SolSpec Awarded Grant to Develop Inspection Tool for North Dakota Oil and Gas

SolSpec Awarded Grant to Develop Inspection Tool for North Dakota Oil and Gas

The project accepted by the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) is titled Development of Operational Aerial Analytics for Remotely Measuring Reclamation Success, and seeks, over a 16-month period, to develop, validate, and automate aerial imaging and analysis methodologies for assessing oil and gas well site reclamation progress within North Dakota, specifically in the Bakken oil fields. We are grateful for the collaboration of Whiting Petroleum Corporation on this project, as this research is only possible thanks to their support and access granted to their well pads in North Dakota.

Why is North Dakota investing improvements for well pad reclamation inspections?

North Dakota leadership strives to position the State as an incubator for oil and gas technologies that protect public and environmental health and also ensure industry vitality. Since taking office in 2016, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has promoted the development of a safe and sustainable oil and gas economy. Governor Burgum advocates that this development be achieved through technological innovation instead of establishing further regulation. In line with his stated agenda, Governor Burgum signed a bill in 2019 appropriating funds to establish a beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) program for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the state, with a focus on the Bakken oil fields as the program’s first proving grounds. A BVLOS program is crucial to increase the efficiency of inspections, especially in areas where the sites (in this case, well pads) are remote and often hard to access. With a BVLOS program, inspectors using UAS can fly to and gather imagery from sites remotely, without the need to physically be present.

What are the current reclamation challenges for oil and gas operators in North Dakota?

The short answer? Lots of well sites to inspect, most in remote locations, with few people to do time-consuming in-person inspections.

North Dakota is currently home to 15,571 active wells whose sites must be reclaimed according to federal and state requirements. State law requires that any land disturbed by oil and gas activity “shall be reclaimed as close as practicable to its original condition as it existed before the construction of the well site or other disturbance.” The NDIC endeavors to annually inspect each plugged well site until reclamation standards are met. Depending on site conditions, the full reclamation process of a single site can take anywhere from three to ten years.

As of September 2019, the State counted approximately 1,500 wells in some stage of reclamation, with NDIC’s 32 field inspectors splitting annual field inspection visits to each. Inspections typically take place during a 90-day window in the late summer and early fall, and when the weather supports a site visit during that period an inspector typically spends an hour
examining the area by foot. Depending on the varying backlog of sites needing inspection, a single inspector is responsible for covering approximately 50 sites per year, many of which are dispersed across a large, discontinuous area – the Bakken oil field and its wells stretch across nearly 30,000 square miles of North Dakota:

North Dakota contains thousands of well sites in need of inspection and reclamation (map source).

Reclamation inspections are resource-intensive for the NDIC and are further complicated by the subjectivity inherent to human inspections. Boots-on-the-ground monitoring means that a site’s reclamation progress—and whether or not a site is deemed sufficiently reclaimed for clearance—is determined by visually assessing and summarizing if the site has been restored as closely as practicable to original conditions. Though field protocols and inspection forms help to control for subjectivity and variation among many different field inspectors’ assessment techniques, it is still extremely difficult to standardize human interpretations of a landscape.

How can UAS help meet the challenges faced in North Dakota?

Innovation in the industry is focused on increased efficiency, and remote sensing technologies such as UAS promote increased efficiency and improved safety. Aerial data collection and analytics can offer insights that empower the oil and gas industry and its regulatory agencies to both save money and support environmental sustainability. The widespread adoption of UAS in the oil and gas sector, however, requires two essential actions:

  1. validation of the methodology as a means of reducing costs and fulfilling compliance requirements, and
  2. automation of data processing and analytics that derive meaningful information from aerial data.

Implementing these actions will bolster the adoption and operationalization of UAS for North Dakota’s oil and gas industry and agencies. The North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) highlights the state’s well site reclamation program as a candidate for improving efficiencies through the adoption of remote sensing technology.

What are SolSpec’s goals with the NDIC grant?

The project proposed by SolSpec and accepted by the NDIC seeks to develop, validate, and automate aerial imaging and analysis methodologies for assessing oil and gas well site reclamation progress within the state. Motivated by a desire to support North Dakota’s oil and gas industry in achieving safety and stewardship goals through innovation, SolSpec’s team seeks to empower operators and agencies with the best available technology and information needed to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and ensure the safety and sustainability of oil and gas operations in North Dakota.

oil pump north dakota

Drone imagery and remote sensing technology will play a huge role in the organization and resource effectiveness for well site restoration in North Dakota.

