Beyond Mapping: Exploring GIS Use in Energy
With Steve Bennett and Brock Duncan of Pandell
Duration: 25mins, Released Nov 16 2022
How would you begin to know? In this session, Pandell land and GIS service experts, Steve Bennett and Brock Duncan, will delve into an array of GIS use examples implemented by renewable energy developers and operators, pipelines, and utility companies.
Unlike yesterday’s static paper maps, today’s GIS platforms provide a dynamic system of engagement through interactive visualization of data. Discover how GIS improves data management, tracks a mobile workforce, monitors assets in real time, and much more. No matter your experience level, this discussion is designed to inspire!
About The Pandell Leadership Series
The Pandell Leadership Series is a collection of free webinars featuring presentations by energy industry experts in a variety of specialized fields. Topics range from global business issues to recommended best practices in oil and gas; pipelines; mining; utilities; and the renewable energy industry (including wind, solar, hydrogen, geothermal, marine & hydrokinetic, nuclear and biomass power).
Please Note: Views and opinions expressed by the PLS presenter(s) do not necessarily represent the views of Pandell and its representatives.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Eliza, I'm the Customer Engagement Specialist here at Pandell and I'm delighted to see so many people online joining us today for this Pandell leadership webinar.
So, welcome. Today's topic is Beyond Mapping: Exploring GIS use in Energy. And we're especially excited about this topic today because it happens to be World GIS Day. So, happy GIS Day everybody. This is a worldwide event that celebrates the technology of geographic information systems. First celebrated in 1999 and originally inspired by Ralph Nader.
We have two speakers here today. We have Steve Bennett and Brock Duncan. So, I'd like to welcome them both. Steve is a Senior Industry Specialist here at Pandell and Brock is the Manager of GIS Mapping Services. And to kick things off we have Steve presenting his GIS story. So, I'm going to welcome Steve to the floor, and you can take it from here Steve.
STEVE WITH PANDELL Okay, well thank you Eliza. I started my career in land work about 20 years ago after graduating from Law School. My primary duties back then included contract negotiations, curing title, and managing crews of field agents. And this work required drafting a lot of maps but in those days my tools consisted of colored pencils and Allen scales. If I needed to deliver maps to management or publish a map in a document, I would call on my GIS analyst, John. But in those days, I called John a mapper because I really didn't distinguish mapping from GIS.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL What is the difference between mapping and GIS can you explain that to us now?
STEVE WITH PANDELL John actually sent me on the course to understand this. In time I discovered that there are various patterns of use or workflow types associated with GIS. These are convenient touchstones for us to consider and mapping is just the first of these.
John didn't sit me down and teach everything he knew to me all at once. Rather he saw my business needs as they'd arise and teach me concepts that would improve my workflow. The first of these of course was how best to meet my mapping needs.
Mapping and visualization is how we interact with our data and leverage the tools in GIS to keep our data up to date. Mapping is the first of these patterns of use in GIS and obviously it's the core capability. But as a Layman, I thought that was the total extent of GIS. In my mind GIS was just a glorified way of creating maps. They might appear on a computer monitor instead of paper but functionally they were the same static illustration of whatever I asked John to draw.
My work required maps that told different stories. To do this I'd ask John to adjust the labels on the tracks or to color code them. For example, I'd ask for a map that labeled the landowner tracked acreage and expiration date on all of my lease tracks. Or I'd ask for a map, color coded with the negotiation statuses along a new right-of-way route. Now here's the bit that was frustrating John. When I asked for these maps, the only way he knew how to label things was based on Xerox maps that I would give him. They were covered in my handwriting and shaded with colored pencil. In my mind, all John needed was the information to draw the map I'd give him the substance and his job was to make them look pretty.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL What was the solution for that? There had to be something better?
STEVE WITH PANDELL This is where I learned John's most important lesson. GIS goes beyond mapping it is also a tool for data management. Data management is how we collect, organize, and maintain locations and details about the resources and assets that are important to our work. John taught me that how I communicated changes to the maps was no less important than what I was communicating. He helped me think in the following terms, what are the entities that I'm managing and what are the attributes associated with these entities?
An entity was anything I could relate to a point, line, or polygon on a map. Wells, turbines, leases, distribution lines, essentially all my facilities, agreements, and tracks of land were represented as entities. John built geometries to associate with these and save them in layers, so you could toggle through each and I think most of us here are familiar with the toggling of layers, they're pretty, common today.
Every entity has a set of attributes associated with it. This wasn't nearly as clear to me at first because attributes were stored on John's system and didn't appear on maps, he would print for me. So, John sat me down in front of the system and selected the map layer for my leases. Then he showed me the layers attribute table.
