Over 100 attended the Pipeline Open Data Standard Association’s (PODS) spring user group meeting in Sugar Land, TX earlier this month. Attendees hailed from 60 companies located in Austria, China, France, India and North America. The meeting’s theme was ‘mapping our pipeline future.’ Executive director Sheila Wilson noted the pipeline industry’s vital role in today’s economic situation. Hurricanes Katrina and Ike underscored the importance of a functioning, safe pipeline network.
A survey of attendees provided insights into pipeline database deployment in the industry. Most all operator respondents deploy a central pipeline database. Ownership of the database is almost equally likely to be IT, operations or engineering. Management and IT are both in general supportive of the database effort. Oracle (19) pips SQL Server (13) in number of deployments. PODS is the most popular model in this community (that kind-of figures!) with some invited companies using ESRI’s APDM model. High consequence analysis for DOT compliance is performed about 50/50 in house and outsourced to vendors. Integration with One Call systems is patchy. Interestingly, automated alignment sheet generation is now almost universally considered as a ‘standard business practice.’ Most companies are involved in some kind of field mapping to improve center line accuracy. A ‘wish list’ showed that data exchange was the number one ‘issue’ for operators – especially in the context of acquisitions and mergers. Users also asked for better PODS editing capability via vendor applications.
A discussion revealed the key issues that affect pipeline operators information management efforts. Data update workflows are cumbersome and the implications of changes are not always well understood. Metadata quality control is variable and a need was expressed to be able to flag quality data to discourage casual modification. Resolving conflicts with inline inspection systems (ILI) was also a problem area. A lack of industry standards for data representation was noted. PODS members expressed interest in alignment with ISO metadata standards, and/or the SDSFIE US Govt. standard or geographical information standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium. The thorny issue of a standard for units of measure was also raised in the light of multiple regional standards. Governmental agencies are increasingly requiring standard metadata from operators.
At the enterprise level, the debate revolved around the role of PODS in relation to other business processes. While there is agreement that a central asset database forms an integration framework and a single source of reference data, the question of when to record an event and the wisdom of real-time update was questioned.
Users discussed the impact of emerging technology like Google Earth Street View and the Virtual Earth/PhotoSynth combo. Microsoft’s Office Share Point Server was considered a good information-gathering interface but lacked an open GIS format. More from www.pods.org.
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