What is Pipeline Survey? Advantages and Disadvantages of Pipeline Survey

What is Pipeline Survey? Advantages and Disadvantages of Pipeline Survey

What is Pipeline Surveying?

Pipeline Survey is a type of survey that gathers information about the proposed pipeline route, the potential environmental and social impacts, and the potential benefits to the community.  It is a process that helps oil and gas companies assess the risks and potential rewards of a proposed pipeline.

A pipeline survey is a process of inspecting a pipeline for possible damage. The survey is conducted by a team of specialists who walk the length of the pipeline and look for signs of damage, such as dents, gouges, and cracks.

The survey team also looks for potential problems, such as corrosion and leaks.

Pipeline survey is an important inspection process that helps to identify any potential hazards in pipelines.

The process involves the use of advanced inspection technologies, such as pipeline inspection robots, to identify any defects in the pipeline.

By identifying any defects in the pipeline, the process helps to ensure the safety of the pipeline and the people who rely on it.

Pipeline Survey Methods

A pipeline survey is an engineering and construction term for a detailed engineering study and assessment of a proposed pipeline route.

The route is typically scouted by an engineering team on the ground, and a detailed survey is then created of the proposed route.

This survey is used to identify and mark the location of the pipeline, as well as identify and mark any potential obstacles, such as rivers, bridges, and roads.

The survey is also used to identify the right of way for the pipeline, and to obtain the necessary permits and approvals from landowners and local authorities.

The methods of Pipeline Survey are:


This method is used when a construction team first locates a site and plans to find out the condition of pipelines that run beneath a particular area. During this stage, we can format the site plan to show how the pipeline will be surveyed.

 Topographical Survey:

This is normally used when a construction team has an existing database of data that includes the location and type of features of a project site.

Aerial Survey:

This is another method used to survey all or part of the underground portions of a project that was not previously surveyed. The aerial survey is conducted by using an airplane or helicopter and after analyzing, we can release our report based on all the analysis results.

 Satellite Imagery:

This is the latest and most base method to survey the underground portion of the project. The equipment is a combination of a camera and a computer recorder.

Subsurface Sensors:

One of the methods used to investigate pipeline damage is to use sensors that provide information about pressure, flow rate, temperatures, etc. An example would be air bubbles blown through pipelines before and after storm events.

Advantages of Pipeline Survey

Pipeline survey is known to have various advantages. They are:

  1. It is an economical, and effective means of mapping buried pipelines.
  2. Provides data for long-term planning and control measures.
  3. Gives useful information for capital improvement programs and cost estimating.
  4. Provides ongoing information about the state of underground facilities, which are difficult to access during construction or maintenance operations.
  5. Enables locating different types of underground facilities (water and sewer lines, storm drains, etc.) in one area by using one-time survey method.
  6. Can be performed using different techniques and methods to ensure the highest accuracy of results.

Disadvantages of Pipeline Survey

The main disadvantages of pipeline survey are:

  1. It can be affected by local conditions such as natural and man-made features, vegetation, terrain features and land uses.
  2. Can be an expensive cost to use equipment that can have an accuracy range from 0.25 meters to 3 meters depending on the equipment used (depth of investigation).
  3. The pipeline survey process includes data collection and evaluation of results, which is time-consuming and expensive. This may result from a need to repeat the survey again.
  4. The survey results only provide information on the pipelines that were identified by using the three various methods above we can estimate that in order to collect all the underground pipelines we will need an area of around 1000 square meters.
  5. As seen in data analysis, it increases uncertainty about pipeline locations and the amount of damage or loss of pipeline components due to water or other flow-induced construction effects.
  6. The pipeline survey process will be affected by the weather conditions and activities of unauthorized individuals or vehicles.
  7. The results of a pipeline survey may be affected by variable pipeline lengths, different techniques for locating pipe locations, changes in underground conditions, and the use of various types of construction equipment.
  8. Using aerial survey to determine damage may also result in damage to property.
  9. It is difficult to find out the exact location due to shallow pipe below ground level.
  10. We may not able to get reliable depth and distance readings from pipeline survey.
  11. We may have to use helicopters or aircrafts to conduct an aerial survey.
  12. We may have a problem conducting a survey at night since the lights of helicopters or aircrafts can be disturbing for some areas.
  13. When we use aerial survey method to collect information, it is difficult to collect accurate data because of the limited number of passes in one area due to the weather conditions and visibility.

Pipeline Survey Procedure

The key steps are as outlined below.

