Overlooked Benefits of Using GIS for Surveying

Behind Theodolite

What is GIS Used For?

GIS (Geographic Information System) provides a central location for data and analysis critical to today’s surveying, planning, construction, and management. It allows professional land surveyors a way to provide more accurate and less expensive surveys.

While these features alone are enough to justify using GIS, there are a number of additional benefits of using GIS and Surveying which can add value to commercial, industrial and oil & gas construction projects. These provide additional value not just to the surveyors but to their clients as well. In this article, we explore three of the overlooked benefits of using GIS and how they impact a construction project.

The Additional Benefits of Using GIS Technology for Land Surveying

Most sophisticated professional land surveyors rely on GIS in their everyday work processes. In addition to more rapid data collection and better planning, design, construction, and resource management, GIS benefits the professional land surveyor with the following:

1. Better Decision Making
Collected, analyzed, and mapped data help managers make better and more informed decisions about plan location and design. Construction projects depend on a wealth of data for things like site selection, accesses and easements, zoning restrictions, conservation of environmentally sensitive areas, natural resource extraction, existing utilities and community resources. GIS provides this additional information, allowing for informed decision making and concise planning in consideration of location, people, and the environment.

2. Reliable Records Retention
Historic data, documents, and maps provide a basis for a prospective project’s feasibility. More accurate background information leads to more options to satisfy all concerns about the project. This gives design managers, politicians, and interest groups the right data about location, resources, and previous development to drive project outcome.

Equally important are as-built drawings, updated base maps, and current data after the project is completed. Government organizations in particular are responsible for maintaining authoritative public records regarding changes of geography (geographic accounting), topography, and land use. Zoning, population, land ownership, administrative boundaries, and private access roads to restricted lands, are contained in the GIS cultural geographic records. Physical geography such as forest clearing, biological assessments, environmental deviations, landmarks, courses, measurements, and water resources (hatcheries, intakes and dams) are also a part of GIS geographic records.

3. Better Land Use Management
GIS is quickly becoming the standard for government and larger corporations. It’s an important tool that helps to envision, develop, and formally illustrate ideas of expansion, acquisition, and notable resolution to congestion, pollution, and resource availability concerns.

Historical data may be used as base maps for conceptualizing, understanding, and prescribing action and utilizing available resources. Various data overlays provide additional geographic data, recurring patterns, sensitive areas, hazards and relationships associated with practical land use, environment, and security issues.

Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) require large amounts of varying kinds of data to be collected and analyzed. Project permits by government agencies hinges on collected EIS and BA (Biological Assessment) data. The project team is typically comprised of personnel in the office and out in the field, the client, and consultants. All members need access to surveys and analysis data at some point during the decision making and construction problem solving stages. Information sharing is critical for managing teams in remote areas. GIS offers a central database resource that all groups may access, analyze, and input into the project’s conversation.

GIS has transformed how organizations manage their resources, solve problems, make decisions, and communicate. To learn more about the benefits of using GIS for land surveying, please feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have.


Professional Land Surveyors Helping Reduce the Risk of Drilling Dry Wells

Oil and Gas ProjectsGIS technology is critical when mapping well sites for drilling operations. The cost of drilling a dry well can quickly eat into an operation’s budget. However, a professional land surveyor can use GIS mapping to leverage central geological and physical datasets to help analyze, summarize, and make determinations more effective planning.

Finding the Right Location

Geologists typically analyze the prospective well drilling area by checking rock and soils types, land terrain, as well as the gravitational and magnetic area fields. Geologists perform seismic surveys and test for hydrocarbons in and around the site. Seismic surveys are not fool proof as they may find what appears to be an excellent reserve trap but which may turn out to be dry when drilled. Dry holes are the lack of charging or breaching of previously charged reservoirs where the hydrocarbons have escaped. Geochemical soil gas surveys used in conjunction with seismic surveys can significantly improve successful hydrocarbon exploration ratios and reduce “dry hole” risk.

Once geologists select the prospective well drilling location, surveyors are called to stake the well site. It is the job of professional land surveyors to prepare 2D and 3D mappings. A plat map, stamped and signed by one of the licensed land surveyors, showing the staked well location is required by various states prior to drilling. This provides insurance of the correct location, to the best of the geologist and land surveyor’s knowledge. Erroneous information may result in the drilling company losing the ability to hydraulically fracture all segments of the downhole well lateral, or encounter a dry well. It is not uncommon for a well to be relocated several times on the surface before drilling. Accurate documentation is vital.

