How Oil and Gas Midstream Is Digitizing

How Oil and Gas Midstream Is Digitizing

The oil and gas pipeline industry is constantly evolving, becoming safer, and more efficient. One of the best methods to do this is by digitizing. In this article, we will discuss the digitization process and what it means for the midstream oil and gas companies that are taking advantage of this process as well as what it means for those that are not.

What Is Digitizing and How Does It Apply to the Oil and Gas Midstream Industry

Digitizing is the act of converting data into a format that computers can read. Essentially, the digitization (also known as digitalization) process creates a digital image that can be used by both people and computers. An example of this could be converting images into a midstream pipeline map.

hillslope threat
Using software, like SolSpec, you can view your site’s hillslope threats

Once digitized, computer software could analyze the map and check for slope anomalies and other threats to the ROW. Using UAVs and continuous monitoring services, this data could be continuously updated. The computer could then compare the integrity of past slopes with current ones which could be used to alert midstream operators of any changes.

In the past, this was a process that human inspectors would have done as they could have inspected on-site or through manual image review. As you can imagine, it was both time-consuming and labor-intensive. Digitizing made this process much faster and reduced the work required. Let’s look at some other ways digitization has helped midstream operations.

Data-Driven Mapping and Anomaly Checking Verses Reviewing Images by Human Eye

There are many advantages of using data-driven mapping and anomaly checking compared to manual methods of human eye image review. Some benefits include:

  • An increase in speed
  • An increase in safety
  • Easier compliance with government regulations
  • Better protection of the environment
  • A better public image of pipeline operations
  • Reduced costs

Speed Increases

Yale University Press reports that a personal computer can now operate 1 billion times faster than the human brain. Not only this, but it also works with much higher skill. This is because a computer can represent and distinguish 4.2 billion data differences. Man simply cannot biologically reach this level of accuracy with the human eye alone.

As a result, companies that take advantage of digitization get more accurate reports and get them faster. Speed itself is useful, but it also has many other benefits.

Safety Increases

Increased processing speeds improve safety. The quicker the computer can relay slope changes to midstream pipeline companies, the faster these slopes can be repaired. Repairing a slope early could avoid a landslip while the ramifications of repairing too late could potentially be catastrophic.

The human eye can’t always detect slope changes as early as a computer can. Consequently, companies that use software to search for these slope changes will always find them sooner than if they rely solely on a human inspector.

A Better Relationship with The Government, The Environment, and The Public

A midstream pipeline company is always going to have to work with government on a local, state, and national level. Each government agency has its own needs and expectations. Using data-driven mapping and digitized data helps midstream companies meet and even exceed these expectations.

Quick data collection and anomaly checking also help protect the local environment. Computer software can be used to check for ROW encroachment into protected habitats. Any encroachments can be quickly rectified before any damage to the local environment occurs.

Such swift actions lead to better public relations. This facilitates future business for midstream pipeline companies. Conversely, companies relying on human-reviewed anomaly checks tend to be less proactive and often end up having to repair problems only after the damage has been done to surrounding areas. This can make acquiring future contracts difficult.

Reduced Costs

According to a report written by the World Economic Forum, “digitalization has the potential to create around $1 trillion of value for Oil and Gas firms”.

Costs savings include:

  • Reducing time for completion of pipeline goals
  • Reducing slope failures
  • Reducing ROW encroachment and overgrowth
  • Reducing environmental damage

Time Savings

Digitization improves the speed of virtually every midstream pipeline action. For example, sensors can be used to detect abnormal temperatures, so inspectors need not take constant readings. Midstream pipeline operators can access real-time data at any time during pipeline operation, and midstream pipeline services can be requested immediately as situations arise.

Learn more through two case studies:

This reduces the time it takes to rectify any pipeline issues, which in turn reduces the time the pipeline remains inactive. According to PG&E, a gas pipeline could send gas at rates of around 15 mph through the line. Two hours of downtime and customers could find their gas 30 miles away when they need it.

Slope Failure Reductions

Continuous monitoring can lead to a reduction in slope failures, often causing considerable damage to pipeline operations. Slopes can be protected as soon as outside influences begin to affect them.

