Geogathering 2013, Colorado Springs

Shale gale generates renewed interest in pipeline information technology and GIS. ESRI keynote—mileage to rise 2.7 fold by 2035. Operators navigate complex regulatory environment. Software deployed from Earth Analytic, New Century, VoyagerGIS. GTI on ASTM F2897-11a standard.

The biennial Geogathering conference1, held at Colorado Springs in August, saw some 150 attendees from 75 companies. The ‘shale gale’ blowing across North America has sparked off a new round of pipeline construction and brought renewed attention from the regulator and environmental movements. ESRI’s Tom Coolidge cited figures from the US administration which suggested that the pipeline mileage in the US is set to grow from a current 240,000 miles to an estimated 650,000 miles by 2035. The hike will only be possible by deploying sophisticated tools and rigorous governance in the collection and management of data for ‘environmentally responsible routing.’

The National environmental policy act’s (Nepa) approval processes documents issues such as wetland avoidance, river crossings, endangered species and archeologically sensitive areas. Combining information on such is highly amenable to GIS processing, leveraging an ‘environmental resources data stack’ to combine data from various sources including public web services. Coolidge showed how this can be achieved using a pipeline routing tool developed by Willbros that generates a minimal impact route along with risk assessments and cost analysis.

A similar process was described by Erik Potter (M3 Midstream) and Wetherbee Dorshow (Earth Analytic Inc.) who stressed the need for smarter routing in the face of social media-fueled opposition to new pipelines. M3 deploys a PODS 4.2 pipeline and facilities relational database linked to a Coler and Colantonio Intrepid4 Esri geodatabase. The company was looking for a ‘more formalized and measurable’ routing process and turned to EAI which helped with a move from a traditional ‘pipeliner’ route reviewing process to an analytical approach using EAI’s ‘SmartFootprint’ and ESRI’s ArcToolbox to automate route selection and estimate construction costs. SmartFootprint produces ‘cost surfaces’ from all available data that can be combined into a ‘suitability surface’ for route selection and reporting.

The growing use of digital data collection in the field means that synchronizing remote devices with HQ can be tricky. Garry Keener showed how DCP Midstream has transformed remote data synch ‘from vaporware to production.’ DCP uses Delorme XMap in the field and a PODS 4.02 Oracle/SDE server in the office. Field personnel can update and fix GIS data from field while disconnected. New Century Software’s Spatial-Synchronizer keeps remote workers devices in synch with HQ.

The complexity of remote working was also a theme of Richard Couture’s presentation of Noble Energy’s ‘new world’ goals that target a single source of digital data and GIS-based integration of pipeline construction and facilities. Noble has developed a new data strategy to support its push into the prolific Niobrara shale. The approach involved an Esri geodatabase fed with data captured during construction from high accuracy GeoXH and Vivax Locator devices and in-field mapping with Delorme Xmap. Teaming with construction has meant better maps and a single data source across pipeline and facilities.

A radical approach to spatial data complexity was suggested by Jason Wilson (SM Energy) and Jon Polay (VoyagerGIS). SME currently has a large amount of disparate spatial data with no repository, making it hard to locate needed data sets. The company has embarked on a comprehensive revamp of its spatial data, starting with a major search and retrieve program that leverages VoyagerGIS’ spatial indexing technology. This is allowing SME to find and consolidate its GIS data to a combination of Esri geodatabase and ArcSDE. Safe Software’s FME and ArcGIS Online also ran. To date some 17,000 spatial files have been indexed, de-duplicated and captured to the geodatabase.

Kevin Miller explained how Summit Midstream has established a Pipeline GIS data strategy including a roll-your-own data model. This, the ‘Summit 1.0 data model,’ incorporates alignment sheets, material test reports, as-built documents, operator knowledge and a data dictionaries.

Mike Harris (Anadarko) with help from consultant Jan Van Sickle asked, ‘how do we keep pace with accelerating change?’ Their focus was the regulatory environment around mechanical integrity a.k.a. 40CFR68 that ensures that ‘process equipment is fabricated from the proper materials, is properly installed, maintained and, if needed, replaced to prevent failures and accidental releases.’ A comprehensive process was outlined for integrity management that included some novel technology. The Anoto digital pen was used for data entry into SharePoint forms, Documentum and SAP. Even more exciting is the potential for use of drones for data collection, such as the Quadcopter.

Monica Ferrer of the Gas Technology Institute unveiled new standards for mobile assets. The ASTM F2897-11a, a standard encoding system of natural gas distribution components (pipe, tubing, valves and more), is a unique identifier that encodes essential asset attribute information as a 16-digit alphanumeric.

This allows manufacturers to barcode pipe and fittings with a unique identifier and allows operators to document the location of specific assets. The scope of the standard is being finalized and GIS data collection algorithm development will be complete in 2014 under the GTI’s Intelligent Pipeline Program. For Ferrer, the combination of tablet computers and mobile GIS is a ‘disruptive innovation’ for the pipeline industry. Visit GeoGathering and download the 2013 presentations.

1. The GeoGathering conference is hosted by New Century Software every two years. The planning committee is chosen from the pipeline community and includes representatives from pipeline operators.

2. Adapted from Title 40 of the US Code of Federal Regulation Part 68.3.

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