex with many constraints, from existing infrastructure to landscape designations. Add to this a limited budget and finding a suitable route can be difficult. Delivering multiple alternatives, each considered with equal consideration can be very costly.
The solution is the pipeline route optimisation method (PROM). This is a GIS based decision tool that determines the best route by considering all the geotechnical, human and environmental constraints simultaneously. Typically, 50–70+ decision datasets are weighted and combined to create a least score database. Given this knowledge, PROM can use any number of start locations or options to generate least-cost routes that navigate their way through the landscape.
PROM determines the optimal route of a linear feature through the landscape by assessing infinite options while balancing multiple considerations. More than 70 geospatial datasets that define route suitability provide the PROM database with insights into the landscape. These datasets are weighted by subject matter experts according to their suitability or otherwise, thereby enabling PROM’s in-built algorithms to make decisions and balance one route against another.
Once a route has been determined, it is interrogated against the database and reports are generated to enable the subject matter expert to review the route and understand the decisions made. Where obstacles are missing or misweighted, they are updated to create a continually improving decision-making tool. To date, thousands of kilometres of pipelines have had their route determined by PROM, as it is utilised by most UK water companies.
Routes are generated quickly and efficiently, thereby removing a traditional constraint to route development. Routes are automatically reported in detail, including hydraulic profiles and schedules, using an online mapping platform. This means that the team will be familiar with the route and understands the decisions made.
The routes generated consider all the information using the objective weightings. The result is a route that does not favour one or another discipline and considers many constraints at once. PROM routes minimise capital and operating expenditure by avoiding constraints and evaluating topography during route generation.
The outputs enable project teams to understand the route clearly and concisely. The schedule provides quantitative information to support due diligence and enables quick comparison of route merits for decision-making transparency.
All routes along with all datasets used in the decision making process are shared with an online mapping platform with the project team. As well as giving an understanding of the decisions PROM has made this also allowed the team to adjust the weightings for improved iterations.
Using the best available topographic data hydraulic profiles are output allowing the project team to model the concept route and use the outcomes to shape later route iterations allowing a TOTEX assessment of the route.
An itemised list of interactions is also output. This lists key crossings such as roads and the length of route near to environmental designations. Where cost and hours data is available this can also be added to generated high level route costings.
Data-driven route alignment
The data-driven route alignment process makes decisions clear, transparent, auditable and based on objective rather than subjective judgements. The weighting database provides the knowledge to make routing decisions.
Although it is called PROM, the method has been used to generate routes for linear assets ranging from penstocks to roads and transmission lines. Adjusting the weighting profile and applying different horizontal and vertical algorithms enable optimisation of the route of any linear asset type.
Once this knowledge has been captured, PROM can be given any start, mid and end locations and determine the least score route between them. These locations can be provided as points, lines or polygons, thereby enabling PROM to determine the best location to join to an existing asset such as a pipeline. PROM can also be given multiple locations and asked to generate a route to each, or a route to the single best location based on its routing database.
Producing routes is quick and efficient, which means that optioneering and considering what-if scenarios are possible.
Time and cost savings, and, thus, better routes: Clients have told us we have delivered significant time and cost savings for route planning: £25,000–40,000. PROM delivers these saving by quickly generating routes based on knowledge within its data bases. One of the biggest issues with traditional routing projects is creating the first route. It is only then that the various disciplines can contribute. This can take weeks or months. PROM will generate a route in hours to enable disciplines to work together almost immediately. This efficiency enables more optioneering than traditional methods in the pursuit of the best route. Expert resources focus on route verification and not the whole assessment process.
Reusable and adaptable: Used by most UK water companies, PROM has been redeployed to determine the routes of assets as diverse as transmission lines and roads.
Better optioneering: Using data and geospatial algorithms offers greater scope for optioneering. Examples have included finding ‘impossible’ gravity routes, and emphasising low-energy total expenditure routes.
Efficient: Routes are generated using logic and rules within hours, thereby eliminating the ‘blank-page’ stage and speeding up the time between concept and detailed design.