Additionally, the aim for this project is also to maximize returns on investment for the State of North Dakota by addressing NDIC research priorities, including:

Data Management:
    • Consideration of which data storage architecture is optimum for data management needs.
    • Development of a trusted third-party data organization system accessible by industry and regulators.
Decision Tools
    • Consideration of how image processing can produce decision support tools from gross data.
    • Consideration of what data are visualized and provided to leaders for decision making.
    • Development of imagery analysis tools that enable cost estimates for completing site reclamation.
Cost-Effectiveness Analysis
    • Analysis of the cost-effectiveness of using remote sensing technologies for well site reclamation assessment compared to current procedures employed by industry and agencies.
Wildfire and Water: Grant Awarded to Examine Sedimentation Impacts in Poudre River Watershed

Wildfire and Water: Grant Awarded to Examine Sedimentation Impacts in Poudre River Watershed

poudre watershed location

The Poudre River Watershed is a source for drinking water, recreation, and ecosystem functionality in the Fort Collins, CO area. Source: Coalition for the Poudre Watershed

What is the Poudre River Watershed and why is it important?

The Cache la Poudre River (pronounced “pooh-der” in American English) literally means “hide the powder” in French – the name comes from an instance in which stockpiles of gunpowder were preserved by trappers via burial along the riverside. The river is in northern Colorado and is popular for fishing, as well as hiking and other outdoor activities. To learn more, check out a full exploration of the watershed and detailed overview of how snowmelt impacts the river flow.

The Cache la Poudre River Watershed drains approximately 1,056 square miles above the canyon mouth west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The watershed supports the Front Range cities of Fort Collins, Greeley, Timnath, and Windsor. In an average year, the watershed produces approximately 274,000 acre feet of water. More than 80 percent of the production occurs during the peak snowmelt months of April through July. Fires are huge erosion factors, and they create large amount of sediment that can then get into rivers and impact the quality of drinking water. The region has recently experienced significant wildfires and more are expected, and the Poudre River has already experienced flows of sediment. Fires have already deposited boulders and sediment into the river, but this has been worsened by severe, heavy rains.

a look at the poudre river watershed

How do wildfires negatively impact ecosystems and successful land management?

Large, severe wildfires can have far-reaching adverse effects on ecosystem function, human health, and economic well-being. Wildfires remove vegetation from the landscape and alter surface hydrology, which increase the risk of flash floods and erosion. Following wildfires, increased runoff can transport large amounts of soil, ash, and debris downstream, potentially contaminating water supplies and threatening water infrastructure and the communities dependent thereon.

Fires are huge erosion factors, and they create large amount of sediment that can then get into rivers and impact the quality of drinking water. Norther Colorado has recently experienced significant wildfires and more are expected, and the Poudre River has already experienced flows of sediment. Fires have already deposited boulders and sediment into the river, but this has been worsened by severe, heavy rains.

An award from the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed and American Forests Foundation

Reducing wildfire fuels through forest thinning treatments is a common method for reducing the risk and consequences of wildfire. When treated areas do burn, they tend to do so at lower intensities, which results in lower burn severity is lower and fewer undesirable effects. While these ecosystem dynamics are understood, there is still uncertainty about the actual extent of public benefits gained from wildfire mitigation treatments. For instance, if a thinned area experiences a wildfire, how much was burn severity reduced by the treatment, thereby minimizing the sedimentation of waterways that impacts water quality?

The project proposed by SolSpec strives to address the information gap by measuring and modeling the sediment reduction benefits generated by hazardous fuel forest treatments in the Cache la Poudre watershed. The anticipated deliverables will enable stakeholders to better quantify and communicate returns on investment from forest treatment activities and allocate resources for optimized mitigation benefits to the public.

Who are our partners?

The Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed has a mission to improve and maintain the ecological health of the Poudre River Watershed through community collaboration. They work to achieve this mission by focusing on:

  1. watershed resilience;
  2. river restoration;
  3. forests and fires; and
  4. post-fire restoration.

The American Forests Foundation works on-the-ground with family forest owners, partners, and elected officials to promote stewardship and protect our nation’s forest heritage.

