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Pipeline Companies Get Better Right-of-Way Maintenance In 2018

The US drilling rig count is on the rise again. At the end of January, Baker Hughes announced there were 947 active rigs. Compare that to 228 units from just a year ago, and it’s a safe bet that the industry as a whole is coming back strong.

Among the leading oil and gas-producing states, Texas saw the most substantial increase, with 466 rigs currently in production. West Virginia and New Mexico each gained a few units as well. There were a few fewer rigs in other states (Louisiana among them), but the overall rig count suggests a healthy outlook going into February.

If you’re a pipeliner responsible for safely moving crude oil, natural gas or refined petroleum through large piping systems across these states, what does it all mean to you?

For most oil and gas professionals, it means more confidence. Lower production costs, stable oil prices and fewer concerns about global economic setbacks mean many of us can breathe a little easier.

Higher oil prices in 2018 could result in more U.S. shale production. Oil benchmark prices reached 3-year highs in January, which has pushed capital spending – especially in places like the Permian region and right here in Louisiana.

Ramping Up Infrastructure

As pipeline companies and they pipeliners who work for them scramble to support the energy boom, the cost of building and maintaining oil and gas pipeline infrastructure is going up.

Pipeline companies are paying more for the right to build pipelines to carry fuel across private property. They’re also paying more for pipeline maintenance, including right-of-way clearing.

Those crews need visibility and access to pipes. When gas or oil lines become “lost” and unkempt, they become a safety problem for nearby residents and the pipeline workers themselves.

Right-of-way (ROW) clearing involves taking out unwanted trees and overgrown vegetation. Such debris removal also preserves the integrity of the pipes, since plant growth can damage these structures in the long run.

What Clearing Involves

ROWs are usually corridors that steer clear of buildings, structures and trees. Usually, pipeline markers are located within a ROW, but over time, vegetative growth can make those markers hard to see. Since operators need to be able to access the pipeline quickly in the event of an emergency and for routine inspections, keeping trees, shrubs, brush, fences, and other structures are important.

Right-of-Way Maintenance promotes pipeline integrity and safety. The root systems of trees and large shrubs can grow against or around pipelines, damaging the coating and even denting the underground pipes. That damage can result in leaks – bad news for everyone.

Who’s Responsible? The Easement Should Say

A ROW is (in most cases) an easement that allows a company to lay pipe through someone else’s land. If the easement doesn’t specify who is responsible for ROW maintenance, the rule of thumb is that the “dominant estate owner” (meaning the operator who was granted the easement) is required to maintain the ROW at no cost to the “servient estate owner” (the easement grantor). If there is no specific language in the written agreement to the contrary, the pipeline company is responsible for maintenance.

How Stan’s Can Help

If you maintain a pipeline or if you’re laying new pipe, your goals are to maximize pipeline throughput, prevent spills and decrease downtime. Stan’s can help you maintain your pipelines, even in difficult-to-access areas like the wetlands and coastal swamps where we work.

Oil and gas professionals depend on Stan’s to help with all aspects of pipeline construction and maintenance in marshes, swamps and all wetlands, including:

We have cleared thousands of miles of ROW over the years. Whether we’re mowing, grubbing, excavating or trenching, our fleet of specialized equipment can handle any project from start to finish. Give us a call. We’re glad the oil and gas industry is coming back strong, and we’re here, ready to support you.

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