And this table was a record of each of my leases with fields for all the attributes I had ever asked him to either label or symbolize on a map before. My lease dates, acreages, names, and so forth. He told me, “Steve when I label a map, I'm not retyping that information every time, I'm pulling those attributes from these tables.” John taught me that these attribute tables were used for more than just generating labels but also drove the symbology of the map. He wrote a simple expression that highlighted in pink all my leases with an expiration date falling within the coming year. This was a watershed moment in my understanding of the power of GIS.
After that demonstration, John suggested that rather than providing piecemeal changes to the map that we would align the format of my spreadsheets with his attribute tables. We established a regular system of updates from then on that kept the data in the GIS evergreen.
These early conversations with John transformed my understanding of GIS. With my documentation improved, my communication with John improved. Ultimately, we achieved seamless cohesion between our spatial data and our tabular data.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL What I'm hearing from you then is GIS is not just a tool for mapping but obviously also for data management. So, it makes me wonder what type of performance improvements came as a result when you started to understand this?
STEVE WITH PANDELL The first set of improvements included better planning, enhanced decision support, and increased collaboration. With all our information together, we can begin to make better design and planning decisions. We can review our data to evaluate alternative solutions and create optimal designs and strategies. Now keep in mind those conversations I had with John were internal to the land department and occurred many, many years ago. Land data was getting cleaned up and we were generating maps more accurately and quickly.
As other departments saw this, they'd come up to me and say, “you know what I'd like to see on that map?” The regulatory department had their own information that they wanted to see juxtaposed with land data, and the same with the engineers, and our operational departments. So, over time we acquired more and more layers to create multi-disciplinary views of our projects.
To give you an example, when planning to build a new facility the land data would show areas subject to setback restrictions that were defined in our agreements. The regulatory department would be concerned with other areas like wetlands. So, originally, we would route a new location proposal through the different departments. Starting with land, I'd okay that. It passed a regulatory but then it would get kicked back to me if they found a hang up with it.
But by bringing all of our information together, these types of approval processes were more collaborative. There was less routing and more cross-disciplinary teamwork. Over time each department contributed more information relevant to them and this didn't occur as massive data dumps. Each contribution came in turn to illustrate a specific story that had known business value in that moment. This incremental growth continued for several years until eventually we developed quite a repository of geospatial data. And sitting on this amount of data was a boon to our analytics department.
The more, clean data at your disposal, the more performative your analytics will be. GIS provides a large array of analytic tools that help us to discover and quantify our data and gain deeper understanding of trends and patterns in our data. There are hundreds of these tools that can create buffers, identify hot and cold spots in our data, or enrich our data from third-party sources. What's great is that many of these tools can be automated. In fact, in a minute when Brock speaks, he'll be highlighting several tools offered by Pandell.
Now going back to John, when he highlighted all those leases in pink that were expiring in the upcoming year, that was a simple analytic function. That query didn't create new data, but it provided clear insight into the information I had at hand.
I would also perform spatial analysis when I needed to send out notices to landowners within a certain distance from a facility or scheduled operation. I could identify the facility, enter a specific distance, then pull back the contact information on all the landowners within that calculated area. In doing so, I would actually generate a new piece of information, the area of interest subject to my notice.
These are simple examples, but we also ran forecasting that modelled the economic performance of our projects over time through different scenarios. We analyzed terrain, creating view sheds, and slope calculations. The analytical power of GIS just really can't be overstated.
As GIS usage grew in our home office, exciting advancements began to occur in the field. This brings me to the final set of GIS use patterns that I want to discuss.
With field mobility and monitoring, we can take data we collect in the field and monitor it in real-time. One of the greatest challenges I face managing development activities remotely was capturing accurate measurements and dimensions without spending a mint on surveyors.
With specialized GIS applications designed for phones and tablets, we put the power of capturing new geometries in the hands of our field workers. I found this particularly helpful when planning new construction and access roads. Before we would use satellite or aerial imagery to mark up a proposed route but in large undeveloped areas reference points in the imagery could be difficult to ascertain. By the time we sent out a staking crew lines may have shifted by 100 feet or more.
Mobile GIS apps help to rectify this. Prior to sending out a survey crew, my construction foreman would hop on his all-terrain vehicle and ride the proposed route. All the while tracking his path and saving those lines to our GIS system. In addition to capturing the geometry of the route, he could also attach pictures and notes of points along the way. Once he was happy with the route, he would upload his route through the app, and it would appear immediately visible to me back at the home office. I could then analyze and improve the route before forwarding it onto a surveyor. With high accuracy preliminary data, I saved on sending high dollar surveyors out on repeat trips.
