Damage prevention

Pipeline Integrity and the PHMSA Mega Rule – What You Need to Know

January 31, 2023

By Brandi Wolfe, Regulatory Compliance Manager, Oil and Gas, WSB

A vital part of a pipeline operator’s job is to ensure the integrity of pipelines always remain impenetrable and intact. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in charge of regulating the pipeline industry, has recently developed new requirements concerning pipeline safety of gas transmission lines, adding layers of complexity and stringent new standards for operators. 

The new rule Repair Criteria, Integrity Management Improvements, Cathodic Protection, Management of Change, and Other Related Amendments (also known as RIN2) goes into effect on May 24, 2023, and operators are required to have their integrity management program updated and implemented by February 2024. Because there are so many new complexities and factors involved, operators need to act now to update their program and ensure they adhere to all new guidelines and regulations. 

What You Need to Know.

The latest rule specifies that pipeline operators of transmission lines in a regulated Integrity Management Plan update their requirements for repair criteria, assessment repair timelines, management of change procedures, expanded identification of potential threats to pipeline integrity (like a severe weather event), and more. 

Where to Place Your Focus and Resources.  

As operators review and update their integrity management programs, what are the best practices and things you need to review?

Start by focusing on data integration. PHSMA is requiring operators to incorporate more than forty specific pipeline potential threats into their risk assessments. Updating your integrity program to incorporate these changes is time intensive. New items like geohazard review, external forces, land movement, and water movement are all items to plan for and consider. Operators must start this process by May 24, 2023, and have all required integration complete by February 26, 2024.

Next, it’s important to update corrosion assessment requirements. PHSMA incorporated a standard assessment program that is more prescriptive than before, and corrosion assessments must be built to meet those strict industry standards. 

Finally, it’s important to conduct a geohazard review. Operators must now take into account external forces that may affect the integrity of the pipeline. WSB put together a more in-depth article on this topic, and you can find more information on geohazard reviews by clicking here. 

Don’t Delay, Act Now. 

With so much to do and less than one year to do it all, many operators will find it difficult to allocate the internal resources and time necessary to fulfill all the requirements. Updating the integrity management program takes time, and if you haven’t started, you may already find yourself falling behind. 

We have worked in the pipeline industry for over a decade and are available to help update plans, implement procedures, make risk assessments, and meet all requirements to ensure your program is in full compliance with the new rule. We have the team and the know-how to help guide pipeline integrity teams, no matter where you are in the process. 

Opportunity plus field work training

Opportunity+ welcomes fourth cohort into free civil engineering career training program 

January 25, 2023

The targeted workforce training and development program aims to diversify the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry. 

Design and consulting firm WSB today announced that the company has launched its fourth Opportunity+ cohort. Opportunity+ is a workforce training and development program designed to prepare participants for long-term careers in the civil engineering industry. The program, first launched in January 2020, is a free and fast-paced training course led by experts from throughout the AEC industry. This year’s cohort has 17 participants enrolled.  

From January through March, program participants will receive accelerated training through evening sessions. The flexible schedule allows participants to continue working during the day while completing the hands-on program. Upon completion of the program, participants will be prepared for careers as engineering technicians, survey crew members, construction materials technicians and site inspectors – all high-demand positions in civil engineering.  

“This is our largest cohort to date, and I’m thrilled that we’re making real progress in building opportunities for all people interested in civil engineering.”

Bret Weiss, WSB President and CEO

“This is our largest cohort to date, and I’m thrilled that we’re making real progress in building opportunities for all people interested in civil engineering,” said Bret Weiss, WSB’s president and CEO. “We are committed to actionable change and to diversifying our industry. While many companies have a focus on diversity and inclusion, we’re creating real opportunity and it’s been incredibly rewarding to watch our participants build their careers both inside the walls of WSB and with our partners.” 

In 2023, Opportunity+ expanded recruitment efforts into the veteran community with 56% of this year’s cohort identifying as veterans. The veteran community is another untapped talent market with a diverse population. Many veterans have skills that lend themselves well to civil engineering careers.  

