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.
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

 

2019
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: usareclamation.com

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2AilTXaThA

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: https://shaleinsight.com/technology-showcase-2/

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: http://www.ndenergyconference.com/ema/DisplayPage.aspx?pageId=Agenda1
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 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 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 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 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 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.

 

How Can Big Data Impact Land Reclamation?

How Can Big Data Impact Land Reclamation?

Toby Kraft, Founder and CEO of SolSpec, spoke about “Playing Offense and Being Industry Advocates” at the May 19, 2019 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.

“So as all good millennials do, I wake up every single day and spend every waking hour engaging with some social media platform,” Kraft opened, introducing the value of big data by drawing a common big data comparison with the advertising world. Social media platforms store extensive information related to their users’ interests, and the massive amount of data generated by millions of users drives much of the backbone of modern marketing.

Why let retail be the main industry that capitalizes on big data? Why aren’t the construction and reclamation and energy industries taking advantage of big data for their projects? These are the questions at the core of Toby’s presentation. Collecting data and providing information from past and current projects can build benefits for all – we can learn from the mistakes others have made and drive future success. “A lot of you are probably thinking ‘Yeah, okay, that sounds utopian,” quipped Kraft.

Big data can empower decision makers in the construction, energy, and reclamation industries and result in safer, more successful projects. But success can only come from working together to improve our industries’ practices. Kraft called on his colleagues at the Summit to remember that “our neighbor’s failure or our competitor’s failure is our failure.” Collaborating and building databases of geographic information doesn’t weaken your company or strengthen the opposition. Uniting our data and sharing information is the approach that will keep our industries strong, because without it our future work is threatened.

Kraft’s vision with SolSpec is not just to identify hazards that already exist. Combining data gathered regarding surface hydrology, soil information, geologic details, and the massive stores of siloed data that runs across the industry and third parties makes it possible to predict future hazards. A prioritized list of current and potential hazards empowers decision makers to prioritize mitigation efforts and resources, and do better work for long-term success and improved community relations.

Diving into real-life scenarios, Kraft highlighted for the audience the value and impact of data-driven solutions in land reclamation and construction. One example was Appalachia, one of the richest areas in natural gas in North America. Recent construction of infrastructure, more in the last five years than in the previous fifty, has resulted in loss of vegetation in deciduous forests. These forests and unconsolidated soils cover the characteristic steep slopes of the region. Big rainstorms in this context can cause mass soil movement and landslides, which compromise local pipelines and assets. Compromised pipeline and right-of-way integrity cause undue risk, environmental damage, and financial loss.

Another example Kraft discussed was California, which is dealing with increased threats from fires. Last year’s Camp Fire burned 150,000 acres, destroyed the city of Paradise, and killed 46 people. The likely cause of the fire was a spark from a utility asset that caught the vegetation near the asset. Data gathered from flyovers and processed with analytics can reveal vegetation encroachment. That information can help direct fire prevention efforts around existing utilities and stop a destructive disaster.

“What could the headlines look like a year from now if we all come together around these issues and we get ahead of it and we play offense? What could the future look like?” asked Kraft. Fewer disasters, increased efficiency, prioritized use of resources, and improved reputations for our industries. To learn more about how Kraft and the team at SolSpec are taking our industries to the cutting edge, go to https://solspec.io.

If you’re interested in attending, sponsoring, or exhibiting at the 2020 Summit, go to www.usareclamation.com for more information.

SolSpec Launches Aerial Analytics Solution for Pipeline Integrity Management

SolSpec Launches Aerial Analytics Solution for Pipeline Integrity Management

SolSpec ROW Integrity Management Solution helps oil and gas pipeline owners and operators predict, quantify and prioritize risk mitigation

Denver, Colorado — June 12, 2019 — SolSpec Inc., a provider of remote sensing and data analytics, today announced SolSpec™ ROW Integrity Management, an advanced aerial imagery and data analytics solution designed specifically for assessing, mitigating, and preventing geohazard risks on pipeline right-of-ways. Using SolSpec’s drone flight plans, data collection and advanced analytics, owners and operators can detect and predict hazards before they become problems, and gain actionable insights to prioritize mitigation efforts, improve safety and compliance, and achieve greater ROI at every stage of the pipeline asset lifecycle.

Landslides, erosion related hazards and subsidence in variable, steep, and rugged terrain can pose a threat to the integrity of pipeline facilities if those threats are not identified and mitigated. Landslides in the Appalachian Region region have caused major pipeline failures in recent history and resulted in numerous pipeline outages since 2018. In addition to the safety and environmental impacts, these failures have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue and repair costs.

“SolSpec ROW Integrity Management solution gives decision makers the tools they need to allocate resources to the areas that would have the largest impact in reduction of geohazard-related safety, environmental, and business risk,” said Bryan Crowe, chief operating officer at SolSpec and former general manager at one of the largest pipeline operator companies in the nation.