Specific goals for the project

In this grant SolSpec aims to answer two specific questions:

  1. H​ow much sediment are Elkhorn and Lone Pine Creek watersheds contributing downstream under current conditions without a wildfire, and what would the percent change in sediment production under current conditions be after a catastrophic wildfire?
  2. Which areas of the watershed are the highest priority for forest restoration treatments in order to gain the largest benefit in potential sediment production within the Lone Pine and Elkhorn Creek drainages?

This work meets the SolSpec vision to transform data into solutions for a safer and more sustainable planet.

SolSpec Awarded USDA Grant to Improve TWI Measure for Soil and Vegetation Delineation

SolSpec Awarded USDA Grant to Improve TWI Measure for Soil and Vegetation Delineation

Award from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

SolSpec is pleased to announce our pending grant with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Our work with them will focus on creating a new and more comprehensive method for quantifying hydrological processes and soil moisture gradients to be used as a tool in delineating ecosystems, vegetation communities, and soil properties.

topographic wetness index

A glimpse of the topographic wetness index (TWI). Blue indicates wet and brown indicates dry.

Who is USDA Natural Resources Conservation?

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service focuses on improving natural resources and land management. They do this through improving resource conditions, such as soil quality, water quality, water quantity, air quality, habitat quality, and/or energy efficiency. They work with farmers and ranchers to develop conservation plans and implement practices, including water development and vegetation improvements for livestock, improved irrigation systems, and forest management practices that address natural resource concerns on their land. They also promote land management research and data through partnering with federal and state agencies, universities, and professional services to deliver land management information.

What is TWI and how is it used in current land management practices?

 Digital terrain indices to predict soil wetness  generalize topographic variables that drive hydrological processes and are commonly used to help identify hydrological flow paths for geochemical modeling, as well as to characterize biological processes such as annual net primary production, vegetation patterns, and forest site quality” (source). TWI is an excepted analytic for local soil property (biogeochemistry) and ecosystem modeling (vegetation communities and wet land delineations), but limited when implemented over large landscapes. The index is generally extracted from a Digital Elevation Model (DEM), using the specific catchment area (D-infinity specific catchment area) and local hydraulic gradient under steady state conditions represented by local slope angle of the specific grid.

Why is the current TWI model deficient for accurate delineation of soil types?

TWI captures runoff flowing by gravity but fails to consider other factors. For example, locations with similar catchment area and slope can have significantly different soil moisture conditions due to varying characteristics in aspect, terrain, position, temperature, heat, and the soil physical and chemical properties induced by the solar radiation variance. The TWI model is used to simulate soil moisture gradients and/or conditions in a watershed; however, it is limited to steady state conditions. Ecosystems do not exist in a steady state. It does not consider factors, such as different soil moisture conditions due to varying characteristics in aspect, terrain, position, temperature, heat and soil physical and chemical properties induced by the solar radiation variance.To better capture this variability, SolSpec is working to develop an enhanced model.

topographic wetness index

Comparing the traditional topographic wetness index with the SolSpec enhanced topographic wetness index. You can visually see the impact that aspect and terrain plays on the moisture content in the enhanced index.

What is the benefit of SolSpec’s Triangulated Ecological Site Potential Model?

The model is highly dynamic and adaptable, capturing variability at multiple scales while adjusting input weight down network based on individual climatic or topographic driver importance. The weights of these drivers and how they impact the local or network soil moisture gradients can be adjusted based on local knowledge or new data. The resulting surface should prove useful for mapping soil (type, drainage, chemical, and physical properties), soil trafficability, and species- or community-based vegetation distributions. Ultimately, the model will help guide land management and operational decision making. It will aid in the grouping or discretizing landscapes for modeling purposes in CEAP-Grazing Lands, and for establishing ecological site and site group concepts for advancement of ecological site development efforts.

Models and tools of this type have the ability to aid in many unforeseen ways until a specialist determines a need and a use.  For instance the TESP model could prove very useful in fire potential and severity prediction. By examining existing vegetation or forest stand composition and density against the TESP model output, dry hillslopes with high fuel loads could be isolated and prioritized for vegetation treatments, reducing the threat to public health and safety in the wildland urban interface .   

So What?

