A pipeline project can’t move forward without an initial survey, and if that survey isn’t accurate, the project could encounter time-consuming and expensive difficulties. Luckily, the technologies involved in pipeline surveying and development are steadily becoming more advanced. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to improve the pipeline surveying and development process, making it more efficient, affordable, and accurate.
Here are four of the major ways in which GIS has improved the pipeline industry:
1. GIS Plans the Most Effective Route for Pipes
GIS can be used to map out a pipeline project in full 3D, with high levels of accuracy. Through GIS analysis, companies will be able to plan the most effective routes, both in terms of cost and time. But efficient routing is about more than just resource management.
The more efficient the routes are, the faster the products will travel along with them — and the safer the pipelines will be. By reducing the length of pipeline, the company can also reduce the amount of pipeline that has to be maintained and repaired, and the amount of pipeline that could lead to issues later on.
GIS takes a significant amount of guesswork out of the pipeline process. Otherwise, a pipeline plan may be created, but there are unexpected issues that could occur during development.
2. GIS Can Identify Obstructions and Help Planners Account for Them
Through Geographic Information Systems, pipeline developers are able to identify obstructions early on in the process. When obstructions are found mid-process, it often leads to costly reworks. The project needs to go back to the drawing board, so new plans can be designed, and new permits can be processed. If the pipeline has to be re-routed significantly, new environmental surveys may need to be completed.
But with GIS, the chance of identifying these obstructions later in a project goes down. UAVs can be used to thoroughly scan the entire area, noting even small obstructions, both environmental and manmade. These obstructions can be dealt with through the initial planning stages. UAV scanning, especially with LiDAR, is extremely accurate.
3. GIS Can Help Simulate the Impact of Pipelines on the Surrounding Environment
Environmental concerns are extremely important to pipeline management. With GIS, the impact on the surrounding environment can be simulated during the preliminary planning stages. Pipeline companies can do complete assessments regarding seasonal changes, sunlight, water runoff, and more, to make sure that they are able to control potential damage to the environment.
Entire 3D simulations of a survey can be completed and distributed throughout the pipeline project, among primaries, contractors, and more, so that each specialist can identify potential concerns. One of the major advantages of GIS is that the data can be analyzed in multiple ways and that the data can go through multiple simulations.
4. GIS Makes a Pipeline Project More Efficient and Cost-Effective
Ultimately, GIS saves pipeline project money, and that’s money that can be allocated to other areas of the project. By saving money through GIS, a company can allocate even more money towards safety and environmental concerns. With GIS, a company is able to better streamline its operations, anticipating any major issues, and creating a comprehensive plan.
Pipeline projects need to be extremely well-structured. The more information a project has, the less likely there is for anything to go wrong. By making the pipeline project more efficient, and by reducing the amount of time the project takes to complete, a significant amount of uncertainty can be removed from the project overall.
So how is GIS captured? The simplest and most effective path is to use UAVs. UAVs can perform aerial surveys quickly, which can be used to perform modeling and simulations. UAVs have a lot of advantages over methods: they can fly low to the ground, they can be deployed quickly, they’re safe, and they’re affordable.
GIS is an incredible technology. When combined with UAVs, GIS can be used to create complete pipeline development surveys early on in the development process, and it can be used to reduce the chances of major issues during development.
Author: Dustin Price is a licensed land surveyor and the Operations Manager at Landpoint. He leads the company’s technical approach to deliver professional surveying services by providing tailored solutions using UAV technology.