New this year is the addition of Opportunity+ hiring partners including Frattalone Companies, a construction firm specializing in civil site construction, James R. Hill, Inc., a full-service land development consulting firm, GeoWall Designs LLC, a retaining wall design company and Westwood Professional Services, a multi-disciplined land surveying and engineering company.  Expanding and growing the program outside of WSB has been a long-term goal.  In its fourth year, the program’s curriculum was at a place where it made sense to expand its reach across the industry to broaden hiring options for participants.  

“Joining Opportunity+ as a hiring partner made complete sense,” said Nick Frattalone, Frattalone Companies’ Chief Executive Officer. “In today’s labor market, finding skilled workers is a challenge across our industry. The types of skills that are learned through the program are not only relevant to supporting our business operations, but also represent our commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts.” 

Since the program’s inception, 17 participants have graduated. Opportunity+ was built to provide a pathway into the AEC industry for those that are generally underrepresented in it, specifically women and people of color. The intent of the program is to reduce and remove some of the barriers to a successful career in civil engineering.  

“The current demand for civil engineering technicians far exceeds the available talent, and many qualified candidates don’t have the time or resources to complete formal education in this field,” said Julie Thiel, WSB’s vice president of human resources. “This year, we expanded our recruiting efforts and felt strongly about welcoming more partners into the fold. Building a more diverse workforce is not just one firm’s responsibility, but rather our entire industry’s and I’m looking forward to the future of this fast-growing program.” 

Opportunity+ officially launched on January 24. The intent is to connect every cohort participant interested in pursuing a career in the industry to full-time positions following the program. They will be invited to interview for open positions with WSB and its hiring partners that can lead to greater responsibility and lifelong careers. 

How to Prepare for Severe Weather Disasters

PHMSA Mega Rule: How to Prepare for Severe Weather Disasters

January 16, 2023

By Jen Holmstadt, Senior Project Manager, Oil and Gas, WSB

Hurricanes, flash floods, landslides, or any other form of severe weather can affect the environment by causing things like cracks and leaks in existing pipeline infrastructure. These issues can impact owners, managers, and workers of midstream transmission pipelines if they aren’t proactive in dealing with issues that may arise. 

As part of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHSMA) final rule Repair Criteria, Integrity Management Improvements, Cathodic Protection, Management of Change, and Other Related Amendments (RIN2), PHMSA amended section 192.613 Continuing Surveillance to align with requirements previously added to the liquids rule. The new language seeks to decrease environmental issues by incentivizing proactive planning to protect and fix infrastructure in a timely manner after weather disasters.  

WSB has a team of experts in geohazard risk assessment who can help companies navigate the murky waters of regulation and policy surrounding RIN2.

Policy Change

Extreme weather has been a contributing factor to several pipeline failures. PHMSA has issued Advisory Bulletins in 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2022 to communicate the potential that severe weather has to negatively impact pipeline integrity.  PHSMA has amended 192.613 to require pipeline operators to inspect their potentially damaged infrastructure within 72 hours of a severe weather occurrence. If an issue is found during inspection, the operator is required to take the steps necessary to address the problem area.

PHMSA has defined extreme weather or natural disaster as any event that has the likelihood of damaging pipeline facilities. This includes soil movement around the pipelines, landslides, floods, earthquakes, and named hurricanes and tropical storms. Because storms of differing magnitudes will cause different outcomes in every landscape (e.g., even a small precipitation event may cause a landslide if the slope is unstable), this introduces a fair degree of uncertainty for operators. This regulatory and operational uncertainty can be difficult for companies to navigate, which is why a proactive approach to extreme weather management is important.

The rule goes into effect on May 24, 2023. After petitions by several industry agencies (AGA, API, and INGAA), PHMSA has decided to refrain from taking enforcement action on the severe weather inspections and other requirements from the effective date until February 24, 2024, for pipelines installed or repaired prior to August 24, 2022. We do recommend that operators take advantage of this extension now, PHMSA has the right to revoke this discretion at any time.

Geohazard Risk Assessment and Severe Weather Monitoring

We recommend companies proactively incorporate severe weather planning into their current geohazard risk assessment plan. It is vital that operators know their system, have identified where potential issues could occur, and have a plan in place to act within 72 hours of a hazardous event. 