Land management practices are undergoing a transformation through improved data collection and quality, particularly with drones, and increased processing power and analytics. SolSpec aims to enhance the current data offerings that inform land management plans so that decision makers can make better and more efficient decisions on managing the flora and fauna for which they are responsible.

SolSpec 2019 in Review

SolSpec 2019 in Review


February 20

Engineering Team Moves Downtown to Novel

Engineering Team Moves Downtown to Novel

We started outgrowing the garage in Golden! The engineering team is the first group to move to the temporary offices at Novel Coworking downtown Denver, and the others will follow later in the year. 

March 20

Rest of SolSpec Team Moves Downtown

Rest of SolSpec Team Moves Downtown

The engineering team got settled in just in time for the rest of the SolSpec team to join them at the Novel offices downtown Denver! 

May 8

SolSpec Proud to Support Ropin’ Rascals

SolSpec Proud to Support Ropin’ Rascals

The team at SolSpec was proud to partner with the Huwa Enterprises companies and others to support the 2019 Ropin’ Rascals event! Ropin’ Rascals is an annual one-day sponsored children’s charity event that takes place at the Huwa family cattle ranch in Northeast Colorado. Special needs children get to become cowboys and cowgirls for a day and develop skills and memories to last a lifetime.


Learn more about Ropin’ Rascals, including information on how to volunteer or join the event.

May 19

Toby Kraft Speaks at Summit for Reclamation and Construction

Toby Kraft Speaks at Summit for Reclamation and Construction

Toby Kraft spoke about “Playing Offense and Being Industry Advocates” with Duraroot’s Aaron DeJoia at the Summit for Reclamation and Construction. The annual Summit, hosted by Huwa Enterprises in Keenesburg, Colorado, is a unique conference where professionals come together to learn, share, and network with industry experts dedicated to protecting the environment.

Attend, sponsor, or exhibit at the 2020 Summit:

June 25

Bryan Crowe on Pipeliners Podcast

Bryan Crowe on Pipeliners Podcast

Bryan Crowe discussed pipeline and right-of-way integrity with EnerSys Corporation CEO Russel Treat on Pipeliners Podcast. Pipeliners Podcast invites pipeline industry leaders to share insight and expertise, and gives listeners the chance to learn about the latest information in the field and hear great conversations. 


“Ground Movement and Pipeline Integrity with Bryan Crowe” was episode 81 for the podcast, and in their discussion Bryan and Russel went in-depth on soil movement, surface hydrology, and the impact of environmental hazards on safe and successful pipeline operations. Listen to the podcast episode to hear the full conversation!


July 15

West Moberly First Nations and SolSpec Canada Announce Joint Venture

West Moberly First Nations and SolSpec Canada Announce Joint Venture

Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations and Ryan Pelzel of SolSpec Canada (SOC) announced the establishment of the West Moberly SOC Joint Venture.


The West Moberly SOC Joint Venture was founded to pursue pipeline integrity business opportunities. WMFN and SOC share a fundamental dedication to respect, honesty, fairness, and integrity. Open communication is key to these values and our joint success, and just as West Moberly First Nations promotes openness and clarity in the community, SolSpec strives to increase transparency and improve the safety and efficiency of pipeline projects. Together we manifest our values and create real-world impacts for our respected clients and communities.

July 29

SolSpec Moves to Lakewood

SolSpec Moves to Lakewood

Our time at Novel had its ups and downs. Beautiful spaces, an ideal kitchen/coffee/keg situation, and a location that couldn’t be beat for downtown. But after more than a few rounds with debris falling from the ceiling and noxious fumes, and elevators that were either non-functional or that took 10 minutes to get to the bottom floor, prompting walks up nine flights of stairs, it’s fair to say we were ready to move.

A big part of the SolSpec team made the move to Lakewood a success. We were once again in a temporary space, but just down the hall from our future home. Rachel Toupin and Youssef Benchouaf went above and beyond to make the new offices a cozy and productive space.


September 3

InterDrone: Expo Hall in Las Vegas

InterDrone: Expo Hall in Las Vegas

The team had a great presence at InterDrone! Angie Woodmansee and Robert Blank had three days of conversations with people at the SolSpec booth in the expo hall. 


