3D visualization is the process of displaying spatial data to simulate and model a real three dimensional space. Using 3D visualization, Geomatic professionals are enabling pipeline engineers to make better decisions by providing an increased understanding of potential costs earlier in the design process. This paper will focus on the value of visualizing Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data through the use of hillshades and imagery-draped 3D models. From free online DEM data to high resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) derived DEM data, the increased availability allows for a broader use of 3D visualization techniques beyond 3D analysis. Of the numerous sources available, two DEM sources will be discussed in this paper, the free low resolution DEM (CDED Level 1) and the more costly but higher resolution LiDAR based DEM. Traditional methods of evaluating potential locations for route and facilities involved a significant cost for ground truthing. Through the use of 3D visualization products, multiple potential locations can be examined for suitability without the expense of field visits for every candidate site. By focusing on the selected candidate locations using a visual desktop study, the time and expense of ground truthing all of the potential sites can be reduced significantly. Exploiting the visual value of DEM permits a productive and cost efficient methodology for initial route and facility placement on hydrocarbon projects.

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