For example, a company using digitization to perform anomaly checks quickly finds a slope losing its integrity. Upon further examination, this company finds that the area adjacent to this slope funnels water into the slope, causing damage. The company can take steps to eliminate or slow this water flow before the slope is severely damaged. This eliminates the costly repairs that would have had to be done on the slope if the situation were allowed to continue for a longer time.

Encroachment of a ROW and The Environment

Finding and stopping ROW encroachment and plant overgrowth can also save costs. That’s because cutting trees is less expensive when they’re young and small than when they’re bigger. The larger the tree, the more equipment will be needed to cut it down. Larger equipment is expensive to operate and more likely to cause ROW damage.

The reduction in environmental damage, as a direct result of digitization, can also help to save midstream oil and gas companies money. This is because environmental damage can lead to fines and lawsuits. Not only this, but the damage must be repaired, which can be costly on its own.

The Benefits of Digitization and Aerial Analytics in Midstream Pipeline Operations

The combination of aerial analytics and digitization benefit oil and gas pipeline projects. Additional reasons to digitize midstream pipeline operations include:

  • Digitizing makes planning and the allocation of midstream oil and gas assets clearer and more accurate
  • Safety checks can be done before endangering humans
  • Continuous ROW and pipeline monitoring can be done faster and more accurately
  • Non-destructive examinations can be facilitated

Digitizing can help companies to allocate their resources better. Maps created through aerial analytics can be used to discover geohazards so that teams will know what to expect before they head out into the field. This means planners will have a better idea of what their midstream pipeline investment will cost them before boots ever hit the ground.

Digitization and aerial analytics can work together to provide continuous monitoring of the ROW. This gives midstream oil and gas companies the ability to discover issues as they arise and to deal with them before they have a chance to cause any damage to the pipeline, the ROW, the workers, or the surrounding areas.

Also, digitized aerial analytics data can be used to eliminate environmental damage that traditional inspection teams may have in the past. UAVs, for example, can be used non-invasively to access nearby ROW areas. This allows inspection without ever driving or stepping on.

Final Thoughts

Digitization and aerial analytics have revolutionized midstream oil and gas pipelines. It made the entire industry much safer, more cost-effective, and less labor-intensive. Companies using these technologies serve their customers better while earning more money.

Solspec is happy to help in any way we can. Our company has many years of combined experience and is willing to put that knowledge to work. We offer constant monitoring, and 3D models, as well as industry standard reports to help monitor any and all terrain.

Drone Inspection Services are a Billion Dollar Industry

Drone Inspection Services are a Billion Dollar Industry

Drone Inspection Services are a Billion Dollar Industry

Over the past few years, there has been a significant rise in the use of drones. While they were once primarily used for military purposes…

Over the past few years, there has been a significant rise in the use of drones. While they were once primarily used for military purposes, they are now used by many companies commercially for drone surveying and inspection services. Aerial inspection services, bridge inspection services, and similar industries have all seen improvements thanks to drone surveying.

In the coming years, the drone surveying industry is expected to see rapid growth. Estimates from PwC show that the market for infrastructure drone solutions could grow to exceed $45 billion. Below, you’ll find the many advantages of drone surveying and examples of industries that could benefit from their use.

Drone Inspection Services are Cheaper and Quicker than Ever Before

Drone inspection services, also known as UAV inspection services, provide near real-time results more cheaply and safely than ever before. For example, imagine there is a hard-to-reach area in need of surveying, such as a cellular tower that was damaged during a hail storm. In years past, companies would have to send a crew to the job site and have them climb to the top of the cell tower using ladders, scaffolding, and ropes.

This process takes time and is incredibly expensive, as companies must pay for the labor hours for every one of the employees involved. Plus, these endeavors could prove to be dangerous. Employees are unaware of what they are going to encounter until they get to the top of the tower. Working at those heights, employees must take numerous precautions to ensure their safety.

But, thanks to drone surveying services, looking at the cell tower is as simple as sending one employee to the job site to man the drone. Companies can access results in a matter of minutes, allowing them to make real-time decisions that could help get them back on the grid quicker than ever before.