Having a scientific rationale and process in place within your geohazard risk assessment plan will go a long way when severe weather events happen.

What WSB Can Do

This rule is important to protect the environment, people, and property within the natural gas industry. The best approach to ambiguity and unknowns surrounding this policy change is being proactive. While there are no easy or one-size-fits all answers, there are geohazard risk assessment experts at WSB that are available to provide geohazard management assistance for operators. 

WSB can also provide coaching and planning when it comes to combining a company’s geohazard program with a severe weather monitoring system.

Fisheries

Full Circle Sustainability from Coast to Coast

January 13, 2023

By Tony Havranek, Director of Fisheries, WSB

WSB & FisH2O are helping manage invasive species, protecting wildlife, enhancing water quality, and creating a more resilient future.

Aquatic Invasive Species are behind some of the most drastic changes to freshwater systems in the world today. They are impacting the ecology and water quality of many bodies of water across the U.S We went one step beyond mitigation when we formed FisH20, a subsidiary that grew from WSB’s innovative species management services.

Since 2019, FisH20 has expanded in scope, services and markets served across the U.S. Today, local governments, commercial fishers, lake associations, and wildlife protection agencies are among our partners. Together, we’re providing customized solutions that make an impact and build a more resilient tomorrow.

California
WSB is working with tribal, county, and state leaders to save Clear Lake hitch – an endangered species found only in Northern California. Currently in its first phase, WSB is conducting a carp assessment. 

Nebraska
WSB partnered with a local lake association to mitigate against silver an big head carp, ensuring the lake is safe for recreation.

Minnesota
Based in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, FisH2O helps manage invasive species and protect water quality in lakes, rivers, and streams across the state.

Wisconsin
FisH2O fish are transported through Wisconsin where they are flushed with freshwater and await transport to further locations.

Michigan
Semi trucks transport millions of pounds of FisH2O carp where they are unloaded and held in ponds until they are ready for market.

New York
FisH2O fresh fish travel to New York where they are sold to restaurants, wholesalers, and retailers.

North Carolina
WSB has advised and helped the North Carolina Fish & Wildlife Services obtain a grant that will support the management of invasive species, enhance water quality, and protect local wildlife and ecosystems.


Damage prevention

Damage Prevention Awareness

January 12, 2023

By Nate Osterberg, Director of Strategic Growth, WSB

Impacts on the Oil and Gas Industry

According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), damages to underground facilities cost $61 billion annually. To protect the public, reduce costs, and incorporate asset management, damage prevention has become a relevant conversation for stakeholders across the construction industry. Advances in technology and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) are spurring more engagement throughout the country.

IIJA Impact

With the passage of IIJA, there is an increase in construction activity including utility, road, and renewable infrastructure. The current demand for utility locators is extraordinary and when coupled with the labor shortage and increasing demand, it is only becoming more challenging. In these circumstances, we rely on technology to guide us. To offset impacts from the labor market we incorporate digital mapping into production locating processes.

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE)
SUE is the investigation of buried utilities that identifies conflicts and mitigates risks in the pre-engineering phase of construction. Using survey grade-accuracy with cutting-edge locating and survey equipment, capable of sub-centimeter accuracy, we identify risk and conflicts. Our team captures the location information to digitally map the facilities. When unlocatable utilities are identified, our team of damage prevention specialists approaches the challenge with different means and methods.   

Cataloging for the Future

Locating the utility is the first step, but just as important is the data collection. Once a utility is located the information is documented and added to an asset management database. This process is having a major impact on the industry and is assuring accuracy for future locates. Construction plans are evaluated through a digital twin utility map, resulting in cost and time savings and enhanced design data. After decades of stagnant innovation, the industry is advancing quickly because of cutting-edge tools that allow for safer conditions and better planning.

Impact Across an Industry

With hundreds of field staff on active job sites, the collection of highly accurate location data for new and existing facilities is becoming vital to project performance.  With minimal impact on budget and a streamlined mapping process, data collection efforts reduce the time it takes to provide facility owners and 811 systems with updated and accurate records.

