Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have been in use in some industries for over two decades. Some large scale database or GIS implementations have failed to deliver their full benefits because their scope has often been too wide. Such systems are generally multimillion dollar projects which in turn need ongoing support to maintain the database and administer the system. Where the general needs of a pipeline company are given precedence the specific needs of the integrity department can often be overlooked. As a result the company wide GIS is often of little value for the analysis and management of pipeline integrity data. Recent advances in computing power, software, communications and database design aided by new sources of geographical image data mean that the time is now right for a pipeline integrity specific Geographical Information System.

GIS allows the condition of a pipeline to be viewed in a geographical context and maximises the value of existing data sets. Specific pipeline anomalies can be related to geographical or environmental data such as soil conditions, hydrology, land slip or subsidence. A GIS system used in this way provides a valuable tool to help understand, explain, predict and avoid degradation of a pipeline asset.

New sources of geographical image data such as sub meter, multi spectral optical satellite imagery, synthetic aperture radar data from satellites and thermal data from aircraft systems, can be used to identify ground characteristics or leakage and provide frequent updates to enable change detection and surveillance to be performed. The GIS can be used as a risk assessment and data management tool, which will enable the full benefit to be extracted from each individual data source, ranging from ILI data to CP and corrosion growth data. This new source of information will be an essential aid to pipeline integrity in the new century.

Once implemented the system can be used to perform spatial queries to provide rapid access to the analysis results, confirm code compliance and prioritise corrective action and maximise the efficient use of the resources available.

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