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Providing a Clear Vision for Oil and Gas

Much of America’s vast supply of oil and gas lies beneath private property. Developing these resources requires interaction with landowners whose property is affected by roads, pipelines and equipment. An Oklahoma consulting firm is using augmented reality to streamline this essential part of oil and gas development and operations.

In developing natural resources such as oil and gas, production contractors often need access over land they don’t own. Access such as construction roads or production pads may be temporary, while other facilities—buried pipelines and pump stations for example—may be in place for years. As a result, producers need to acquire the rights to access the land to install, operate and maintain equipment. This effort is an important front-end activity for the producers. And like construction and other applications, efficiency in front-end processes provides important time and cost savings while helping to avoid unpleasant surprises later in the project.

To acquire the needed rights and permits, agents or contractors known as “landmen” work with landowners to negotiate the location and terms of an easement or right-of-way. Reaching agreement often requires visits to the sites of proposed activities. But even with detailed maps and descriptions, many landowners may struggle to visualize how their property will be affected. In order to efficiently reach a fair agreement, the landmen and landowners need information that is accurate and can be easily understood by technicians and laypeople alike.


In Oklahoma, the engineering and surveying consulting firm Smith Roberts Baldischwiler (SRB) has implemented a new approach to working with landowners affected by energy development. Instead of 2D paper drawings, SRB uses Trimble SiteVision to provide accurate, on-site visualizations of proposed easements or structures.

Running on an Android-based smartphone, SiteVision uses Trimble Catalyst technology and precise GNSS to determine its position accurate to 1 to 2 centimeters. SiteVision then overlays a 3D model of proposed improvements onto a realtime image of the site. The handheld system is simple to use and provides an accurate visual depiction for the landman and landowner.

Taylor Denniston, SRB Director of Survey and Mapping, explained the process. “The landman visits the landowner and has a paper copy of an easement or right-of-way location, which includes a small drawing that shows their property and proposed easement. But it’s hard for them to conceptualize how it is really going to impact their land. If you walk with the owner out to the location and they can see the lines on the SiteVision display being projected onto their ground, then they can really see how it’s going to impact their property.”

If the owner requests changes, they can be noted and the alignments revised for the final agreements. “The ability to see things in real time is very important,“ Denniston explained. “For example, some planned construction might take out trees that the owner wants to protect. Together the owner and landman can agree on how to adjust the alignment to avoid the trees or other assets.”

SRB is investigating SiteVision as a planning tool for other oilfield work such as pump stations and well heads.

3D visualization of oil and gas tanks

Designers can take the digital 3D models to the field for design checks and verification. “We can drop the model onto the site and see what it will look like,” said Denniston. “It gives us an idea of how tall a structure will be, how it looks from nearby roads as well as other impacts.” The visualization helps SRB teams identify and resolve potential problems early in a project, thereby avoiding costly changes and delays that might occur after construction begins.

“The ability to visualize the alignments and rights-of-way on the ground is almost priceless. It streamlines the process and you can speed through a project very quickly.”