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Strategically Leveraging GIS and Geospatial Data for Growth
By Hugo Guerrero, VP of Engineering, Construction and Project Management, Crestwood Midstream Partners LP
GIS has a played a key role in the transformation of Crestwood Midstream Partners, LP since joining the company in 2013. Crestwood, which among other services, gathers, stores, and transports natural gas, oil and other derivative products for energy producers and other pipeline operators, was formed in 2010 with an acquisition in the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas. Today, Crestwood assets span from coast to coast and are located in most active unconventional shale plays in the nation.
Midstream companies, much like their traditional pipeline cousins, used GIS in tactical applications across the new construction and asset management value chains. From environmental permitting, route analysis to generating the ever-present map. But the value of geospatial information and the tools to visualize and analyze the data has been a game changer not only for better asset management, but for capturing new business opportunities.
While the term midstream does imply the service or asset in between upstream and downstream, midstream business are greatly affected by what happens across all of those segments. Today, our system planning and strategic development teams utilize GIS tools and services to mine and visualize data to help our business determine where we should be focusing our growth in; from drilling rig locations, rig count, well performance, land ownership, existing pipeline and related infrastructure, we look at all of those data points in a concise manner facilitated through GIS. Once we determine we should explore building an asset, we leverage system planning tools that interact with GIS platforms to facilitate data exchange and speed up the process to design and layout these concepts.
A strong GIS technology infrastructure is enabling us to wisely select and evaluate new opportunities at a time when other companies are in distress. And that puts us in a highly competitive position to win even more deals as commodity prices continue to improve.
It is clear that visualized location-based information is far more valuable to employees than tables and spreadsheets
Plans to Raise our GeoSpatial IQ
As we mature, our goal is to leverage GIS technology across the company in as many aspects of our day-to-day business as possible.
It is clear that visualized location-based information is far more valuable to employees than tables and spreadsheets. With the help of consumer mobile applications, the average person has had some form of interaction with a GIS technology; most times without knowing it.
We’ve taken the same approach, to build on that notion gained by non-GIS professionals from exploring Google Maps, Yelp, Zillow and other location-based consumer applications to the business environment. Can you imagine if the Yelp app simply listed the names and addresses of the business you were looking for? Perhaps including the Latitude and Longitude in case you happen to have a GPS on you? It is that exact though process we are working to embed in the information we publish to our internal users when searching for information related to our assets. What we find is that once exposed, the users want more.
Soon, we will be deploying our ArcGIS portal where we publish maps and information that users can interact with to create and publish their own maps without the need of a desktop mapping application. Routine activities will be automated and available via a self-service portal, allowing our GIS professionals to focus on more valuable activities.
The Challenge Ahead
Geospatial information is very dynamic and in ever-growing datasets. Our ability to ingest, process, analyze, store and publish data that is constantly changing is challenge we are all facing.
Midstream companies aren’t typically setup with the right IT infrastructure of capture and store the large amounts of data obtained from today’s sensors. Whether it is aerial imagery, LiDAR or other form of data, we will continue to rely on vertical solutions offered as SaaS and other Cloud services such that we are not subject to building our own. That said, we will be required to have the right systems and tools that consume those published geoCloud services.
This is where vertical market standardization comes into play. Much like the Pipeline Open Data Standard (PODS) has been the standard database schema for pipeline information for over a decade, standards for other aspects of asset information related to our business will need to emerge.
Risk and Integrity Management
A fundamental component of integrity management is identifying and understanding the threats to a system. It is impossible to understand all threats if the information on the subject asset is not known or incomplete. From construction, testing and inspection records, to location-based data gathered during design and construction, midstream companies are required to maintain records that many times are prescribed by Federal, State or Local codes and regulations.
Companies like Crestwood that have grown in part by acquisition, have a greater challenge in that most times the merging companies have completely different procedures for capturing and storing asset information; thereby forcing the resulting larger organization to migrate or re-capture the data.
This is why we have chosen to first invest in properly organizing our asset information and establishing standards for how to ingest and process new information being collected from new construction projects. With the re-chartering of our Asset Information and GIS function last year, we have positioned to company to invest in maturing and reformulating our Asset Integrity mission.