Gathering the data to ensure natural gas pipeline compliance, Trimble Access Pipelines software simplifies and streamlines tasks that verify the accurate position of each section of pipe, and more.
Working in northern Michigan’s remote, hilly terrain without a reliable cellular network, numerous challenges were addressed to deliver construction survey data with the accuracy and details required for the utility's $109-million Traverse City-Alpena Reinforcement Project. This second natural gas pipeline was constructed to increase the reliability of the natural gas supply system serving more than 51,000 customers in northwest Michigan.
During the installation of a new natural gas pipeline in northern Michigan, surveying and engineering firm Wade Trim faced numerous surveying challenges to deliver the details required. These large datasets required daily processing and network adjustments to create a precise GIS containing as-built pipeline data and orthometric aerial imagery of the pipeline corridor.
Natural gas pipelines are subject to strict regulations intended to maintain public safety, requiring a record of survey information for numerous features of every pipe segment and centimeter-level location accuracy.
Ensuring compliance requires a high volume of survey data to support the integrity of the natural gas pipeline system. In contrast, pipelines for water or sewer require only a minimal amount of data to be collected, such as top-of-pipe elevation, to provide depth of cover and approximate geographic location.
Integrating Trimble® Access™ Pipelines software into the process optimized the collection and combination of all survey data into the master project database to deliver the utility company’s required metadata of the pipeline system. Electronic access to the entire survey dataset using one application helped streamline tasks, monitor construction progress, verify the accurate position of each pipe segment, and validate completion of required work.
Throughout the project, surveyors and construction team members had access to the database to answer questions and solve problems quickly. In the future, these comprehensive records will support maintenance efforts and extend the life of this major infrastructure investment.
The $109-million Traverse City-Alpena Reinforcement Project (TCARP) added a second natural gas pipeline, increasing the reliability of the natural gas supply system that serves more than 51,000 customers in northwest Michigan.
Wade Trim provided extensive survey construction staking and as-built measurements for 23 miles of natural gas pipeline and modifications for seven stations to comply with rigorous federal regulatory agency and utility company requirements.
This second natural gas pipeline was constructed to increase the reliability of the natural gas supply system serving more than 51,000 customers in northwest Michigan.
Since natural gas pipeline accidents and failures can be catastrophic, protecting the public and environment is paramount. Efforts to mitigate the risk of pipeline material or weld failures, as well as corrosion, have increased regulations, requiring more survey-related tasks during pipeline construction.
Survey as-built asset measurements reduce these risks by linking the recorded data to the associated location of underground pipeline assets, critical failure points, and construction information, usually within a few centimeters.
“TCARP was a high-profile project, and we wanted to be absolutely sure that everything went smoothly,” said Nick Grim, vice president and survey area lead, Wade Trim. “Wade Trim has been using Trimble products since 2014, including Access Pipelines. This project gave us an opportunity to learn more about the comprehensive capabilities of the software and fully leverage the large amounts of data collected.”
Working in northern Michigan’s remote, hilly terrain without a reliable cellular network, numerous challenges were addressed to deliver construction survey data with the accuracy and details required for the Traverse City-Alpena Reinforcement Project.
Every Detail is Important
Wade Trim performed pre-construction surveying, construction staking and as-built measurements of the TCARP natural gas pipeline. Construction staking included right-of-way, pipeline alignment and stationing, wetland limits, access roads, erosion control measures, existing pipeline infrastructure, and other utilities near the pipeline corridor.
Due to remote, hilly terrain and poor cellular service, survey signals from the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) were not reliable to accurately calculate positions. Instead, 30 pairs of control points along the pipeline route were established for GNSS base station locations and checkpoints.
Coordinates and elevations were derived by completing multiple rapid static GNSS baseline sessions using Trimble R12 GNSS receivers. Utilizing Trimble Business Center software, the baseline measurements were verified and passed the Chi squared test at 95% confidence level.
A precise GIS geodatabase of as-built pipeline data and orthometric aerial imagery of the pipeline corridor was created. Large datasets received daily data processing and network adjustments to achieve the centimeter-level accuracy and details required.
“Seiler, our local Trimble distributor, was a great resource for our people on the job,” said Grim. “They answered questions about technical issues and helped problem solve to keep the project moving forward.”