Also Angie was caught alone at the booth by a guy with his own media network asking for the one-minute pitch for SolSpec (Tugba was fixing some technical issues with the ipads that we were too busy to fix, she’s in the background). She’s only sharing this video in the spirit of showing everything we’ve done, and otherwise would make sure it never got more than the 43 views it’s had on YouTube:

September 4

InterDrone: Advancing Pipeline Safety

Toby Kraft and Todd Knapp from Hanging H presented as part of the Energy Inspection Enterprise track, with a talk titled “Advancing Pipeline Safety with Aerial Analytics and UAVs.” The response was extremely positive – people flooded the SolSpec booth after the talk and were motivated to learn more about what we do and what our excellent teams have produced.


See Toby’s InterDrone profile, and learn more about Toby and Todd’s presentation.

September 25

Bryan Crowe Interview Featured in Our Great Minds

bryan crowe our coo

Bryan Crowe’s interview with Our Great Minds was published under the Business/Industry Disrupters section. Here’s a snippet from the introduction: “Bryan is a great example of a young leader from the oil and gas industry that saw the advantages of digital transformation and IT modernization early on. He embraced it head on, and is now helping others like him embrace change, upskill teams and break down barriers to adopting technologies like UAVs, big data and AI to automate workflows for safer and much more efficient pipeline operations. Bryan is of the firm belief that digital transformation and modern technologies such as aerial analytics are enabling oil and gas companies to fully capitalize on the resources we have, be better stewards, and provide clean and dependable energy for the foreseeable future.”


Read the full interview!

October 23

Shale Insights in Pittsburgh

Bryan Crowe spoke at the Technology Showcase at Shale Insights, held in Pittsburgh. With only 5 minutes to cover the material, Bryan presented a detailed but succinct overview of SolSpec’s Right-of-Way Integrity Management (RIM) program.


Kat Kraft and Angie Woodmansee had great conversations with people at the SolSpec booth over the course of two days, and made valuable connections with both attendees and other exhibitors. The event was a great success – both the presentation and the booth presence resulted in new business for SolSpec!


Learn more about the Technology Showcase at Shale Insights:

Random thoughts about Pittsburgh: A much lovelier city than anticipated, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. One odd thing: while shopping for a few items for the booth (Halloween candy draws people in), Kat and Angie had a first encounter with a shopping cart escalator:

October 29

UAV Expo: SolSpec Booth in the Expo Hall

commercial uav attendees

Angie Woodmansee, Katrina Engelsted, Robert Blank, and Youssef Benchouaf had great conversations at the booth from the opening happy hour, which was supposed to be low-key (and we ended up with a very packed booth area and lots of interactions), through the end of the event!
commercial uav solspec attendance
commercial uav solspec attendance

October 29

UAV Expo: Energy Vertical Presentation

UAV Expo: Energy Vertical Presentation

Toby Kraft and Todd Knapp from Hanging H spoke on the Energy Vertical session at Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas. 


Learn more about the session and Commercial UAV Expo.

October 30

UAV Expo: SolSpec Product Preview Presentation

Youssef Benchouaf presented for SolSpec as part of the Product Preview Presentation at Commercial UAV Expo.



Learn more about the Product Preview Presentation and Commercial UAV Expo.

October 30

UAV Expo: SolSpec Wins Big at Pitch the Press

UAV Expo: SolSpec Wins Big at Pitch the Press

Robert Blank presented for SolSpec at the Commercial UAV Expo’s Pitch the Press. SolSpec’s team applied to participate, and we were selected as one of 15 out of over 40 applicants to make it to the final session. The 15 participants had the opportunity to give a 2-minute presentation, and based on Robert’s presentation we were selected as one of the top three winners that stood out from the crowd!


Here are some highlights from the Commercial UAV Expo Press Release: “Three companies were selected today as the winners of Pitch the Press at Commercial UAV Americas 2019: A2Z, Agrowing, and SolSpec. Their latest products, which were pitched to a panel of high-profile press representatives at the show, were deemed the most innovative and promising technology amongst a competitive group of 15 presenters…The panel selected [SolSpec] for its ability to take data and generate a useable, actionable report. Many solutions out there are gathering the data but provide little to no support with analyzing that data to provide actionable solutions. This solution was unique in that it packages that data into actionable items so that users can focus on what needs to get done. By not simply giving users a “data dump” they’ll be able to take a proactive approach that enables stakeholders to address issues before they become problems.”


