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URBAN-NET infrastructure modeling tool to be incorporated into EAGLE-I

A screenshot of the URBAN-NET prototype tool. The tool can display the estimated cascade impact of disrupted electrical substations caused by upcoming critical events such as hurricanes or wildfires. In this example, the result shows the estimated impact of hurricane Ida 78 hours before landfall. Credit: Matt Lee/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy 

After nearly seven years of intense development, the URBAN-NET infrastructure quantification tool is being made available to users.

The tool, developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will be incorporated into DOE’s Environment for Analysis of Geo-Located Energy Information (EAGLE-ITM) system which is funded by the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) and used by CESER, FEMA, and other federal, state, and local agencies to monitor energy infrastructure assets, report energy outages, display potential threats to energy infrastructure, and coordinate emergency response and recovery.

This integration will enable CIS (Critical Infrastructure System) interdependency analysis by considering FEMA’s seven community lifelines simultaneously in an integrated data and computational framework while capturing various types of complex interdependencies into a holistic model.

The incorporation of URBAN-NET will provide a much-needed capability in terms of quantifying the country’s infrastructure interdependencies. Specifically, URBAN-NET enhances infrastructure modeling and, by extension, disaster response planning via three unique capabilities: identifying and exposing components requiring deeper analysis and significantly enhancing situational awareness to the EAGLE-I user community; prioritizing data collection during extreme events; and mitigating cascading failures through early detection and timely responsiveness.

“We are looking at the entire infrastructure interdependency topology,” said ORNL Computer Scientist and URBAN-NET Principal Investigator Matt Lee. “For example, if a hurricane hits a region and knocks out a gas plant, how will that failure impact power plants, and how will those failures affect substations and consumers, and on down the line.”

This approach, added Lee, is very different from how power companies and federal agencies have approached identifying vulnerabilities in the past.

Improved modeling of these connections will provide federal agencies and disaster relief organizations with valuable data with which to predict where previously unseen vulnerabilities might lie, as disasters and attacks can have implications far from the primary impacted area.

“When you see how the dominoes could fall, you can prioritize your vulnerabilities and minimize impact,” added Lee.

The tool allowed the team to efficiently identify the downstream substations that could be affected in the event of a successful attack, enabling emergency response organizations to better prepare their respective regions should such an attack be successful.

It’s been quite a journey for a project that began in 2015 as an ORNL-funded LDRD project. But the hard work is paying off with the tool’s incorporation into EAGLE-I, and perhaps beyond.

The capabilities are so novel that stakeholders are still uncovering ways URBAN-NET might be used.

For instance, the model can be improved over time to incorporate more infrastructure assets and refine connections and networks. Such enhancements could make URBAN-NET a valuable tool when planning future infrastructure projects.

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