The Top Drivers in Damage Prevention

  1. Public Safety
  2. Infrastructure Act
  3. 5G initiative
  4. Increased Damages to Facilities
  5. Unlocatable and Untoneable Utilities
  6. Workforce Turnover & Experience
Twin Ports Interchange

Twin Ports Interchange

January 12, 2023

By Chad DeMenge, Director of Contract Administration, WSB
Bryon Amo, Senior Engineering Specialist, WSB

Well-maintained, organized infrastructure is vital to safe travel and commerce, including the transportation of materials, goods, and people across the country. The Twin Ports Interchange in Northeastern Minnesota, which connects I-35, I-535, and Hwy 53, needed a significant upgrade to be viable and meet the modern needs of users.

The previous interchange was a series of intertwining and crossing bridges, roads, and traffic signals, serving as the main connection for goods and tourism through the city of Duluth. The original interchange was built between 1969 and 1972, and serves as a vital access point for the port of Duluth, one of the Great Lakes’ major ports.

Alternative Delivery Benefits

Delivered through a CMGC method, the contractor and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) were actively involved from the beginning of design and worked collaboratively to deliver this project. Active participation in early design allowed our team to gain an understanding of the history of the project and the impacts of the unique location and design.  

Engineering Ground Improvements

When the Interstate and interchange were originally built, the engineers were challenged by poor soils. The project area was formerly part of St. Louis Bay and had been filled by various industrial and railroad activities for over 100 years. The solution was to build the highway on low-level bridges on piers, allowing the highway to be supported on piling. The piling was nearing the end of its lifecycle and showed signs of corrosion. In addition, the open bridges between the bay and the neighborhood posed safety hazards, as pedestrians could freely travel under the highway, and through the highly active railyard.

To eliminate the low-level bridges, streamline maintenance costs, and isolate the railyard from the neighborhood, the team chose to build the roadway directly on the ground through the area, using the placement of grouted column ground improvements. The geotechnical team mapped the entire area, determining depths and spacing for over 8,000 ground improvement columns to support the new roadway embankment.

Combining Creeks

Miller Creek and Coffee Creek are two designated trout streams that crossed under the Interstate and ran under city streets. To provide a more suitable habitat for fish and other wildlife, the two creeks were opened and combined into one. Eliminating one entire crossing under the highway saved millions in construction and future maintenance costs.

Relocating Rail Lines

To accommodate construction staging throughout the project, the three-rail lines entering the railyard needed to be relocated three times. Due to the proximity of the bridges and new roadway to the railyard, the collective project partners including owner, contractor, engineer, and the railway worked together to maintain up to ten active rail crossings at a time.

Mitigating Contamination

The surrounding area is rich in industrial history that caused contamination in the soil and groundwater. To pre-treat all the groundwater before it’s discharged to the local wastewater treatment plant, the contractor built a water treatment center. Making these improvements and mitigating contamination allows the project to meet current Pollution Control Agency and Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Construction innovation for the future.

The project’s new design began in early 2019. When complete, the project will not only increase safety, but will allow operations in, out, and around the interchange to run more seamlessly for the interchange’s 80,000 daily users. The new interchange will be able to support the oversize and overweight loads coming in and out of the port. Construction of the Twin Ports Interchange is expected to be completed in 2025.

WSB Services Provided:

  • Constructability Reviews
  • Independent Cost Estimating during Design
  • Construction Oversight and Inspection
  • Contract Administration
  • Change Management
  • Material Testing Services during Construction
Texas Road

Q&A with Rob Bailey | VP of Transportation – Texas

January 12, 2023

Rob Bailey is the Vice President of Transportation – Texas at WSB. Rob has over three decades of engineering experience. His dedicated background and ability to lead has contributed to the expansion of WSB’s footprint in Texas since joining our firm a year ago.


In this Q&A, Rob shares his reflections on the expansion and future of WSB in the Texas market.

You’ve worked in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry for many years, how has your experience informed how you approach your role at WSB?

My experience is almost entirely in the state of Texas, I have over 30 years of experience working on transportation infrastructure, the first ten at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) which has been foundational for me. Building that foundation has helped me learn about our client needs, understand their culture, and it has allowed me to build personal connections and relationships that I have taken with me throughout my career. Having that background has given me what I need to be successful in this role in terms of leadership and transportation knowledge.