Read the full press release to learn more.

November 1

SolSpec Awarded OGRC Grant to Develop Remote Reclamation Assessment Tool

oil pump north dakota

Thanks to Kat Kraft, John Norman, and Nathan Casler’s hard work, SolSpec has been awarded an OGRC Grant from North Dakota Industrial Commission. The proposed project, titled Development of Operational Aerial Analytics for Remotely Measuring Reclamation Success in North Dakota, will be carried out over a period of 16 months in collaboration with Whiting Petroleum Corporation. The primary goal of this project is to develop and validate a suite of automated analytics that bring remote reclamation assessment technology to operational capacity for industry, agencies, and the interested public of North Dakota. Along with Whiting, we will also collaborate on this project with our sister company Duraroot.


Read more about the grant on our blog!


November 11

Toby Kraft Presents at PLIMC

Toby Kraft spoke about risk management at the Pipeline Insurers Managers Conference (PLIMC). The goal of the talk was to educate representatives of insurance companies that are providers for oil and gas companies about the impact of aerial analytics on risk management.

November 14

John Norman Presents at North Dakota Energy Conference

John Norman Presents at North Dakota Energy Conference
John Norman presented “Redefining Pipeline Safety with UAS-Based Inspection Programs” at the North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo.
Learn more about the North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo:
December 4

SolSpec Welcomes Seth and Sam

SolSpec Welcomes Seth and Sam

We wrapped up 2019 with a big step forward – we now have a formal Sales Team! We welcomed Seth Tribbey and Sam Acheson, who bring invaluable sales, industry, and software product experience to our team.

December 4

Team Climb at Earth Treks in Golden

Team Climb at Earth Treks in Golden

We have a few climbers in our midst, and the number may be increasing! Thanks to the efforts of Katrina Engelsted and Jacob Spurgin we had our first evening group climb with some of the SolSpec team. The brave people that joined them: Andrew Keohane and Angie Woodmansee. Hope to see more people the next time we go, it was a great experience and fun to do something together that’s so different from work!


Also, in case you’re wondering if your read on Katrina being a badass is correct:


December 6

SolSpec Settled in Lakewood Offices

SolSpec Settled in Lakewood Offices

After a lot of effort and hard work on the part of our contractors, the SolSpec team got to settle at last into our new home in the Lakewood offices!

After only a monthin the space, we couldn’t be more pleased. The area gets much more sunlight, and windows throughout the offices mean it’s usually bright. Our view overlooks downtown Denver, and while the smog cloud can sometimes be unsettling, it is stunning. The biggest improvement? We now have several conference rooms, so no one will catch us on the phone or holding meetings in the hallways or building break room anymore!

December 20

SolSpec Joins Huwa Holiday Party

SolSpec Joins Huwa Holiday Party

Angie Woodmansee and Adam Dutko represented the SolSpec team at the annual Huwa holiday party! We deeply appreciate what the Huwas and everyone in Keenesburg have made possible for us, and we’re grateful for partnership, for the industry experience these partnerships bring, and to have a chance to come together and celebrate the holidays. An unexpected perk – gift bags of delicious steak from Huwa Ranch! Anyone who missed out can always head to their website and place an order!

December 20

SolSpec Featured in a Variety of Publications

SolSpec Featured in a Variety of Publications

Thanks to the hard work and efforts of Heather Racicot, we’ve been featured in the following publications:


  • DroneLife
  • LiDAR Mag
  • LiDAR News
  • GIS User
  • Commercial Drone Professional 
  • Commercial UAV News
  • POB
  • Comercial UAV News
  • Commercial UAV
  • GISCafe
  • UAS Weekly
  • xyHt
  • Oil & Gas 360
  • Stonefort Group
  • Earth Imaging Journal
  • Sensors & Systems 
  • GIS Cafe
  • Geospatial World


December 30

First Analysis Complete with West Moberly Joint Venture

First Analysis Complete with West Moberly Joint Venture

Ryan Pelzel of SolSpec Canada reports that the first imagery analysis was completed under the West Moberly Joint Venture for TC Energy! The first stage of this project covered 181 km for the North Montney Mainline Project.

