Pipeline Mapping: Critically Important to Avoiding Critical Incidents
Moving oil and gas safely and efficiently from a wellhead to end-users stands as the sole and unambiguous purpose of pipelines. When either of those key elements — safety or efficiency — is lacking, it represents a problem. When both are missing, it signals a complete breakdown of purpose.
Southern Brush exists, in part, to help pipeline and utility companies maintain safe and efficient operations through right-of-way management. In addition to traditional grounds maintenance services, we also provide highly sophisticated GIS mapping and data logging solutions. By utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and leveraging our technology with extensive data processing experience, we help companies identify and track underground assets accurately.
Mapping Accuracy: Making An Exception a Rule
In July of last year, National Public Radio produced a piece detailing the dangers of operating pipelines without adequate mapping. Despite the potential political bias of outlets like NPR (also here), when journalists identify viable dangers in our industry, we hold a responsibility to the public (and to our shareholders) to pay attention.
“[E]ven the relatively recent pipelines are not always where they are supposed to be.
‘We’ve been called into a multitude of projects where within one right-of-way there was supposed to be a pipeline installed ten years ago. Workers come in to that right-of-way, they move over what they think is 50 or 75 or 100 feet, they drill in another line and they end up hitting the original pipeline that’s supposed to be 75 feet away. That happens a lot.’
And it happened a couple of weeks ago in Armstrong County, north of Pittsburgh, where a routine construction job put a man in the hospital. He was in a bulldozer digging out a route for a new gas pipeline when he struck another unmarked pipeline full of natural gas. Pictures of the explosion show a crater where the bulldozer sits, charred and mangled. The man who was running that machine is now in the hospital with 70 percent of his body burned.
Turns out the worker hit a medium-sized, 12-inch line carrying gas at a pressure of 60 PSI. His company did what they were supposed to do before digging, contact the state’s Pa. One Call service to check whether it was OK to dig where it planned.
One Call gave the company the all clear. Problem was: The line that blew up wasn’t mapped.”
Technological Inputs Lead To Better Outcomes
When people properly follow One Call protocols, line strikes should never happen. Unfortunately, however, the national pipeline infrastructure originated during a time when detailed, accurate mapping just wasn’t possible. But technological innovations now empower us to provide highly detailed data identifying exactly where pipelines lie — with a subcentimeter accuracy variance. At the very least, operators need to know where their pipe’s centerline lies and the depth of cover protecting it.
By utilizing Vivax Line Locators and Trimble GPS units, Southern Brush can log all of this data and deliver it in whatever format best fits a client’s GIS needs. As an added value, we can also display above-ground field conditions that may require a client’s attention (e.g., obstructions on the right-of-way, missing or misaligned markers, etc.).
To date, Southern Brush has provided well over 10,000 miles of pipeline surveys. We help operators increase their safety, efficiency, and ultimately, profits. Please contact us today to discuss your pipeline data or GIS project needs.