Another similar example can be seen when looking at wind turbines. Research shows that the inspection for one wind turbine costs companies roughly $1,500. However, thanks to drone inspections, the cost is cut in half. And, the risk of injury is reduced significantly. Because of the cost savings and reduction of risk, drone inspection services are invaluable.

Heavy Civil Infrastructure Companies

Those involved with large civil infrastructure projects could also benefit from drone surveying technology. For example, drones now provide access to bridge inspection services. In years past, companies would need to send teams of engineers onto the bridge and subject them to high-risk situations to evaluate the potentially vulnerable areas of a bridge.

Now more than ever, bridge inspection services are critical. Engineers estimate that in the United States, nearly nine percent of the bridges are structurally deficient. As the population continues to grow and more people use bridges, heavy civil infrastructure companies are going to need to work to keep bridges safe.

Thanks to drone surveying technology, they can pinpoint structural deficiencies immediately. This allows companies to allocate more funds to the construction process, as opposed to the surveying process.

Maritime Shipping Industry

UAV inspection services could also be particularly beneficial for the maritime shipping industry. The implementation of drones into this industry has already begun. The European Maritime Safety Agency has begun using drones to not only control the border, but to monitor things such as pollution, drug trafficking, and illegal fishing.

Companies in the maritime industry are also using drones to track shipments from the time they arrive in-port to the time they leave port. They are using UAV inspections to identify weaknesses in their supply chain so that they can better streamline their process.

Oil and Gas Inspection

The oil and gas industry benefits significantly from drone inspection services. That’s because these industries typically feature hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, identifying problematic areas is particularly important for these industries. Failure to identify problems could result in billions in damage, not to mention the countless lives that could potentially be in jeopardy.

A perfect example of how drone inspections are benefitting these industries can be seen in oil and gas pipelines. These pipelines typically stretch for hundreds, if not thousands of miles. When exposed, there could be a significant risk of weathering and cracking. Erosion tends to be a problem for pipelines, as companies need to ensure that their lines remain buried.

With drones, companies can survey their entire pipeline in a matter of hours. They can compare the current topography with existing images so that they can identify changes that have occurred over the past few months. Then, they can use these changes to pinpoint problematic patterns and trends. Gathering this information through drone surveying techniques saves these companies time and money.

Here at SolSpec, we have taken UAV inspections to the next level, not merely providing the imagery, but digitizing the data, analyzing it for factors such as slip and revegetation, and putting it into a holistic map viewer similar to Google Earth. We invite you to check out how we service enterprise industries such as oil and gas, utilities, mining, and civil construction, providing the fastest actionable results in the industry.

What is Remote Sensing Used For?

What is Remote Sensing Used For?

The rise of commercial drone technology has benefited many companies in numerous ways. One of the most significant ways these companies…

The rise of commercial drone technology has benefited many companies in numerous ways. One of the most significant ways these companies have benefitted is through remote sensing. Drone inspection services have made remote sensing more accessible than ever. UAV remote sensing solutions have hundreds of uses. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is remote sensing used for?” so that you may identify whether it could be beneficial to your industry.

What Is Remote Sensing?

Before analyzing its uses, it’s critical to first come up with a remote sensing definition. According to the United States Geological Survey, remote sensing is “the process of detecting and monitoring the physical characteristics of an area by measuring its reflected and emitted radiation at a distance from the targeted area.” While that definition is quite a mouthful, we will try to break it down so the rest of us can capture what it means.

In terms of drone technology, this involves flying a drone outfitted with a camera or other sensor types in a manner that allows it to capture data about the earth below. UAV remote sensing solutions can provide a comprehensive overview of the land or infrastructure below. Not only can these cameras and sensors provide data related to topography and other surface features, but also detect topography statistics, but they can also provide things such as water temperature or the movement of dust clouds.

The type of data that remote sensing equipment collects depends on the type of sensor(s) on the drone and the data types needed to guide decision-making. Sensors are typically either “passive” or “active” which describes the method by which the sensor collects data. Passive remote sensing equipment is employed when there is a need to sense external stimuli. Passive sensors record the energy that is emitted from the Earth’s surface naturally, such as temperature, vibrations or radiation from reflected sunlight.

