North American Energy Company

DRG used winged aircraft to perform a vegetation assessment for a major North American energy company that operates natural gas pipelines throughout several states in the U.S.

The Challenge

Many factors can play a role in natural gas pipeline safety, such as proactive leak inspections and detections, as well as maintaining visible pipeline markers and managing vegetation within the rights-of-way (ROWs). The root systems of trees, large shrubs, and woody plant species can cause damage to the underground pipeline, while overgrown vegetation above ground can block the view of pipeline markers and create a difficult environment for pipeline inspections. To mitigate these safety concerns, vegetation management for natural gas ROWs is federally regulated.

For one major North American energy company that operates natural gas pipelines in several states throughout the U.S., maintaining ROW vegetation on such a large scale can be a challenge. Davey Resource Group (DRG) helped the energy company develop a unique method to assess the vegetation on their ROWs: through a bird’s eye view via winged aircraft. While aircrafts are routinely used for vegetation management work like herbicide spraying, this is the first time a vegetation assessment of this scale was performed using a fixed wing aircraft.

The Solution

DRG developed a client-specific program to train several team members to conduct vegetation assessments on an aircraft. While on board, a crew member traveled 120 to 150 miles per hour at around 1,000 feet elevation for 8 to 10 hours per day, using DRG’s proprietary data collection software to gather vegetation data on key parts of the energy company’s ROWs. Crew members were deployed out of as many as four locations coast-to-coast, including central Texas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma.

A second DRG crew member on the ground received the immediate results of the assessment, enabling the team to process data and report findings as soon as possible for the client. Using this method, DRG assessed 20,000 miles of ROW for the North American energy company. The project took less than a year to complete, starting in the spring of 2020 and ending in January 2021.

The Results

The aerial assessments allowed DRG to gather data across a wide service area in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional methods, creating a more economic and efficient solution for their client. The North American energy company was able to strategically update its vegetation maintenance plans using the data to identify areas that need more detailed boots-on-the-ground assessments or clearing work to comply with federal pipeline safety regulations.

DRG continues working with the client to apply advanced technologies such as LiDAR imaging technology to their assessment process.

DRG uses advanced technologies to help their clients meet their vegetation management goals.
A DRG crew member on the ground received immediate results of the aerial assessments, enabling the team to process data as soon as possible for the client.
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