December 31

Bryan Crowe Keynote Speaker at INGAA Annual Meeting

Bryan Crowe Keynote Speaker at INGAA Annual Meeting

SolSpec COO Bryan Crowe was invited as the keynote speaker to the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America’s (INGAA) Steep Slope Construction Workshop. Bryan spoke on Right-of-Way Integrity Management, pipeline construction, and the impact of employing aerial analytics to identify safer routes, improve the efficacy of implemented best practices, and enhance monitoring success.


The invitation to speak came as a direct result of Bryan’s June 2019 discussion with Russel Treat on the Pipeliner’s podcast. Listen to their conversation on Ground Movement and Pipeline Integrity to learn more! Read more about Steep Slope Construction best practices, detailed in a report created in a collaboration of eight energy companies led by The Nature Conservancy.


New Gas Transmission Pipeline Rules Expand Risk Management with Tight Timeline

New Gas Transmission Pipeline Rules Expand Risk Management with Tight Timeline

In the aftermath of a natural gas pipeline explosion on September 9, 2010 in San Bruno, California, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) identified several concerns with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA’s) oversight of performance-based safety programs, and recommended that the Secretary of Transportation conduct an audit to address these concerns.

Pipeline safety in the U.S. and many other parts of the world relies on the regulatory concept of Integrity Management. Integrity Management programs – required by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)– stipulate how and where pipeline operators must identify, prioritize, assess, evaluate, repair, and validate the integrity of their pipelines that could, in the event of a leak or failure, endanger human health.

san bruno explosion

The San Bruno pipeline explosion killed eight people at 6:11 pm PDT on September 9, 2010.

Until recently, Integrity Management programs primarily focused on managing risks to human health in High Consequence Areas (HCAs), generally defined as areas along a pipeline in which 20 or more buildings intended for human occupancy could be significantly impacted in the occurrence of a pipeline failure. In other words, the buildings fall within the pipeline’s potential impact radius (see Figure 1). While the potential consequences of a pipeline accident are deemed higher within HCAs, nearly half of all pipeline accident-induced injuries, property damages, and fatalities have occurred outside of HCAs since the promulgation of Integrity Management rules.

Signaling an industry-wide move toward more comprehensive risk management, PHMSA released new rules on October 1, 2019 that expand Integrity Management programs for gas transmission pipelines beyond HCAs to include Moderate Consequence Areas (MCAs). MCAs are defined as areas along a pipeline in which 5 or more buildings intended for human occupancy are located within the pipeline’s potential impact radius in the event of a failure (down from HCAs’ 20-building threshold) (§ 192.3). Additionally, MCAs include sites where 4-or-more-lane arterial roadways are located within a pipeline’s potential impact radius.

medium consequence areas as defined by new PHMSA regulation

Figure 1. Example of how a pipeline’s potential impact radius and nearby structures interact to determine High Consequence Areas and Medium Consequence Areas where operators must implement Integrity Management programs. Wherever an MCA is identified, operators must conduct integrity assessments (§ 192.710) and reconfirm the pipeline segments’ Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) (§ 192.624).


According to the new rules, MAOP reconfirmations are required for all HCA and MCA pipelines segments that can accommodate inline inspection instruments and whose MAOP is equal to or greater than 30% of the pipeline’s specified minimum yield strength(§ 192.624).Operators must develop procedures for MAOP reconfirmation of qualifying MCAs by July 1, 2021.

The new rules present a tight timeline for compliance. If operators are to meet the deadline of producing MAOP reconfirmation procedures by mid-2021, they must immediately begin to identify the newly required MCAs – zones that operators have never needed to consider until now.The arc of policy is pushing the pipeline industry evermore toward risk abatement and stewardship of human health. SolSpec’s mission is to help industry efficiently align with and lead the trajectory toward safety and sustainability. SolSpec uses high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to empower operators with fast, meaningful data and analytics that set the bar for hazard identification and prediction, resource allocation, and risk management.

Traditional integrity management programs focus on the integrity of the pipeline; yet, a pipeline’s safety also depends on the stability of its surrounding environment. The Right-of-Way Integrity Management solution addresses external threats to pipelines for a more complete integrity program. The RIMSpec’s annual subscription includes access to high-fidelity terrain and orthomosaic libraries through SolSTAC, access to the SolSpec viewer and deliverables in the form of risk prioritization, monitoring plans, emergency response plans, and analytic layers.