  1. Planning.
  2. Determining the location and size of the area to be surveyed.
  3. Collecting data for different methods: Walk-through, Topography, Aerial Survey and Satellite Imagery.
  4. Evaluating data analysis results by using computer software programs and hardware systems employing varied technology such as survey equipment, GIS’s (Geographic Information System), etc.
  5. Preparation of report including the findings and recommendations.
  6. Implementation of recommendations.
  7. Follow-up and evaluation of results to determine the effectiveness of the program.

Importance of Pipeline Survey

Pipeline Survey is useful in many areas. These include:

  1. Pipeline Survey is a useful tool to find out the damage in water/wastewater pipelines, roads and bridges that can be caused by flood runoff, snowmelt, earthquake or other reasons.
  2. It helps government agencies to develop strategies to prevent future disasters related to water resources. Pipeline survey is a cost-efficient and easy method that can be used for many civil engineering projects.
  3. A pipeline survey can be used as an emergency response tool.
  4. It is important to find out information about damages and relief of damage in water/wastewater pipelines, roads and bridges during emergency events because it can save lives.
  5. Pipeline survey is useful for public safety because it gives engineers and planners good understanding about the water system during flood runoff, snowmelt, earthquake or other reasons that cause damages.
  6. It is the most cost-effective means of obtaining accurate data concerning underground facilities.
  7. We can identify and inventory water/wastewater pipeline materials with minimal effort.
  8. Pipeline survey is considered as an effective method of planning and controlling water works in certain areas and in protecting the infrastructure.
  9. Pipelines can be damaged by natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes or any other disaster. It is very important to know if the damage has been done by a natural disaster or not.
  10. Today, we can find out much important information about underground materials by using Pipeline Survey.

Pipeline Survey Equipment

The main Instruments used in Pipeline Survey are:

Data probes

Data probes, commonly known as cable testers, are commonly used to locate buried pipes. They are typically driven into the ground 20-50 cm, sometimes as deep as 1 m. Data probes have a cable that is connected to a control unit.

The control unit then sends signals to a transmitter that transmits the signals to an antenna mounted on a fixed location device.

A receiver that detects the transmitted signals at some distance from the antenna is attached to another control unit and the two units establish a two-way link between them via radio transmission line.

Trial wire dispensers

Trial wire dispensers are basically the same as wire dispensers but they are engineered to be used to locate underground pipelines. They are constructed with a pistol grip control box and an LCD display screen.

On the LCD screen, there is a grid that shows location of the underground pipeline relative to its position with respect to distance, bearing and depth.

Gx data logger platforms

Gx data logger platforms are data loggers that are specifically engineered to be used in pipeline locating operations. They can be connected to any type of data probe and control unit but they cannot be used independently.

Using the Gx data logger platform, the user can collect the position of the computer on which it is stored and it uses GPS system to collect pipe location information.

Survey equipment

Survey equipment is used in pipeline locating operations.

This equipment includes:

  • Remote data loggers- Remote data loggers are designed to be mounted on a tripod and used to collect data in the field. They enable the user to take pictures which are stored as digital images that can be transferred to computers. However, they do not gather information about underground pipelines without the help of a data probe.
  • Ranging devices- Ranging devices are used to help the surveyor properly locate underground pipelines. They can either be a single ranging device or a set of ranging devices that enable the user to select one of the two or more ranging stations within range of the designed scope and direction.
  • GPS units- GPS units are used in pipeline locating operations. They enable a surveyor to locate underground pipelines using satellite signals and help him collect accurate location information.
  • IBTVM Datalogger Platforms- IBTVM Datalogger Platforms are compact and lightweight data loggers that can be mounted on a hand-held compass and a camera. They have a positional logging temperature logger (PLT) that enables a surveyor to track the position of underground pipelines.
  • Trial wire spools- Trial wire spools are designed to be installed on the backhoe or by hand and can be used to lay short trial wires up to a length of 40 m.

Some Common Pipe Materials

Piping materials are generally made with different types of metals such as steel, copper and concrete. However, they all have different characteristics that make them suitable for certain applications.