With active sensors, the equipment relies on internal stimuli to collect information about the Earth. One example of an active sensor is LiDAR, which is a scanning laser system that rapidly emits lasers in an array, and monitors how long it takes for the laser to reflect off the Earth or other objects in its path and back to the sensor. The data collected provides a detailed look at the form of the earth or structures below.

Some sensor types are a hybrid of passive and active remote sensing. In the photography world, a camera with a flash is a perfect example of a hybrid sensor. The camera emits a flash of light which is reflected off of an object, then captured through the lens. In most cases, the camera on an unmanned aerial system does not use a flash and is therefore a passive sensor.

Because drone technology is relatively new, many companies fail to recognize just how beneficial UAV remote sensing solutions can be. When it comes to remote sensing solutions, it’s crucial to think outside the box. Below, you’ll find some of the most creative uses for remote sensing technology.

Determining Soil Moisture Content

Knowing how much moisture is in the soil is beneficial for many reasons. It helps engineers in the construction industry who are looking to break ground on a new project and are trying to determine the type of machinery they’ll need based on the soil moisture content and overall site conditions.

Having an idea of soil moisture levels could also benefit those in the oil and gas pipeline industry who are looking to monitor for erosion caused by rainfall to asses how sensitive an area may be to runoff. Companies can determine soil moisture levels by using both passive and active sensors which may be mounted in fixed positions on the ground or on an aerial platform such as a drone.

Identifying Areas That Are Prone To Flooding

Another way that companies can use remote sensing technology is to identify areas that are prone to flooding. This information not only serves to benefit the construction industry but could also help insurance companies as well. With remote sensing solutions, companies can not only identify areas that are flood-prone but how bad these areas are likely to be affected and the damage that would occur as a result.

Tracking Wind Levels

Those who work with wind turbines know how crucial tracking the weather is, considering that the day’s weather directly impacts how much power can be harnessed in a given day. Remote sensing solutions can help measure wind speed and direction so that energy companies can influence both short-term and long-term changes with respect to the performance of their equipment.

Identifying Mineral Composition

The mining and resource extraction industries employ remote sensing solutions to determine the mineral composition of potential areas of operation. Similar to monitoring the soil moisture content, understanding subsurface mineral composition is critical to understanding the feasibility and economic opportunity associated with a particular site. Minerals and rocks have different chemical compositions and densities, which are easy to identify with remote sensors.

Some rocks are more difficult to dig through than others. Thanks to remote sensors, companies can alter the location of their dig sites, or come up with a proper plan of action to break ground in a particular area. There’s nothing worse than the surprise of not having the equipment necessary to complete the project, or damaging equipment when the improper tools are employed for drilling. Remote sensing solutions reduce the chances of this happening significantly.

Assessing Terrain Stability

Remote sensing solutions are also beneficial for a process called interferometry. This process involves using sensors to measure land deformation and slip. When the oil and gas pipeline industry uses interferometry measurements, they can better improve their safety standards. These measurements not only help to ensure that pipelines are fully operational, but that they are keeping up with regulations set forth by government entities.

SolSpec Remote Sensing Services

Here at SolSpec, we use passive RGB cameras to capture visual data that is analyzed for slip and revegetation of pipeline rights-of-way. This provides our oil and gas clients the data they need to mitigate slips before they become extensive, and receive feedback for faster revegetation.

The world of drones and remote sensing is an exciting integration of technology to solve real-world problems. We invite you to check out our Facebook page and see all the cool things we are doing with UAV technology.

How Aerial Imaging Services and Mapping Solutions are Changing the Way We Work

How Aerial Imaging Services and Mapping Solutions are Changing the Way We Work

In recent years, aerial imaging services have evolved tremendously. Now, thanks to drones and aerial sensor technologies, it’s easier than ever to get a birds’ eye view from above. The industries that have benefitted most from the advancements of aerial imaging services are those who rely on mapping solutions, such as the oil and gas pipeline industry or environmental consulting firms. Below is a breakdown of some of the more recent mapping solutions now accessible to these companies.