Field mobility and monitoring workflows for GIS abound today. They can provide live directions through your private road network or give your inspectors geo-enabled forms to work from. Of course, there are also Edge systems that allow you to build a digital twin of your operations sending real-time data streams back to your system. And from there dashboards and 3D models are among the interfaces that allow us to filter and analyze information gathered remotely and provide ways for us to manage enable our mobile workforce.
So, that's my GIS journey from colored pencils to remote apps. I hope these use patterns I share today provide useful as a framework when you consider how GIS might better serve your business needs. Eliza.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL Fantastic thanks Steve. We're going to keep the ball rolling here and hand the stage over to Brock, who's going to talk to us about time savings with GIS which is always a very important topic. Brock over to you.
BROCK WITH PANDELL Hi everyone. As Eliza mentioned, I'm Brock Duncan the Manager of GIS Mapping Services here at Pandell. So, in this portion of the webinar I'll be covering time savings with GIS.
So, I've broken this section into three subsections, the first being the life cycle of a land right. In this section I'll cover the process agreements go through, from paper documents and filing cabinets, to digitized GIS polygons and agreements in a land management system. This will help give you a better idea later on how we arrive at a map that is populated with GIS data.
The second is the AutoMapper Tool in GIS mapping. So, in this section I'll cover the two types of GIS mapping that are performed. One being automatic mapping performed by the Pandell AutoMapper Tool and the other being manual GIS mapping performed by Pandell GIS Specialists.
The third is decision making with GIS data. So, in this section I'll cover different types of analysis that can be performed with a set of clean and newly mapped GIS data.
Subsection one, the life cycle of a land right.
So, how do we go from paper maps and paper files stored away in filing cabinets to a clean GIS map that contains all the information from these paper land right documents and maps?
The first step involves physically scanning all paper files and maps into a digital format. Once all the paper files have been scanned, AI OCR technology is used to convert the files to Raw text for page classification and separation.
The next step is to remove any duplicate agreement documents via machine learning pattern recognition. And we typically do see quite a few multiple scans of the same agreement. So, once all these duplicate files have been removed, we perform data extraction to populate the data into spreadsheets, with our land records analyst then doing a sweep of the data to clean up any remaining errors or inconsistencies.
The final step is to perform a bulk import of the data from a spreadsheet into the land management system, while simultaneously attaching the agreement document scans to each matching record. Once the land management system is populated GIS mapping can commence.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL So, Brock on average how much time does this step and process typically take?
BROCK WITH PANDELL So, it differs by client but on average the digitization process of each individual agreement going from a paper file to being input into a land management system takes about 20 minutes. Really with the majority of that time being spent locating the physical paper files and scanning them.
Pandell's experienced team of GIS specialists will then come in and interpret the agreement documents, legal descriptions, and plats to digitize GIS polygons that represent each land right, and then link them to their corresponding records. This process will be performed for all agreements and in the end the dynamic and interactive GIS map can be viewed which will display all GIS polygons with their associated attribute data.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL So, Brock all of this sounds well and good and all that but it also kind of sounds like you're just temporarily moving the workload onto Pandell. So, does this actually help long term for time savings for the client?
BROCK WITH PANDELL Absolutely. So, one success story for a small utility client of ours actually translated into time savings when they began using Pandell GIS and a Pandell Land Management System.
The right-of-way agents for this utility client used to spend roughly 20 hours per week on average, working on new business agreements and performing right-of-way checks during their workflows. These exact same tasks now take the right-of-way agents an average of four hours per week, due to the fact that they don't have to perform research on old paper maps and documents. This provides the right-of-way agents with an additional 16 hours per week to perform other tasks.
Subsection 2, AutoMapper Tool and GIS mapping. So, I touched on this earlier that there are two different types of GIS mapping. One being automatic, which is performed by the Pandell AutoMapper Tool and the other being manual GIS mapping performed by a Pandell GIS Specialist. I want to touch on these two types of mapping that are performed before we cover what you can do with your map GIS data.
The Pandell GIS AutoMapper Tool uses AI technology by reading formatted legal descriptions in the land management system and maps the land rights to standard PLSS, survey abstract, and tax parcel layers. With the success rate as high as 90 percent in some areas of North America. The tool can greatly speed up the mapping process by automating the generation of hundreds or even thousands of polygons, which in turn saves thousands of hours of manual work.
In some mapping situations, GIS Specialists will be required to review agreements to perform manual mapping.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL In what circumstances that you call for manual mapping and how often does it actually arise?
BROCK WITH PANDELL So, the GIS Specialist review agreements that contain legal descriptions with metes and bounds. Once they have ‘less and except’ descriptions or ones that have irregularly shaped langer data in the map. So, it really depends on the client and types of agreements we're mapping for them to determine how often manual mapping is required.