  1. Copper – Copper piping is the most commonly used piping material because it is durable and it has heat resistive properties. Copper pipes are highly flexible and easy to weld, cut, thread and polish.
  2. PVC – PVC piping is the most common plastic pipe material that is used for water supply and waste water applications. PVC pipes are easy to handle, cut, thread and install into a wide variety of structures that include concrete walls, wood or other types of materials.
  3. Copper-clad steel pipe – The coated pipes are popular because they provide corrosion resistance and it can also be used in applications that require high strength such as water distribution and wastewater conveyance. A good example of this type of pipe is the cast iron pipe.
  4. Cast iron – Cast iron piping has the longest life among commonly used piping materials because it is highly durable and the cast rails have excellent resistance to corrosion.
  5. They can also withstand high temperatures and amplify earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or any other natural disaster.
  6. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – PVC piping is best for water distribution applications. They are easy to handle and install, and can be used in both indoor and outdoor applications.
  7. Galvanized iron pipe – It is flexible, durable, resists corrosion and is used for irrigation of agricultural crops.
  8. Concrete lined steel pipes- They are commonly used as a part of high-pressure water supply systems where the pipe will be exposed to high-temperature changes or direct sunlight exposure.

Defining Characteristics of a Pipeline Right-Of-Way

Right of way refers to the land used by the pipeline to lay down their physical pipe network. It includes all the property used by the pipeline such as roads and easements.

Some pipelines don’t own right of way but use it through agreements with landowners in exchange for some payment.

In US, right-of-way can be assigned by pipeline owner or taken by court order.

Assigning Easements

Easements are the method pipeline owners use to gain the rights of way needed for laying down their pipelines. They can either be permanent or temporary. There are a number of ways an easement can be assigned depending on the situation.

For example, if the right-of-way is owned by a private landowner, an easement owner can negotiate with him and sign an easement agreement. This can be done verbally or in writing. Once the easement is signed, the owner will record a deed of conveyance to file it in the public land records.

This gives both parties legal ownership over the right-of-way.

The pipeline owner can also get a court order in which they may have to pay financial compensation to the landowner for damaging his property or causing him loss of income.

If a landowner refuses an easement, then his property will be considered abandoned and he can lose its title if he decides not to redeem it after some time.


What is surveying in oil and gas industry?

Oil and gas surveying collects a lot of critical information to help a project run smoothly. The maps and tools aid land departments in better planning and development of oil and gas projects may be used to organize data, and aid in the safe and effective construction of infrastructure.

How can I become a surveyor in the oil and gas industry?

There are many job opportunities in the oil and gas pipeline industry. You can start as entry-level positions, move on to supervisory roles, junior project positions and finally advance your career in senior management roles.

You can also work for consulting firms or as an independent contractor for surveyors.

What are the requirements for becoming a pipeline surveyor?

To become a surveyor, you need to have an associate’s degree from an accredited institution. It is also preferred that you have experience in the oil and gas industry and a number of safety courses.

How long does it take to become a pipeline surveyor?

It will take about 2-4 years for a person to become a professional pipeline surveyor. You must have at least an associate’s degree or two years of on-the-job training from an accredited institution. You must also be CPR certified and should have professional liability insurance.

How much is a pipeline surveyor salary?

A pipeline surveyor salary can vary from one state to another and from different organizations. The average annual salary ranges from $40,000 to $50,000. Top level employees are able to earn more than $80,000 annually.

What is the job description of a pipeline surveyor?

The job duties of a pipeline surveyor are the following:

Prepare and complete detailed maps for oil and gas projects using GPS tools and traditional equipment (total station, etc.);

Locate the exact locations of underground pipelines and other infrastructure such as roads, railroads, power lines, etc.;

Study and evaluate the construction schedule of the pipeline project;

Prepare a detailed report highlighting any issues that may come up during construction. For example, any problems with manholes, defects in trenches and pipes, etc.;

Assist other surveyors in the installation of components like directional markers and pipeline markers;

Understand the specifications for each component’s installation process and how to achieve safety requirements for their work.

How can I sign up for a pipeline course?

You can sign up for an oil and gas survey class only in states that have a specific association like the American Society of Surveying Technicians or the International Pipeline Surveyors. You can also enroll yourself to online courses offered by schools and colleges.

How long does it take to become a pipeline surveyor?

It is recommended that you start your training 2-3 years before you plan on taking on an actual job position.

What is the average salary of a pipeline surveyor?

The average annual salary of a pipeline surveyor is $40,000-$50,000. Top level employees are able to earn more than $80,000 annually.

Where can I find a good job in the oil and gas industry?

There are many job opportunities in the oil and gas industry. You can start as entry level positions, move on to supervisory roles, junior project positions and finally advance your career in senior management roles.

How do I become a pipeline inspector?

Pipeline inspection is the most important part of oil and gas infrastructure.

To become a pipeline inspector, you must have at least an associate’s degree or two years of on-the-job training from an accredited institution, plus have professional liability insurance.

You should also be CPR certified, hold a valid driver’s license, and be able to pass drug screening tests.


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