Advancements in Photogrammetry

Drones are incredible tools capable of capturing high-resolution images from the air. By using a technique called photogrammetry, multiple images can be stitched together to create a 2D map or 3D model of the site. Because all images captured are associated with a precise GPS reading from the drone’s onboard computer, these stitched maps make it easy to identify the exact location of features on the maps.

Now, companies are using drone mapping services to gain access to locations previously inaccessible. For example, if there was a location – perhaps a sensitive wetland – that was inaccessible by foot, companies would have to rely on outdated, low-resolution satellite imagery, or send a crew out on foot to inspect the area. This often resulted in unreliable or incomplete information about the area of interest.

But thanks to drones, companies can now capture reliable information through non-invasive means, more safely and at a lower cost. They can view their project at any stage with crystal-clear accuracy, as drones provide high-definition photos and maps. This allows companies to make more precise measurements using photogrammetry tools, saving them both time and money. With highly accurate maps and the ability to make precise measurements, companies can invest in preventative measures as opposed to reactionary ones.

Plus, when it comes to aerial imaging services, drones are much more flexible and readily available than planes. This allows more companies to have access to photogrammetric services. What a company may not have once been able to afford is now quite reasonable.

UAV Mapping Services Protect Employees and Projects

Job sites can often be hazardous environments. Before UAV mapping services became available, company employees would have to perform inspections and surveys in hazardous areas manually, potentially putting themselves at risk. Now, companies can keep their employees out of harm’s way. By launching a drone from a nearby safe location companies and employees alike can rest easy knowing that aerial imaging increased safety while providing more accurate information.

Aerial imagery provides an affordable, safe way to monitor right of ways.

With efficiency as a core focus of most projects, finding novel ways to perform the same tasks at a lower cost while still achieving quality results is not easy. Because UAV mapping services are so efficient, it’s much easier and far more cost effective for companies to utilize these mapping services rather than paying multiple employees to perform a surveying job. With minimal training, a UAV pilot can successfully map or survey 100 acres in roughly 20 minutes, while it takes numerous employees hours, if not days to survey the same size area.

UAV mapping services can be completed by either an internal employee or a UAV aerial imaging services company can be contracted for the project. Many believe that these services are expensive or that they will need to hire and train their own employees to operate the drone, but this is not the case. With the number of third-party UAV mapping services companies growing by the day, businesses can take advantage of increasingly competitive pricing.

UAV mapping services also help prevent surprises. There’s nothing worse than when employees visit a job site only to discover that an accident has occurred or that the site is simply not as they expected. When these issues or unexpected events occur, companies must halt operations to determine the best way to address and solve the problem quickly. With UAV mapping solutions, companies can minimize unknowns, find and address issues more quickly and keep their operations running smoothly with a clear scope of work and directive for their workers.

Drone 3D Mapping

As drones have advanced, so too has the software that supports these aerial mapping platforms. A perfect example of this is seen with the rise of drone 3D mapping software. Many industries are taking advantage of 3D mapping due to the ever-increasing number of use cases for this information. Thanks to drones, the following industries have adopted aerial imaging as a cornerstone of their project success:

  • Construction
  • Land Surveying
  • Mining
  • Inspection
  • Land Development
  • Forestry
  • Agriculture
  • Emergency Management

When paired with only a few traditional survey points, aerial imagery can deliver the best of both worlds by providing sub-centimeter accuracy with robust 2D maps and 3D models. These comprehensive 3D renderings are not only as accurate as traditional survey methods, but cover 100% of the survey area. Instead of relying on scattered individual survey points, these high-accuracy aerial maps paint a crystal-clear picture of the project area. By pairing accurate information with context gained from the imagery, companies are able to plan for projects more effectively, execute efficiently and handle emergency response situations when they arise.

Most drones are designed to complete a broad range of general mapping tasks. These drone platforms are generally outfitted with high-quality RGB (red, green, blue) cameras very similar to what you might find in a camera or smartphone. For less than $2,000, the Phantom 4 Pro by DJI is one of the most capable and commonly used platforms for mapping. For more specialized tasks, different sensors can be utilized. These sensors range from near-infrared to LiDAR to leak detection sensors for hazardous gases. What was once cost-prohibitive or inaccessible a few years ago is now cheaper and easier to use than ever.


