Managing Data Geospatially Makes Pipeline Operator More Efficient

Crestwood Equity Partners LP is a Texas-based midstream pipeline operator that offers a range of services, including storage, transportation, marketing, and supply and logistics for natural gas, natural gas liquids, crude oil, and disposed water. The company operates approximately 2,300 miles of pipeline onshore in the contiguous United States and provides all its services with a commitment to safety, compliance, and sustainability.

Maintaining and managing data are key to Crestwood’s successful day-to-day operations. But the company had three disconnected databases, which made this more difficult. So the GIS team decided to merge Crestwood’s databases into one and chose a new data management system—the ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing extension—to better edit and administer its information.

How to Make Data Management More Uniform

Crestwood collects a variety of data to support pipeline operations, including events along the pipeline, such as road and water crossings, and details on pipeline locations. The data helps Crestwood manage pipeline installation and maintenance, as well as environmental and population risks. Because the company has field offices around the United States, streamlining data management was a top priority to improve operational efficiency.

To bring its databases together, Crestwood looked to implement a geodatabase data model that involved a spatial implementation of the pipeline open data standard (PODS), a database designed specifically for managing pipeline data. The team also wanted a compatible tool that would work with PODS to edit data and improve information management.

A screenshot of Crestwood’s GIS solution
The data Crestwood collects to support pipeline operations is now managed from one solution.

“Every operator has to choose how they store their data and what tools they want to use to interact with that data and report it throughout their organization,” said Craig Hawkins, GISP, Crestwood’s manager of asset information and GIS. “This primarily supports operational needs and meeting regulatory requirements. So we needed a way to make managing data more uniform.”

Crestwood chose ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing to complement PODS and help with data editing. An extension to ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Enterprise, ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing lets users integrate data from multiple linear referencing system (LRS) networks so data managers can get a comprehensive view of pipelines.

A Financially Sound and Flexible Choice

When Crestwood migrated to the PODS database in November 2017, the GIS team simultaneously implemented ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing tools.

“After evaluating many pipeline data management software options in the market, we decided to implement ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing software,” said Heidi Shannon, Crestwood’s supervisor of pipeline as-builts, records, and data. “The intuitive interface and integration with our existing enterprise GIS platform allowed for a smooth implementation.”

The use of ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing made financial sense for Crestwood as well. Only one person out of Hawkins’s seven-person team is assigned as the main editor, so the company was able to purchase just one license at an affordable price to suit its business needs.

Crestwood also chose ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing for its flexibility. Hawkins explained that with other software providers, the company’s data would be locked into a proprietary data model, whereas with ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing the team can use any data model it chooses. Additionally, Hawkins likes being able to work directly out of a geodatabase and said the tools are simple to use.

Hawkins and the GIS team worked closely with the Esri product team and a third-party vendor throughout the testing and implementation phase to get guidance and assistance. Over a period of about six months, the team tested ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing in a development environment, trying out a variety of workflows before the solution went into production.

Data Is Now Easy to Manage, Share, and Use

Implementing ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing has already improved data management at Crestwood. Because data is now stored in one place, information can easily be shared with the entire organization.

“Some of the different workflows we had were not efficient,” recalled Hawkins. “Simply having everything in one location has been tremendously helpful. We have had efficiency gains across the board because we can easily manage that database and report out from one location instead of three.”

Staff at Crestwood are keen on a variety of features the extension offers, including the user-friendly interface and the ability to version.

“All the tools are pretty straightforward in the interface, and versioning allows us to keep track of our data governance,” said Hawkins. “We are able to make our edits in a version and then perform [quality assurance and quality control] before we post and reconcile to the database.”

Once the data is published with the software, it is available in Crestwood’s GIS environment quickly. This includes any map services. As such, internal stakeholders who use the company’s web app can consume the data almost immediately.

Hawkins is also pleased that ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing enables the team to maintain compliance with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the regulatory body that oversees pipelines. This means that the team can manage all its ArcGIS technology—as well as all its records, data, and software—without the help of a third-party vendor.

“The Esri software [including ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing] has allowed us to link records to our features in our geodatabase, so they’re easily accessible in different formats, like web apps,” Hawkins explained.

This meets PHMSA’s requirement that certain data and its associated records be traceable, verifiable, and complete (TVC).

“Publishing our data via web apps has allowed different stakeholders to interact with information more efficiently,” said Hawkins. “We’ve heard positive feedback from stakeholders throughout the company.”