Because pipeline routing, design, and permitting is complex and often controversial, it is advantageous to utilize new technologies to expedite the overall process. Potential pipeline routes can be modeled in a Geographic Information System (GIS) to facilitate early identification of engineering and environmental constraints. This allows time for preliminary engineering and permitting, avoiding time-consuming and costly re-routing later on. Why take the planning, design, and permitting into a virtual world? A primary advantage of a virtual GIS model is based on the way humans process information. It is estimated that 50% of the brain’s neurons are involved in vision. Two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) visualizations simulate spatial reality, thus allowing the viewer to quickly recognize and understand complex concepts such as changes in elevation or tree growth over time. This is especially true of 3D displays, which involve a larger portion of the brain in the problem solving process (Swanson, 2002). Using spatial visualizations—or geo-visualizations—engineers, planners, and environmental scientists involved in pipeline permitting can quickly and easily identify engineering and environmental constraints along a route and may be more effective in conveying their plan to stakeholders. Many pipeline routes are inaccessible due to either rough terrain or restricted access. Virtual routes can be evaluated by the design team without each team member travelling to the project location, saving valuable project time and reducing project budget. Once a GIS model for the entire route is created, 2D and 3D illustrations allow a project proponent to “sell” a particular alternative or project mitigation to permitting agencies and stakeholders, and potentially accelerate the overall permitting process.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.