Thousands of data points were collected along the pipeline to create an inventory database for all sections of pipe installed. Manufacturer data collected during preconstruction pipe tally included each pipe segment’s unique pipe number, heat number, length, thickness, coatings, and bend radius. During construction, this data was linked to as-built measurements of weld locations, depth of cover, X-ray inspection data, and cathodic and erosion control measures.
Utilizing Trimble Access Pipelines software, pipeline attribute data was categorized and delineated throughout the construction phase for use by the utility company, contractors, pipeline inspectors, land agents, and others. This combined survey data set supports adherence to mandatory regulatory requirements set by the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is critical for long-term integrity of the pipeline. For example, if a section of pipe is later determined deficient, the defective section can easily be geolocated for immediate repair using the locational data collected.
After a road subbase failed during pipeline boring under US Route 31 through a heavily traveled urban district in Traverse City, daily survey measurements of the busy roadway were taken for settlement monitoring to verify ground subsidence. For the safety of Wade Trim’s surveyors and to minimally impede motorists, data was collected using the Trimble SX10 combined terrestrial lidar and robotic total station from the shoulder of the road.
This approach supported surveyor safety and stability of the roadway, avoided temporary lane closures, and maintained normal traffic flow for tourists traveling to summer destinations.
All survey data was uploaded daily from each survey crew using Trimble Sync Manager to transfer it to the office, via the cloud, for processing, QA/QC, and reports. Office technicians were notified of new data uploads and would confirm all data was processed and results were within the project’s accuracy tolerances.
By collecting and validating the pipeline inventory in the field from the pre-construction pipeline tally to as-built measurements during construction, many operational tasks were completed more efficiently.
Integrating Trimble Access Pipelines software into the process optimized how all survey data was collected and combined into the master project database. Electronic access to the entire dataset using one application simplified and streamlined tasks to address issues in the field, monitor construction progress, and verify the accurate position and data collected for each section of pipe.
Time Savings and Future Value
Use of Trimble software, including Trimble Access Pipelines, Trimble Business Center, and Trimble Sync Manager, yielded a 10% savings in construction survey costs. The process of bringing all data sets from multiple sources together into a single place was accomplished with less staff and time than initially anticipated. Field staff had access to the complete data set, making it easy to identify any missing pipeline information.
In addition, the turnaround time on deliverables was greatly reduced. Data for final pipe footage, tally reports, drain tiles, and alignment sheets could be provided to all project stakeholders, before the contractor left the pipeline corridor.
Maintaining pipeline integrity for the lifespan of the system was supported with depth of cover checks to verify regulatory compliance. Extents of potential slope failures were identified for design, and locations of engineered control measures were survey staked to facilitate pipe installation.
Maintaining pipeline integrity for the lifespan of the system was supported by accurately identifying the extents of potential slope failures throughout the project for the design team, and subsequently survey staking these critical locations of engineered control measures to facilitate pipe installation. In addition, the corridor restoration phase was streamlined by utilizing a meticulous pre-construction survey that collected site-specific documentation and geolocated photos of all existing site features within the pipeline right-of-way.
Care was taken to protect watersheds along the pipeline route. Wetlands and a horizontal directional drill (HDD) crossing 30 feet below the Boardman River were delineated to clearly identify those areas for the contractor. In addition, a pre-construction survey with site-specific information and geolocated photos of all existing site features within the pipeline right-of-way helped streamline corridor restoration.
“After completing this project, we feel more confident about unlocking the full utility of Trimble Access. We are more efficient and can validate the data with a few clicks of a button,” Grim said. “We were able to produce a much broader deliverable than the utility company first envisioned, and the centralized database provides a path to sustainability by allowing everyone to identify locations and proactively solve problems at a moment’s notice, thus extending the life of this major infrastructure investment.”
This project demonstrated the value of the Trimble software to the surveying profession to quickly address issues before and during construction. Going forward, the dataset created for this buried asset will be critical to the utility company’s future maintenance and locating needs.
- 10% savings in construction survey costs from use of Trimble software solutions, including Trimble Access Pipelines, Trimble Business Center, and Trimble Sync Manager.
- Extensive data needed for the construction of 23 miles of natural gas pipeline and modifications for seven stations.
- Due to remote, hilly terrain and poor cellular service, 30 pairs of control points along the pipeline route were established for GNSS base station locations and checkpoints.
- Trimble Access Pipelines software
- Trimble Business Center software
- Trimble Sync Manager software
- Trimble R12 GNSS receiver
- Trimble SX10 scanning total station