What is your favorite part about leading the Texas transportation team?

I really enjoy the people side of leading. I see my role and team much like a sports team. I am the general manager, and I must understand the rules of the game, and the playing field, and I must analyze and put together a strategy for success. I am also in charge of recruiting the best talent and having the right players. I need to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and find what position fits best within the team and the organization.

How has transportation been advancing in Texas?

The transportation program has changed dramatically over the last year. I am really excited about the team we have built and the clients we have added. Moving forward, we have all the pieces we want in place, and I am really optimistic about the future. Fortunately, the market lines up with my optimism. TxDOT has a steady stream of revenue that will support infrastructure across the state. We are experiencing significant population growth that is stretching city and county resources, which means we need to help build the infrastructure to support that growth.

How has WSB grown? What factors do you think made this possible?

There are two factors that pertain to the growth of WSB. One is the market, along with the policies that elected officials enact. The other is the soft side, the people side. We are focused on our staff. We are committed to hiring staff that is well-known in the industry and well-respected by our clients which will help us to maintain relationships and foster new opportunities.

Why is the Texas market important to the growth of WSB?

The opportunities for growth in Texas are significant. The population and growth of the state are driving both the infrastructure and energy markets. As a company, our mission is to build what’s next in infrastructure and this is a great place to do just that. Our company roots in Minnesota and the deep bench of expertise we have throughout the country help position us for success. The infrastructure needs across our country vary and it helps us expand our knowledge and bring new ideas and innovations to our clients regardless of location.

What makes WSB best suited to support industry efforts in Texas?

WSB has a true understanding of the client’s needs. We believe in working with our clients to help them be successful. Many WSB staff in Texas have experience working for owners, contractors, and engineering firms. These experiences help us understand the challenges of our clients, the real purpose of delivering infrastructure projects, and an overall deep understanding of how to support industry needs.

I am really excited about the team we have built and the clients we have added. Moving forward, we have all the pieces we want in place, and I am really optimistic about the future.

Rob Bailey
What does WSB look like to you in the future?

There has been significant growth for the company, and I don’t see it slowing down. I see it accelerating more each day. It’s a big reason why I came to WSB. I was excited about the opportunity it would bring not only to myself but the staff as well. Our staff will continue to grow, and I am excited to see how everyone will fit into a larger organization. There will be a lot more opportunities and the company will be led by a lot of the younger leaders we have today.

Any advice for leaders now and for those who come after you?

Leadership is a lot like relationships and marriage. Always make sure to pick your battles wisely. Try hard to have a long-term vision with your decisions and actions. One thing that can be challenging in a large company is short-termism. Focused on the next quarter’s reports, and impacts today, and less focused on the long-term. I am impressed with WSB and our long-term vision and investments in staff and technology.

Geospatial Data

Geospatial Data

January 11, 2023

The Foundation of Digital Delivery

Geospatial data is information that involves large sets of data gathered from a variety of diverse sources based on location. In the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry, we depend on geospatial data to build and design infrastructure. Strong data is the foundation of any digital delivery project. Capturing geospatial data for infrastructure projects is the first step in the digital delivery workflow.

The five ways we gather thousands of accurate data points to improve design methods and increase speed and accuracy.

Reality Capture for 4D / 5D

High resolution drones capture thousands of photos that overlap at different angles to create a geospatially accurate reality capture of an entire site. The reality capture contains accurate lengths, depths, and heights.  To increase accuracy, the geospatial data is tied to survey ground control points.  Once the data is processed, it can be input into many different design software, serving as the first step in digital delivery.

Interior/Indoor Scanning

Using a tripod and LIDAR scanner, we collect thousands of data points. The scanner is moved around to cover the entire area, capturing points along the way, and is then uploaded into BIM software. This information can be used to create a robust asset management system.

WSB 360 – Google Street View

WSB 360º captures high-resolution 360º imagery that is used to detect and map a variety of assets as they exist today. Google imagery is often missing or out-of-date. By driving a street or an alley, data is gathered within minutes and uploaded to Google Maps and StreetView.  This technology is also used to capture, map, and classify road assets including hydrants, signs, power poles, and streetlights.

