Effectively Using New Data Technologies for Pipeline Routing

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il and gas companies are using information technologies and resources now accessible on desktops for planning new pipeline routes. Technologies and resources include geographic information systems (GIS), mobile information technology, satellite imagery, topographic maps, environmental data and tax data. GIS creates a platform upon which data from multiple sources can be organized into a simple format, allowing companies to determine the best and most effective route. With satellite imagery, one can regularly see existing pipeline corridors that could provide potential routes as well as areas to be avoided, such as buildings, neighborhoods and lakes. Satellite imagery is available in high resolution, often less than 1 meter, and frequently updated for many parts of the world. Areas designated as environmentally sensitive include wetlands and threatened or endangered species habitats for which data are readily available throughout the United States and other countries. Pipeline planners are becoming equally proficient with using a growing range of tools, such as GIS and mobile information technology, to ensure surprises don't derail efforts when boots meet the ground along planned routes. Physically traveling along potential routes allows pipeline planners to see features that don't appear in outdated satellite imagery. A recent change like a new neighborhood, building or even a pipeline may not show up on publicly available data. Other information sources, such as tax maps, have varying degrees of accuracy. Pipeline planners who become adept at using mobile information technology tools can incorporate this information into their plans and then find the best way to route the pipeline. 'Three-Legged Stool' Pipeline planning has long been influenced by three major factors — land, environmental and engineering. In order to stay competitive, planners must understand how information technology can be used to understand each of these areas. Knowledge of land issues is critical to proper routing. Information technologies allow one to integrate landowner and parcel information into a GIS. When the GIS is integrated with mobile technology, field personnel can access information to collect data from county assessor's offices and contact landowners for permissions. Good information technology allows field staff to enter information into a mobile device and then transfer the data to the central database for the project. In places without good cellular reception such as the hills of central Pennsylvania, planners generally rely on satellite-based GPS technology for accurate location-setting. This can include equipping the field staff with tablets that show which parcels of land the company has arranged access to and which have yet to be negotiated. Even in remote areas without cellular coverage, By Sheila McGinty, Ed Northrop and Scott Dauzat, Audubon Field Solutions Effectively Using New Data Technologies for Pipeline Routing O

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