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

Thanks to software platforms like the SolSpec Aerial Analytics Engine, companies can now gain more information about their projects in an easy-to-understand way. After a mapping mission is flown, the images are uploaded for processing which will output high-resolution maps in a matter of hours. These maps contain an incredible amount of information that is often difficult for humans to analyze without the aid of a computer. SolSpec has created software that uses high-tech algorithms to analyze the imagery and produce reports that solve specific problems. With all of the legwork done and a report in-hand, companies can focus their efforts on what they do best: Getting the job done on time and under budget.

SolSpec’s software features built-in aerial data analytics tools, giving clients actionable results fully integrated into the map view, which is as easy to use as Google Earth. Currently, SolSpec’s analytics are tailored to meet the specific needs of the oil & gas industry. However, the SolSpec Viewer works equally well for a wide range of enterprise customers, such as mining, utilities, and civil construction. SolSpec has plans to grow their analytics software suite to service these industries as well in the near-term.

The technology and applications for aerial mapping solutions have matured rapidly in only 5 years’ time and will continue to grow exponentially as more applications and use cases are discovered for aerial imagery. For more information about the ways that drones are helping companies protect themselves, minimize environmental impacts and increase the safety and integrity of the infrastructure around us, contact us for a few consultation.

Top Uses for Drones on a Pipeline

Top Uses for Drones on a Pipeline

Drones and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are powerful tools for pipeline construction and operations. Read more about how drones are making pipeline companies more efficient through aerial mapping and data analytics.

Drones are revolutionizing pipeline construction and operations

Using aerial photography throughout the pipeline construction process is a no-brainer. But drones are just the tip of the iceberg. Today many companies are taking advantage of new technology that translates high-resolution aerial photography into detailed 2-D and 3-D maps and provides insightful data analytics. Together, these high-tech, low-cost tools help pipeline companies make smarter decisions throughout the lifecycle of their project and, ultimately, ensure pipeline integrity.

Here are four ways this new generation of aerial technology is changing the game in pipeline construction and monitoring:

Routing—full-resolution maps to plan smarter

The key to effective routing is to spot challenges—such as wetlands, sensitive streams, or areas prone to landslides—that could cause additional time and money down the road. Traditional aerial photography gives you a bird’s eye view of the terrain. The new generation of aerial technology uses imagery captured by drones with specialized sensors to create full-resolution 2-D and 3-D maps that produce topography contour lines and help identify challenging areas. Besides providing more solid proof of pre-existing conditions, this advanced technology can help pipeline companies plan the best route and better anticipate challenges, which could save millions over the course of a project.

Construction—insightful analytics to stay on top of contractor progress

Depending on the size of the project and the number of contractors, keeping up with what’s happening at each point in the build can be difficult to manage. The latest aerial technology includes insightful data analytics to help create easy-to-understand progress reports that quickly explain exactly what’s happening and where. These reports—which are supplemented by high-resolution imagery—provide a clear and accurate snapshot of the progress being made throughout each phase. This helps owners hold contractors and their workers more accountable from start to finish.

As-Built Documentation—better proof that things were done right

In heavily-regulated industries like oil and gas, it’s critical to keep detailed and accurate documentation that proves contractors provided quality workmanship and adhered to the required standards. High-resolution imagery and multi-dimensional mapping provide added insurance that the project was built in compliance and to spec, while aiding in punch-list generation.

Monitoring and Close Out—thorough documentation for a smooth handoff

After pipeline construction is completed, the project transitions to the operations group who monitors the site. Without comprehensive aerial data, this handoff can be challenging. Having a complete history, documented through high-resolution maps, helps make the transition seamless. In addition, continuing to monitor the right of way with the latest aerial technology will help stakeholders identify any issues before they become multi-million dollar problems.

SolSpec is a nationwide geospatial data company that provides the next generation of aerial technology, including 3-D mapping and insightful data analytics. SolSpec’s enterprise data solutions and cloud processing infrastructure provide information at unprecedented turnaround times, allowing pipeline companies to work smarter and more efficiently.