Traditional Surveying

Traditional surveying is performed by survey crews using tools to make measurements. Some refer to this as the most accurate form of data collection because of the boots on the ground element. There are proven methods of verifying accuracy and conventional survey has been performed for hundreds of years.

Conventional Drone | 2D & 3D Reality Captures

With conventional drone data, we create 2D and 3D high-resolution imagery. This data serves as the foundation for 3D and 2D reality captures. 3D reality captures are developed when elevations are needed for digital design. 2D reality captures are developed when elevation isn’t necessary. In the past, satellite imagery was relied upon, which was often inaccurate and outdated. Through conventional drones, we can document a site accurately, in-depth, and within minutes.

IIJA

The Top 5 Ways that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Benefits Communities

January 11, 2023

Late last fall, Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which infused an astounding $1.2 trillion into our nation’s infrastructure. The package, which includes $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, gave local and state governments significant opportunities to fund infrastructure improvements over the next several years, and many communities have already taken advantage of this influx of funding.

Transportation, clean energy, clean water, broadband expansion, and more, gave communities across the country an unprecedented opportunity to invest in projects that will have a meaningful impact on the future for residents, businesses, and the environment.

How Have Communities Benefited from this Funding?

Every community is different, and every community’s needs are different, but here are some of the top ways that local leaders, planners, and governments have benefited from IIJA.

Advancing Bigger Projects Sooner & Removing Financial Roadblocks

Whether a large metropolitan city or a small rural town, every community has a list of needed infrastructure projects, but funding and resources are often limited. Communities must prioritize, and sometimes put larger projects on the back burner due to budget constraints.

TheIIJA is helping to change that mindset for many communities, giving leaders a greater opportunity to think big. Whether it’s getting on a project funding priority list, putting forward a feasibility plan, or thinking more comprehensively about the environment, transportation, or other community infrastructure needs, the federal infrastructure law has provided meaningful opportunities to secure funding for projects that may have previously been out of reach.

Viewing Projects Through an Equity Lens & Involving More Voices in Community Planning

Equity is a major component of IIJA, creating a real opportunity for communities to invest in projects that benefit traditionally underserved communities, as well as advance sizable projects that create a better community for all. Including equity in infrastructure project planning not only enhances local communities and benefits residents, but it also gives projects a competitive edge in securing dollars from the federal funding package. 

Many communities are viewing their infrastructure projects through an equity lens and incorporating more voices as they plan for the future.

Addressing Climate Change & Infrastructure Resiliency

Our climate is changing, and “once-in-a-century” storms no longer occur just once in a century. Higher temperatures, drought, more intense precipitation, wildfires, flooding, and changing ecosystems are all issues that impact communities’ infrastructure planning. Building greater resiliency in projects and planning for more extreme weather and climate events is critical and recognized within the IIJA funding.

Green infrastructure, innovative stormwater solutions, water reuse systems, native landscaping, and more can help mitigate risk and better protect populations, native species, and habitats.

Developing Brownfield Sites

Brownfields – previously developed sites that are no longer in use – are underutilized space that present real opportunities for economic, social, and environmental revitalization. However, they are often costly to redevelop. With more than $1.5 billion allocated to brownfields in the infrastructure package, many communities are taking advantage of the opportunity to move forward with brownfield projects, and expand their city’s tax base, grow jobs, build housing, and develop sites in ways that benefit residents and the community at large.

Building a More Sustainable Future

Sustainability is a fundamental component to infrastructure, and IIJA allows communities to invest in forward-looking projects that will have long term, positive environmental and social impacts. From electric vehicle charging stations and energy storage to ecological restoration, greater investment in sustainability is allowing local leaders to make bigger, more thoughtful investments that will help address climate change and resiliency.

Navigating a once-in-a-generation opportunity

Our team of funding experts help communities navigate grant applications, data gathering, project design and engineering, sustainability planning, stakeholder engagement, and more. IIJA is a once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment opportunity, and communities of all sizes can and should tap into the extraordinary opportunity for infrastructure improvement and investment.