SolSpec ROW Integrity Management is a geohazard risk analysis solution for analyzing known and potential threats to right-of-ways. A full service offering, SolSpec’s team of data scientists and FAA-licensed UAV pilots start by first collecting photogrammetry and LiDAR data within the right-of-way and create a baseline risk assessment with plug-and-play flight plans for ongoing monitoring of high-risk areas. Data is then processed via SolSpec’s secure cloud-based geoprocessing platform and proprietary analytical models based on analysis of over 1.7 million acres of landslides and ROW projects to create high-resolution 3D models for visualizing and measuring slip conditions, hydrology and BMP condition assessments and slip potential.

Prioritize Risk Mitigation to Improve Safety
Unlike general purpose analytics, SolSpec ROW Integrity Management solution delivers decision support analysis tailored to pipeline integrity management. Analysis is ranked against a risk index of population density, product type, high consequence and environmentally sensitive areas within the pipeline right of way to create a prioritization of existing and potential hazards. Armed with this insight, operators can pinpoint specific areas of interest and prioritize and allocate resources to speed time to repair, save costs and ultimately improve safety and reduce risk.

“SolSpec allows our pipeline integrity team to evaluate possible hazards so we can send out work crews to the most problematic areas first,” said Steve Lutes, director of Human Resources, EHS Safety, Training & Development at Huwa Enterprises. “Because of our work with SolSpec we are able to stay efficient in addressing our most pressing concern – safety.”

Streamline Compliance Requirements
In addition to interactive web maps and 3D models, users gain access to comprehensive, decision-ready reports with risks ordered by priority as well as supplemental coordinates in Excel, and risks indexed by location. These reports can be used to demonstrate compliance of corrective action continuous surveillance of pipelines under Federal pipeline safety regulations from PHMSA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Drones and aerial analytics are defining a new era of inspection for the energy industry and are opening up new opportunities to deliver unprecedented efficiencies and value into pipeline construction and operations,” said Toby Kraft, co-founder and CEO of SolSpec. “SolSpec ROW Integrity Management delivers best-in-class analytics and proven models that empower our customers to prioritize risk management efforts, and efficiently allocate resources to ensure safe, reliable and profitable operations.”

SolSpec’s Toby Kraft and Robert Blank will share best practices and a technology demonstration at the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit and Expo, June 12-13. For information, visit https://stonefortgroup.com/energy-drone-coalition-2019/.

For more information about SolSpec ROW Integrity Management solution, visit https://solspec.io/row-integrity-management/.

About SolSpec
SolSpec was founded in 2016 to improve environmental and public safety and to increase efficiencies for the energy industry using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology. SolSpec’s Aerial Analytics platform represents best-in-class data processing and management for all UAV imagery. Our analytics were born from 120 cumulative years in Natural Resource Sciences and are formulated to specifically predict and prevent unexpected occurrences in large scale land use projects. With SolSpec, you can make decisions from your desk instead of the field and ultimately reduce risk, time and expenditure. Visit us online at https://solspec.io/

# # #

Media Contact
Heather Racicot
360-632-5616
heatherr@z-pulley.com

Why Risk Indexing Is Vital in Prioritizing ROW Hazard Tasks

Why Risk Indexing Is Vital in Prioritizing ROW Hazard Tasks

Companies understand that any right-of-way (ROW) project requires accurate risk indexing. They devote a massive amount of resources to index the risks before, during, and after each project. But why is risk indexing so vital?

Risk indexing is vital in prioritizing ROW hazard tasks. It helps planners to identify the likelihood of hazards and the potential impact these hazards can have on both the right-of-way and surrounding areas. This enables planners to allocate resources to where they’re needed most.

What is Risk Indexing

Before discussing its importance, we must explain what risk indexing is. Risk indexing is the identification and prioritization of potential hazards and risks to a ROW. This is important because risks with a higher likelihood of occurrence require more time, attention, and resources. This can’t happen if right-of-way managers are unaware of potential risks.

Added risks could include safety hazards, financial hazards, environmental hazards, and even legal hazards. They may also include risks the right-of-way could pose to the local area.

ROW managers, for example, need to be aware of environmentally sensitive areas to reduce the impact of a right-of-way. They are known as EGHCA class areas and are EPA regulated and monitored.

Once these risks are identified and added to the index, they’ll be categorized and scored so that each hazard can be appropriately prioritized. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for indexing risk, so some ROW management teams may categorize risks differently than others. But, they all have the same end goal of identifying potential risks and determining which risks need more resources and which don’t.

What Are ROW Hazards and ROW Hazard Tasks

Right-Of-Way hazards can include:

  • Safety Hazards
  • Financial Hazards
  • Environmental Hazards
  • Legal Hazards

Right-of-way Safety Hazards

Safety hazards can be as simple as new workers slipping and falling on the right-of-way during construction. In fact, Supreme Industries did an investigation and found that 70% of the slip, trip, and fall injuries occurred to employees who had been with the company for less than 6 months. Armed with this information, the company was able to design a training program that dropped these slip, trip, and fall injuries down to zero.


Using analytics, we can assess where there is potential for geohazard activity, like a landslide.

Another example of a safety hazard is that certain roadside rights-of-way might be more dangerous than others. Right-of-way planners could mitigate this risk by installing additional physical barriers that would ensure the safety of the workers as well as the right-of-way itself.