For example, a client with a large number of blanket easements and leases would require less manual mapping, as opposed to a client with right-of-way center line descriptions that contain metes and bounds, or less and except descriptions. Pandell has a set of advanced GIS mapping tools that perform specialized mapping functions to increase efficiency, accuracy, capabilities, and speed of our GIS specialist mapping workflow. The Pandell GIS tool shown in the image here is our metes and bounds mapping tool.
Subsection 3, Decision Making with GIS Data. Now that you have a clean set of newly mapped GIS data what can you do with it?
Well, the most-simplest answer, as an overview of your GIS map, you can obtain a more concise picture of your company's land holdings. With the clean set of GIS data in your map, which includes your company's facilities and map land rights, you now have a more clearer, and accurate understanding of your land rights. You'll no longer spend time researching, using paper maps and documents, and instead will make decisions using living, dynamic maps that will be updated in real-time. This will save your company time while reducing errors and increasing efficiency.
Risk management. Here's another success story from a large utility client of ours when they began using our GIS and land management system. So, initially it took their field agents on average three days when working on encroachment resolutions. With the switch from paper maps to digital, turnaround time shrunk from three days to 30 minutes. It also brought revenue driving transparency and automation to their right-of-way management.
One specific example, the company held an agreement from 1976 that allowed a university to build a parking lot that extended into its right-of-way. The agreement stipulated a recurring payment would be made to the utility company by the university in exchange for the right to use a concrete parking lot on the utility company's land. However, without adequate monitoring of the agreement terms the utility company never billed it out and the university never paid. Time passed and no one at the company was even aware of this issue. When a Pandell GIS and land management system were implemented. The neglected agreement was discovered in the overdue fees were identified. A finding that was verified by the university itself and since then two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in fees accumulated over four decades were subsequently billed to the university and paid in full.
So, an interactive Pandell GIS map containing your company's facilities and map land rights can also provide a quick gap analysis overview to help mitigate risk. Gaps in the data can quickly be spotted to make more informed decisions on your company's land rights.
So, I have an example here where the green line represents an electric facility line with tower structures and the pink polygons are mapped easements representing the right-of-way corridor. As you can see in the map section 15 does not contain an easement land right. This is something we actually see fairly often with client’s data.
So, the questions that could come up would be was the company's paper document agreement misplaced? Never scanned into the into the land management system. Or in worse circumstances, did the company forget to acquire an easement from the landowner and wrongfully build a tower and run lines over their property? These are situations that can be quickly spotted and resolved with the help of an interactive GIS map that contains the company's map land rights.
You can also perform various types of analysis on your map GIS land rights by utilizing geoprocessing tools that are available in Esri's ArcGIS. These tools help with data analysis to help make quicker more informed decisions about your land rights.
A couple of examples, if your company wanted to construct a new facility line near a national park, parallel and adjacent to an existing line but you needed to know how close your company's new right-of-way corridor would be to the National Park, you could utilize the buffer tool to generate an output polygon to analyze.
Or for another example, if your company wanted to know all locations where land rights overlap one another, you could utilize the intersect tool to output a shapefile that contains polygons of all overlapping locations to further research and analyze. These are just a couple of ways you can analyze your data by utilizing geoprocessing tools but there are many more that can help with your data analysis.
Thanks everyone and I'll turn it back over to you Eliza.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL Awesome, thanks Brock. Okay, we do still have time for questions. And we do have a couple we can answer right away and Brock these might be good ones for you.
We'll start with this one here, taking into account that stakeholders subdivide land how often are maps updated?
BROCK WITH PANDELL So, they're updated in real-time. As long as the agreement documents are provided to a Pandell GIS Mapping Specialist or maybe someone within your company that would be mapping those. As soon as those are mapped and linked, the maps themselves will be updated for all users within your organization to be able to view.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL Another one for you Brock here is, what is the typical size of a mapping project performed by your GIS team?
BROCK WITH PANDELL So, it depends on the client industry and obviously their needs, but we've mapped projects that range from 50 agreements that only take a couple of days. And we've mapped on projects that are as large as 100,000 agreements that may take two to three years.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL Okay, so it doesn't really matter whether you're a big company or a small company there's benefit to be had is what I’m getting from you there.
BROCK WITH PANDELL Yeah.
ELIZA WITH PANDELL Okay cool and that kind of segues into this next question that we got and that was for a company that hasn't touched on GIS mapping at all yet, where's a good place to start?
ELIZA WITH PANDELL100 percent you could reach out to us, and we have everything that you would need to get started with managing your data and you know getting you those GIS maps that can help you know start making more informed decisions.
BROCK WITH PANDELL Okay, great. So, everybody thank you so much for joining us today for this Pandell leadership webinar and for celebrating World GIS day with us. So, I hope you'll join us for a future leadership webinar and have a wonderful afternoon. Thanks again to Brock and Steve for being our speakers today.