A sensible approach to subsea pipeline route determination - Moving from hand-drawn routes to geologically-constrained, least-cost optimized paths

Christine A. Devine, William C. Haneberg, Hoseong Lee, Meng Lung Liu, Gwo Ang Chang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Pipeline routes have traditionally been selected in the early stages of prospect development, using low-resolution datasets, with minimal consideration for seafloor and shallow subsurface geological conditions, and rudimentary rules about seafloor gradients and pipeline curvature. We describe advantages of a modern GIS-based approach using least-cost path optimization over a composite geocost surface, which provides a structured framework for quantifiable decision-making, incorporates formal risk assessment as part of the route acceptance process, and forms the basis for a forthcoming industry guidance document. The workflow that we propose comprises: 1) geophysical data acquisition, geotech-nical investigations, and geological studies during the initial stages of development to evaluate potential pipeline routes; 2) systematic evaluation of geological, geotechnical, ecological, and cultural factors that determine pipeline route suitability; 3) the classification and weighting of all identified geohazards and constraints to develop a geocost composite map; 4) determination of an optimal route using least-cost path optimization within a geographic information system; 5) risk assessment of the least-cost route; and, finally, 6) route acceptance. The classification and weighting of component hazard maps, as well as the risk assessment, are best performed collaboratively by a multi-disciplinary team that includes expertise in marine engineering geology, geotechnical engineering, pipeline engineering, marine ecology and archaeology, and health, safety, and environmental personnel. We will demonstrate a step-by-step application of the method, which has already been used for pipeline route determination on geologically challenging deepwater projects. If geohazards are not identified in early stages and used to guide route selection, changes to the original pipeline route or mitigation - either of which could affect schedules and budgets - may be necessary. This method is relatively new to subsea pipeline route determination, however, it offers important advantages over previous methods and can be applied starting in the earliest conceptual phases of field development, iterating if necessary, as new information becomes available.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOffshore Technology Conference 2016, OTC 2016
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781510824294
StatePublished - 2016
EventOffshore Technology Conference 2016, OTC 2016 - Houston, United States
Duration: May 2 2016May 5 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual Offshore Technology Conference
ISSN (Print)0160-3663


ConferenceOffshore Technology Conference 2016, OTC 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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