Environmental Hazards

Different ROWs may be subjected to various environmental hazards as well. For example, a right-of-way near the mountains of Colorado might be vulnerable to avalanches while a ROW in Florida might have to worry about hurricanes or flooding.

While the environment may put the right-of-way at risk, the right-of-way could also potentially endanger the environment. Rights-of-way in or around areas with at-risk habitats will need to take steps to ensure that they have no adverse effects on these areas. Risk indexing helps to identify these locations along the ROW.

Legal Hazards

A long pipeline project could have a right-of-way that stretches for many miles. Midstream pipeline builders and operators will have to work with local governments, private property owners and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to establish agreements to operate in certain areas.

Sometimes, even after starting a project, legal issues may arise around these agreements. Different states and localities may have different laws on how these issues are resolved, making legal problems riskier in some areas of the country than others.

Slip/Slope Failure

For most right-of-way projects, the most substantial hazard could be slope failure. This is especially true with pipelines. The reason for this is that pipelines typically run over long distances and will almost always run near mountainous terrain where landslides are likely to develop.

A slope failure will result in a landslide that could endanger the safety of builders, pipeline operators, the surrounding areas, and the actual pipeline itself. Compromised slopes can lead to mud slipping down into sensitive areas of the pipeline. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, landslides have damaged millions of cubic meters of pipelines.

Financial Hazards of ROWs

Improper risk prioritization, or lack thereof, can lead to costly financial repercussions. Many ROW hazards that may have previously been restored quickly with the help of risk indexing might well end up costing exponentially more later on. Catching issues sooner, rather than later, is a priority for any company. It can often save a considerable amount of time and money in the forms of preventable labor, legal, environmental, and other costs.

For example, slope failures can lead to landslides and, as a result, cause massive damage to pipelines, ROWs, and surrounding areas and is almost always costly. If residences or environmentally sensitive areas are affected as well, the total end cost will rise, and legal troubles could ensue. Preventing these incidents with proper risk indexing enables appropriate resource and labor allocation and can be vastly more economical than paying for cleanup, restoration, and restitution after the fact.

Why Is Risk Indexing Vital

Keeping workers safe is vital to any pipeline project. Risk indexing can let project managers know where the most immediate danger lies within the ROW, so they can focus on improving safety in these areas.

Protecting the surrounding environment. Risk indexing can also help right-of-way planners determine which habitats are most affected by pipeline construction and maintenance. These areas can then have more resources allocated to them to help mitigate any potential damage to the local environment.

Profits can also be increased by proper risk indexing. That’s because risk indexing ensures money goes to the areas that need it most. It also minimizes escalation of costs caused by delayed maintenance.

It also helps to keep pipeline construction on schedule. This is because it helps predict potential problems that may otherwise have shut down pipeline activities.

How Is Risk Indexing Accomplished

The book, Risk Assessment in Setting National Priorities, states that “to be cost-effective, a prioritization system must be simple, rapid, and accurate.” For this reason, many companies use UAVs designed to map and monitor a ROWs geography. To demonstrate the risk indexing process, let’s look at how a UAV company could create a risk index for landslips along a pipeline project.

Landslips Along Pipelines

A UAV monitoring company might start the process by creating a baseline map to identify and eliminate any immediate concerns. The UAV could locate several slopes to be rebuilt along a ROW. Slope repair contractors could move in and restore the slope before even starting construction in a right-of-way. The slopes deemed to be the greatest danger are rated higher so work can start on them first.

UAVs will then be used to monitor the ROW continuously, looking out for actual slip movement and to create predictive assessments. Moving slopes and those that could pose a greater hazard to sensitive areas will be moved up the risk index. Upon completion, UAVs can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the remediation efforts.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas

UAV monitoring not only protects the pipeline but also protects environmentally sensitive areas. For example, UAV monitoring can be used to create a two-tiered analysis to monitor what happens to the ground and its potential environmental risk. This type of monitoring is especially critical in areas running through or around at-risk habitats.


Monitoring the surface hydrology through UAV imagery and analytics can protect environmentally sensitive areas

Monitoring an area using UAVs will help the pipeline to comply with EPA regulations and any other governing bodies concerned with the potential impacts of the ROW and pipeline. Doing so will also help to keep the company in good standing with the public. This is critical as a poor public image could impede the construction of new projects in the future. Conversely, a positive public image could make it easier and faster for the company to obtain the approvals it needs to create new projects.

In these cases, heat maps are usually created to allow right-of-way managers to see, at a glance, which areas should take top priority and receive the most resources. Commonly the color coding system uses dark red to denote areas that are most at risk.

Final Thoughts

Risk indexing is a complex process that involves many different areas of a ROW. With the help of specialized knowledge and expertise, as well as the latest in UAV technology, this process can be simple, cost-effective, and accurate.

Solspec is serious about risk indexing. We know that keeping pipeline projects on time, keeping workers safe, and reducing the environmental impact are all critical to your project’s success. We are proud to have some of the fastest data turnaround times in the industry. To find out how Solspec can help your teams with hazard identification, indexing, and more, check out our ROW integrity management page.