Prior to Drilling

The drilling site must be prepared and free from hazards. The professional land surveyors should conduct a line location survey in preparation to level the drill site as well as for the excavation of the reserve and settling pits. Access roads and the drill pad must be staked and prepared prior to commencing drilling operations.

Cost and Consequences of Dry Drilling

Drilling risks may be moderate to high depending on the proximity of drilling to existing producing wells. Wildcat or high risk drilling occurs greater than 1.5 miles from the nearest producing oil well or 3 miles from the nearest producing gas well. Conversely, low risk, developmental drilling operations, are within half a mile of oil or within one mile of gas wells already drilled and producing. Geochemistry is not as critical, but is useful in determining where blind compartments of stratigraphic traps lie. Outpost drilling offers moderate risk. Drilling is located within 0.5 – 1.5 miles of the nearest producing oil well or 1-3 miles to the nearest active gas well. Geochemistry is a cost efficient means of locating the extreme limits of newly-discovered fields.

When GIS tools are not used during analysis, dry drilling can occur. Dry drilling is loss of circulation and fluid. Although the well is bored, the fluid does not rise to the top. Operation losses may be as little as a broken drill bit or as major as a damaged wellbore, drill string, snapped pipe, or damaged rig. In terms of barrels per day and revenue, a “minor loss” is considered to upto 470 barrels in a 48 hour period. Severe losses exceed 470 barrels or occur when fluid gushes to the surface and is wasted or lost.

To learn more about how experienced professional land surveyors can help with oil and gas projects, download our free ebook about modern land surveying technologies.

Top North American Large Infrastructure Projects to Watch

Land SurveyingAs the world’s population rises, so too does the need for additional infrastructure. This has led to a greater number of large infrastructure projects, which in turn has led to a greater need for land surveying and engineering services. These projects range from roads and highways to oil and gas pipelines and other energy related structures. When completed, many of these projects will have a huge impact not just on the local communities but in some cases all of North America and even the world.

While there are a number of impressive infrastructure projects, these are some of the most current and exciting projects that are either underway or close to being started:

  • The $6.2 billion Dulles Transit Extension in Washington, D.C. started in 2008 is the largest Metro system expansion in the city’s history. Mostly above-ground public transportation, it will provide access from Downtown D.C. to Dulles Airport and North Virginia suburbs. One intent is to reduce traffic congestion on the Beltway.
  • The $746 million Lone Star Transmission Competitive Renewable Energy Zone 345-KV Electric Transmission Line is Texas’ largest single transmission project. It consists of 320 miles of new lines. Six hundred seventy-one parcels are crossed by the new lines. Three 345kV substations and two compensation stations are part of the construction. Ten million dollars in property tax revenue will be generated in the first operation year.
  • The estimated $2.5 billion Crescent Corridor Expansion is an aggressive series of freight rail projects running from New Orleans to New Jersey through thirteen states. Intermodal terminals and approximately 300 miles of track is planned. Freight companies desire cost savings while achieving the removal of interstate congestion and pollution. The upgrade depends on public funding, and is tentatively scheduled for completion by 2030.
  • The $3.1 billion Alaskan Way Viaduct project is intended to strengthen Seattle’s iconic double-decker, elevated highway that runs through downtown, adjacent to the Puget Sound. A 2001 earthquake damaged an already weakened structure. Replacing the viaduct is more cost-effective than repairing it. Initial debate about replacing the elevated roadway with a tunnel delayed the project. The tunnel will create more open space along the waterfront and the south portion of roadway will be rebuilt. Both structures are designed to withstand a 9.0 earthquake. The 2015 completion date may be delayed however, due to the immense tunnel boring machine breaking down and sitting inactive for months.
  • Although no longer a US territory, the 99-year old Panama Canal is currently undergoing a $5.25 billion expansion. Three 1,400-foot long by 180-foot wide by 60-foot deep locks will be added to each end and the Atlantic end will be dredged. Strict environmental and reforestation phases are part of the project. The upgrade that will accommodate larger container vessels is hailed by the largest global shipping companies. Begun in 2007, the Canal Expansion Program has become a major trainer and employer of land surveyors, engineers, inspectors, and others.
  • The $5.3-billion Alberta, Canada to Nebraska Keystone XL oil pipeline has been a political issue for many years. The project that potentially provides the US decades of fuel, extends the existing Keystone pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil and diluted bitumen to Nebraska and Illinois to continue to other Midwest and Texas Gulf refineries and saltwater ports. The Contractor says the pipeline is the safest ever built. Environmentalists and alternative energy advocates are not convinced and there have been spill prevention, leakage, and potable water concerns among communities along the route.

