Pipeline Open Data Standards user group

The Pipeline Open Data Standard is gaining traction—driven by stringent reporting requirements from the US Office of Pipeline Safety. Operators Texas Gas Transmission and Sunoco report successful deployment. Collaboration with the Corrosion Engineers Association is announced and Google Earth use demonstrated.

The second annual user meeting of the Pipeline Open Data Standards organization (PODS) took place in Houston last month. 70 members were in attendance from as far afield as Russia, Germany, and Norway. President Alan Herbison (KinderMorgan) described PODS as ‘a growing, world-wide organization with members in 11 countries.’ PODS is accelerating delivery of new modules to allow fast track deployment. In July, the North American Corrosion Engineers association (NACE) and PODS jointly approved a new external corrosion direct assessment (ECDA) integrity data standard covering close interval survey data, DCVG/ACVG, depth of cover, centerline and survey data. PODS is also going ‘spatial’ with a variety of GIS developments, notably the ArcGIS Pipeline Data Model (APDM) work with ESRI. The latest release, PODS 4 is now fully documented with Sybase’s PowerDesigner and a workgroup has begun on ‘fine grained’ entitlements-based Oracle access.

Texas Gas

Michael Ray reviewed Texas Gas Transmission’s (TGT) migration to PODS from manually drafted location data, alignment, DOT sheets etc. In the 1990s, TGT moved to a Sybase database with an ArcView GIS. This was found ‘slow and cumbersome’ and there were issues with data management and data exchange from risk and corrosion systems. In 2005, TGT decided to migrate to a PODS database to benefit from its better design, extensibility, integrity rules and to share experience with other operators. There was also an expectation that vendor products would integrate better with a PODS-based solution. GIS was upgraded to ArcGIS 9.0 and ArcSDE. Ray offered advice for prospective migrators—leverage vendors who know PODS and stay ‘true’ to the model.

Pipeline awareness (DOT)

John Jacobi is the community assistance and technical services manager with the Southwest Region of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), part of the US Department of Transportation. The PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) is the federal safety authority for the US’ 2.3 million miles of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. As a component of its program to ensure the ‘safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation’s pipeline transportation system,’ the OPS has instigated a pipeline awareness program which sets out to ‘advance public safety, [..] by facilitating clear communications among all pipeline stakeholders, including the public, the operators and government officials.’ The awareness program targets ‘high consequence areas’ (HCA) such as highly populated areas, waterways and drinking water sources. The potential impact radius from a pipeline is computed with regard to buildings’ proximity and occupancy. Here GIS and asset facility management tools are used to determine critical geographic parameters and assure the PHMSA of probable compliance.


Sarah Johnson described pipeline operator Sunoco’s migration from a legacy database and GIS to a PODS/ArcGIS infrastructure. Sunoco operates a 1,800 mile network on the Eastern seaboard, terminal facilities and another 3,600 miles of pipeline in Oklahoma and Texas. A legacy mapping system ‘SunMap,’ created in the 1990s deployed AutoCAD and Oracle for live generation of alignment sheets. DOT integrity requirements led to the development of a more flexible system rolling in new data types and to the development of Sunoco’s PODS-based ‘ALIGN’ database. This has been designed to support internet mapping, alignment sheet generation, risk management and other applications. A complex migration and data correction process involved much quality control. When errors are found, all relevant sheets are checked. Johnson believes ‘pipeline is too important’ to neglect data QC/QA checks which may include field work. Post migration, there is ongoing QA/QC of migrated data. Sunoco has realized the importance and effort required in data management to keep things consistent. Johnson believes that communication is key—data management ‘cannot take place in a bubble’. For specialist data such as corrosion control, data management may require help from domain specialists as well as GIS.

Spatial work group

Spatial Chairman Mike King (BP America) reported that the spatial workgroup is developing ‘PODS-Compatible database model(s) or extension(s) that will spatially enable the PODS database to underpin proprietary applications and to facilitate PODS/GIS integration.’ Although PODS plans to maintain a vendor neutral approach to spatialization, the need to integrate with proprietary spatial technologies is recognized. Sub committees have been formed to address both ESRI Geodatabase solutions and Oracle Spatial that will support SmallWorld, Intergraph, and Autodesk solutions. The ESRI Geodatabase comes in both ‘Lite’ and ‘Heavy’ forms. The Lite consists of common APDM core classes and a limited number of the PODS tables and will be for free public distribution. ‘Heavy’ extends the APDM core with all PODS event and domain tables and access will be limited to PODS members only. The ESRI development is the subject of a memorandum of understanding between ESRI, PODS and the ArcGIS Pipeline Data Model (APDM)—see below.

Google Earth

Other presentations of note included Ken Greer’s (Centerpoint Energy) presentation on linking PODS inventory data to a scheduled maintenance management package (Maximo) and Gary Hoover’s talk on managing derived data in PODS. The latter included linking PODS data with Google Earth. With due attention to the coordinate reference system, Google Earth ‘.kml’ files can be built on the fly, effectively spatializing the PODS database.


Following the PODS meet, a memorandum of understanding was signed between ESRI and PODS and the ArcGIS Pipeline Data Model (APDM) Steering Committee. The outcome of this relationship will be a PODS-based data model that uses essential APDM core components. The APDM was expressly designed for implementation as an ESRI geodatabase. The POD input will add POD standards to the APDM.

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