Building and maintaining the pipelines that carry natural gas and crude oil
is vital to providing the energy that runs our world. While pipelines have
proven to be the safest way to transport petrochemicals, an unwavering
attention to detail is required at every step—from initial route planning to
long-term pipeline maintenance.
BY DR. HOWARD BOTTS, PH.D.
When identifying viable pipeline routes,
access to accurate data can boost profitability
To protect public safety and the
environment, federal and state
regulations place strict guidelines
on pipeline placement. Restrictions
are predictably stringent near high-consequence areas such as populated
regions, drinking water sources and
unusually sensitive ecological land.
Companies that build natural gas
transmission lines must calculate the
potential impact radius and adhere to
exceptionally tough safety standards
near population-dense regions and areas.
The combination of risk and cost
make identifying, and when possible,
avoiding high-consequence areas an
important aspect of pipeline planning.
In establishing a viable pipeline route,
planners have three top-priority needs.
First is seeing an accurate view of
the parcel fabric, which includes the
continuous surface of connected parcels
that lie between the well and pipeline
destination, as well as topographic
details. The second is getting parcel
ownership details and understanding the
property characteristics, and the third is
gathering current oil and gas leasehold
A STRAIGHT LINE
data for the surrounding area. While
the first two can help determine
which route is most feasible, the
third, leasehold data, opens the door
for opportunity assessment.
Viewing the Parcel Fabric
Before the advent of map scanning,
digitizing and geographic
information system (GIS)
technology, pipeline planning
required trips to one of more county
courthouses and acquiring parcel
maps to determine the best route.
The laborious process typically
included rerouting when parcel
maps revealed a problem or right
of way negotiations hit a snag.
Digitized maps eliminated some of
the legwork, but the maps seldom fit
together with the precision required.
GIS technology took mapping to
the next level, at least theoretically.
Assuming digitized maps and GIS
data matched and that both were
complete and current, GIS parcel
data allowed planners to view the