For more information about land surveying for large infrastructure projects, please feel free to contact us. Landpoint has extensive experience with various infrastructure projects, especially when it comes to oil and gas.

Image by : Khunaspix

Construction Project Planning Tips for Managing Multiple Survey Teams

Land SurveyorsA survey assignment’s complexity depends on the type of surveys needed, the time required to complete the field work, and the office time it takes to process the data and generate maps and plans. It’s not uncommon on large projects to utilize several different land surveying teams.

When the job calls for more than one survey team, the land surveyor’s primary intent is to efficiently collect all necessary data. The challenge, however, is to effectively plan, coordinate, and manage these teams in such a way to avoid mis communications and task redundancy, overlap, and need to re-survey. This post provides a number of construction project planning tips in order to help managers seamlessly oversee these multiple teams.

Managing Multiple Land Survey Teams

Land surveying firms offer a variety of services. For any major project there is a need for:

  • Pre-construction planning
  • Amendments and changes
  • Construction
  • Post-construction

Within any project phase there are needs to simultaneously provide layout, staking and control services:

  • Permits– Accesses, drainage and pipeline crossings, river and stream diversions, relocations.
  • Environment Concerns– Pre-construction and construction delineation and mitigation.
  • Site Design / Earthwork – Boundary lines and plats, well pads, staging, building, production.
  • Layout And Control – Grade, pipe and pipeline bridges, structure and equipment foundations
  • Geotech Data – Borrow sites, volume calculations, bearing capacity, slope stability
  • Post Construction – As-builts, claims.

Criteria for Survey Team Management

Utilization of the latest land surveying technologies and current software is important to efficiency. Land surveyor teams with better tools are more flexible, mobile, and scalable. The land surveying manager then is not as concerned with equipment reliability, availability, and accuracy, and can focus on deploying teams that can fully execute their assignment in a timely manner.

There are three basic things that can be done in order to effectively coordinate multiple survey teams and help ensure survey assignments are completed on time and within budget:

1. Utilize Land Surveyors Experienced In Working Together And/or Familiar With The Particular Region.

When teams have experience working together, there is usually better communication. This communication is especially helpful if at least one of the teams has experience working in the region that is being surveyed, as they can provide better insight into how to go about the survey.

Land surveying teams are comprised of a party chief/lead, and technicians knowledgeable in the specialty (utility, right of way, seismic, geotechnical, and environmental, boundaries) that the particular assignment requires. Familiarity with the region, landmarks, markers, and unique obstacles such as streams, rivers, rugged terrain and total open space help reduce the potential for unpreparedness and unnecessary complications. These issues can include un-calibrated equipment, poor field organization, slow decision making and problem solving delays. It is also not uncommon to find a survey team lost enroute to a remote jobsite. When at least one team is experienced working in a particular region, they are able to communicate and wok through the challenges.

2. Establish Criteria for Plats at the Start of a Project

Preliminary plats are used as a starting point for most projects. They are considered comprehensive tools and may be changed during the course of the project. They should contain significant information to lay out the proposed project. Plat maps should show:

  • As-built geological data and legal descriptions
  • Identified boundaries, floodplains, drainage courses, road accesses, easement, right of way
  • Past and proposed site development
  • Underground as well as above-ground structures
  • Ownership, occupancy, legal rights, third-party rights, claims, and liens

However, different surveying teams may use different criteria for each of the plats that they create. This can create confusion and miscommunication when information needs to be compared between plats from two different teams. If you are bringing in multiple survey teams, make sure to establish the criteria for the plats early on to prevent this confusion.

3. Utilize a Project Management System

A project management system is invaluable to construction project planning. A project management system allows different survey teams to easily share information on a single platform and collaborate effectively with the client. This improves communication between teams and creates a single depository of information for them to put upload data to. This greatly increases the speed from which the multiple teams work and makes it less likely to have discrepancies between data collected between the two different teams.

For more information on construction project planning for oil and gas companies, download our free eBook on the latest land surveying technologies and how they benefit oil and gas projects.

Image By : Georgia National Guard