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Natural Gas

Gas Operations in Paris: A Risk Assessment

Sébastien BurgessJuly 2, 2019

Cities around the world have extensive systems of infrastructure, which play a vital role in a community’s capacity to thrive, grow, and achieve economic success. Providing electricity, gas, water, and connectivity underpin the very survival of a city’s inhabitants and businesses. Today, with roughly half the world’s population living in cities, increased urbanization is impacting the use and development of infrastructure on an unprecedented level.

Paris, the most populous city in France, is faced with a particularly challenging infrastructure environment. According to Eurostat, Paris has the highest urban density in Europe with a population of over 2.2 million — nearly 20,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. Besides serving the needs of a growing number of permanent citizens, the city’s gas and electric operators must also support 35 million annual tourist visits. To add another layer of complexity, the city manages over 10,000 building permits on an annual basis. These specific, entrenched challenges make the issue of infrastructure maintenance and modernization an absolute imperative in Paris.

A pressing infrastructure issue in Paris today is natural gas. Gas main replacement projects and other gas network repairs are more complex in a city where major excavation work can have an immediate effect on pedestrian and vehicle transit, impacting citizens, businesses, and tourists alike.

At Urbint, we analyzed the potential impact of natural forces and the built world on Paris’ gas distribution system to expose some of the city’s most unique infrastructure risks rooted from co-located infrastructure, weather and soil conditions, as well as construction activity. Our model captures all of the external factors that create infrastructure risk and applies AI to uncover the patterns and series of events that lead to specific incidences, such as methane leaks. This model of the world is dynamic and maintained in real time in order to anticipate threats from a changing world. Here’s a snapshot.

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Collocation Index

Urbint measures the density of co-located underground infrastructure assets such as gas and water pipes, sewer mains, electrical and telecommunications cables. This index produces a score to better understand potential damage risk caused by excavation. The higher the collocation index score, the more maintenance, replacement, and consistent repair work are expected for a given area.

Collocation Index for Paris.

For Paris, the collocation index identified Châtelet–Les Halles as having the highest damage risk according to Urbint’s model. Châtelet–Les Halles is a major transit hub and shopping corridor in the city, which makes it a high-consequence area where the impact of excavation malpractice could prove catastrophic. Any dig performed in the area should be carried out with unflinching abidance to excavation best practices norms.

Weather and Soil Conditions

Paris weather tends to be moderately wet throughout the year, comprised of mild summers and winters, with few drastic temperature changes. However, recent weather volatility has affected temperature and precipitation patterns. In the face of increasing inclement weather, Urbint continuously monitors for climate extremes and trends that could impact our customers’ assets.

Seine Flooding in January, 2018.

In January 2018, France experienced its heaviest rainfall in 50 years, with the national weather service reporting double the normal amount of rain nationwide. During the last week of January, the Seine River reached a maximum peak of approximately six meters, causing one of the worst floods in recent memory.

Seine River’s 1-in-100 year floodplain.

Almost a fifth of the Parisian gas network is located in the Seine’s 1-in-100 year floodplain. With increased volatility in precipitation, these assets could be increasingly exposed to stagnant waters and shifting soil conditions which lead to higher corrosion and damage risk.

During the colder months like January, gas assets are also exposed to higher rates of sustained freeze events. A sustained freeze event is a climatic condition where maximum apparent temperature does not exceed zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) during a given period. Sustained freezes can provoke sharp and unforeseen increases in odor call reports.

With that particular phenomenon in mind, Urbint’s software continuously computes unique slices of data like sustained freeze patterns that empower our AI models to learn more effectively about the world.

Urbint’s climate model revealed Paris suffered from four 4-day sustained freezes since January 2017.

Sustained freezes is a leading indicator in projected leaks call frequency. These climatic events can be forecasted and empower utilities to preemptively staff their teams to respond to a surge in emergency response calls.

Urbint also looked at soil composition and identified that 40% of Parisian soils have features that are susceptible to corrosion risk as shown in the image below. Climatic conditions, like sustained freezes, don’t occur in a vacuum. For example, sandy soils can attenuate corrosion risks, while frost-prone soil types accentuate the effect of freeze-thaw events. Urbint is constantly on the lookout for a combination of factors that may compound aggravating effects on our customers’ assets.

Soil composition in Paris.

Construction Activity

Rapid urbanization means most major metropolitan areas are experiencing high rates of development and construction activity. Urbint Lens for Damage Prevention specifically monitors and accounts for excavation work that puts an operator’s underground assets at risk.

Note: cities around the world have experienced steady increases in excavation activity over the past twenty years due to urbanization, modernization, and more.

Construction Activity in Paris.

To dive deeper into this phenomenon, Urbint looked at 20 years of Paris construction activity. By filtering demolition and new construction activity only, Urbint identified that over 35% of the Paris gas network is in areas with high historical rates of total or partial demolition (in red above). The most concentrated areas are in the city center, which happens to be the nucleus for tourism and commercial activity.

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Why it Matters?

The root cause of risk for gas operators exists outside of their infrastructure. By examining hundreds of categories of external risk parameters that impact infrastructure, Urbint’s model of the world provides uncompromising situational awareness on an operator’s service territory. Drivers of asset degradation like corrosion and excavation hits are contingent on these external factors. Our model allows us to create unique and tailored digital representations of our customers’ service territory to help them better understand sources of risk.

The factors described above for the city of Paris are a sample of the hundreds of external risk factors that we monitor across the United States and selected regions worldwide.

Urbint AI software solutions mitigate risk and support confident decision making, ensuring reliable infrastructure for safer and more resilient communities. Learn more about how Urbint’s model of the world can help you ensure safe and reliable operations by reaching out to hello@urbint.com.