Esri's mobile GIS applications have empowered our field workforce with simple and easy-to-use solutions.
The Historic East Texas Oil Field Is Supported by GIS
Author: Jarrett Roland, GIS Analyst
East Texas Salt Water Disposal Company (ETSWD) has been continuously receiving and disposing of salt water from the oil production process in the East Texas oil field since 1942. ETSWD currently serves 716 different oil lease sites in Gregg, Rusk, Smith, and Upshur Counties using over 600 miles of active pipelines. With the integration of mobile applications, geographic information system (GIS) technology is more critical than ever for communicating information between departments, field crews, and administrators.
I joined ETSWD as a GIS analyst on November 1, 2020. The most serious and pressing issue to begin working on was the lack of data integration. Spatial data for our pipelines was being stored and edited in Garmin's XMap software, while the underlying database information was stored in MPulse, an online database provider. The two databases were not consistent with each other. The standard practice for replacing old or worn-out lines at ETSWD was to create a new MPulse database entry and name tag just for the replaced portion and leave the data entry for the pipeline on either side of the replaced portion as it was, rather than splitting it into separate entries. Because of this, a pipeline in XMap could refer to multiple entries in MPulse. Entries in MPulse could refer to single or multiple line segments in XMap. The result was a lot of fragmented data, which needed to somehow be made to agree and then combined.
Enter ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcPy, Esri's Python scripting package for ArcGIS Pro. Matching the GIS data to the correct MPulse entries couldn't be automated due to data fragmentation; it could only be accomplished by someone with intimate knowledge of the facilities—something I did not have when just starting out. With a lot of help from Mason Welch, the engineering manager at ETSWD, we were able to assign the correct IDs from MPulse to the corresponding line segments in the GIS.
The MPulse database was then exported to a comma-separated value spreadsheet, or CSV file. I used Python's standard library CSV module to read the data from MPulse and ArcPy to write the data into our GIS based on the assigned IDs using the powerful cursor tools from the data analysis toolbox of ArcPy. With over 2,400 total line segments and many data fields, such as material, size, diameter, and installation dates, being able to write the data from MPulse into GIS by matching IDs and letting Python copy the data that corresponded to the assigned ID saved a significant amount of time and cut down on human errors.
Ease of Access
Once the data integration issue was solved, pipeline locations and other GIS asset data were uploaded to ArcGIS Online. By using ArcGIS Pro and ArcPy, I was able to test scripts on a local geodatabase and then push out updates to ArcGIS Online once everything was working as desired. Both XMap and MPulse were slow to use and nonintuitive compared to current alternatives. This limited their utility not just for the office staff but also the field crews.
With the seamless integration of ArcGIS Pro with ArcGIS Online, I was able to quickly create maps tailored for both office and mobile workers. Our office workers can access the maps created for them on ArcGIS Online, and our mobile workers can use Esri's ArcGIS Field Maps mobile app. Because ArcGIS Online allows administrators to control access and permissions on an individual account level, I was able to reduce screen clutter and confusion by specifying what individual users should see. Those who were less familiar with GIS technology were able to have a responsive map and database system that they did not need a manual to navigate.
"Being able to search for addresses provided to us by the Texas811 system without leaving the Field Maps application lets us quickly tell whether we have lines that cross a property boundary. Constantly refining those pipeline locations means that we can make quick decisions."—Blaine Jernigan, ETSWD Land and Environmental Manager
The mobile applications provided by Esri have allowed our data accuracy to continuously improve. Some of our pipelines have location data created by a GPS receiver and are highly accurate. However, many more were estimated locations and were digitized while referring to much older paper maps. These estimated pipeline locations are a constant issue as excavation from other entities frequently come into conflict with ETSWD's pipeline infrastructure. Property owners and utility installers are strongly encouraged to dial 8-1-1 in Texas before excavations. Typical dig calls are initiated 48 hours prior to excavation; however, emergency dig calls only allow for a 1-hour response time. ETSWD gets alerted to all dig calls in the vicinity of existing pipelines, and our full-time pipeline locators must visit the site to determine whether the excavation will interfere with an ETSWD pipeline.
Esri's ArcGIS QuickCapture mobile app allows our pipeline locators to quickly submit updates to the pipeline locations, which I can review and either accept or reject without them ever needing to come into the office. This serves to both improve our data accuracy and quickly respond to dig notices from Texas811. While this does not immediately reduce the number of on-site responses, it allows ETSWD to accomplish two tasks at once by providing needed data corrections during routine responses without increasing overhead costs. Not only was creating the QuickCapture project easy, but mobile workers only needed to press a single button on the application to begin recording their locations, and then press the same button again once they were finished correcting a segment.
There is no shortage of planned GIS projects to improve operations at ETSWD. We will soon be bringing our customers' reported water usage into the system and comparing the final disposal volumes to the upstream reporting volumes to efficiently track discrepancies in reporting. There are additional plans to map preventative maintenance routing for pipe cleaning and chemical injection. The overriding goal of ETSWD is efficiency of operation. We will continue to use GIS to improve operational efficiencies as we move into and beyond our 80th year of operation.
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