Esri APR tools

A First Look at Esri’s ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing – Beta Version

March 6, 2016 — Clarke Wiley

As an Esri business partner, SSP Innovations has the luxury of getting our hands on the latest and greatest tools…even while in Beta.  One of those toolsets is the new ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing extension that will manage editing workflows and analysis around linearly referenced pipelines.

The tools were originally created by Esri for GIS users managing roads and highways, but they have been highly customized to now fit in the pipeline space.  Inherently, the two industries are pretty similar in how they manage features in GIS.  Both use linearly referenced polylines (Polyline M or Polyline ZM) to represent roads or pipeline assets and both manage linearly referenced point or line features associated to a location on the centerline/pipeline.

Esri has taken this core centerline editing and enhanced the tools for specific pipeline management practices that have been in use in the industry for years. This includes workflows for re-routes/re-alignments, managing calibration or equation points (2 stationing values at one geographic location), pipeline replacements, event updates based on set behaviors and event transformations between different referencing modes.  Are you a company that is moving away from historical stationing all together?  First off, lucky you, this new suite will make that even easier for you to manage GIS assets moving forward!

As shown above, the ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing suite is across three Esri platforms. The desktop extensions will control UPDM creation/configurations, LRS network configurations/components, event/feature properties, time support configuration and data loading.  Centerline creation, centerline maintenance and event updates due to centerline changes are all within ArcGIS Pro.

Lastly, the event maintenance and event analysis tools are through ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing for Server which can be used within any of your personal or organizational published map services.  Additional functions have been exposed through the Pipeline REST API which allows users to integrate tools into the web map including: event editing, dynamic segmentation or translation between coordinates and measures.  Have questions on how to get your web maps set up safely and easily?  Let us know!

Esri is still in the Beta phase for all of these components, but having data loading, centerline editing and event editing/analysis tools in the core Esri product suite is game changing.  This will now allow organizations to easily deploy these toolsets, utilize existing Esri enterprise licensing and put very little burden on your current infrastructure or IT departments.  Core GIS users will love the ability to hop into these familiar Esri platforms and simply use extensions for their pipeline work.

Have a group of contractors who need to create or update events?  Simply get them logged in to an internal web map running off a managed web service and they are ready to go! You no longer need to install bulky desktop software products and have them managed by the IT group. Additionaly, geodatabase management through UPDM is a great plus versus some of the other options out there today (What are my database options?).

There are many components of the ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing extensions that we could focus on, including setting up UPDM, establishing the core LRS networks or web event editing, but this article will specifically look at the centerline editing component within ArcGIS Pro.

To utilize the pipeline editing tools, you must use the Location Referencing toolbar that is a part of ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing for ArcGIS Pro. If you’ve never worked with ArcGIS Pro, it’s a bit different from ye ol’ ArcMap, but nonetheless, very user friendly.   Licensing for ArcGIS Pro is through an ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS account, so as you can see, once its installed (ArcGISPro and the pipeline extension) I’ve launched the application and I am already signed in.

I’m going to use an existing project, but creating a new project is as simple as selecting a Blank project template and adding all of the prerequisite features from the enterprise UPDM database to your map.  Esri has supplemented the workflows with pages of how-to guides, so you won’t be in the dark for what’s required.  Once you are in a project and the ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing for ArcGIS Pro extension has been installed, you will see an additional ribbon at the top.

With this ribbon you can Create, Realign, Reassign, Retire, Extend, and Cartographically Realign routes. You can also use these tools to easily create, update or manage the calibration points of the pipeline centerline.  As a reminder calibration points = a known X/Y AND stationing for a particular location.

At a minimum we will have calibration points at the beginning and end of the line, but other locations including PIs, pipeline crossings, above ground main line valves or road crossings are great places to add calibration points.  Why?  We know where they exist spatially and typically we have a stationing value for those locations as well.

A key component for pipeline editing is understanding the networks and how they are used within UPDM and these tools.  Specifically, there are two network types that we have focused on with the Beta ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing extension.  These are the Continuous Network and the Engineering Stationing Network.

Utilizing these two network types, operators can successfully represent the continuous, non-interrupted length of the physical pipeline and account for additions/subtractions of length due to pipeline changes or maintenance over time.

Upon creation of a brand new pipeline representation in GIS, there will be a one to one relationship for a pipeline between the engineering stationing and continuous networks. Over time, re-routes or re-alignments occur that ultimately will introduce multiple series to a continuous pipeline route.  In these situations, the physical pipeline has been changed from its original representation, has been cut and moved, and results in a different total length of pipe from what was originally placed in the ground.

Not only does the old pipeline segment need to be retired in GIS, but stubs may need to be added and historical stationing needs to remain unaffected downstream.  Utilizing the engineering stationing and continuous networks will allow you to accomplish all of this.

Organizations won’t need to re-station assets downstream or update documents associated with a station point, instead the continuous network will represent the new total length and the engineering stationing network will add a new route representing unchanged stationing on downstream features/components/document references. If you have the luxury of completely re-stationing your lines with each change or can update stationing as a continuous value to all downstream events, then you will only need to live in the Continuous Network world.

As mentioned earlier, the ArcGIS Pipeline Referencing for ArcGIS Pro extension comes with nice features that can manage the pipeline centerline. To add a new centerline to one of the networks, users can either digitize the route based on aerial imagery/base maps or copy the route from an existing feature class.  In this scenario I have simply digitized the feature based on an existing ROW and my main.

The user can easily create the geometry, apply it to the appropriate network and define the core properties of the pipeline.  If you need company specific attributes for a line that aren’t included in a typical UPDM deployment, we just extend the model and the Esri extension will dynamically read the new fields!  No new code changes or enhancements needed.  We simply work at the database and feature level versus having to wait for code updates.

Spatial edits of existing lines are also quite easy to work through.  If you are updating the spatial representation based on an INS run or field survey, simply pull in the new GPS data and snap the centerline to the updated location.  Core tools in ArcGIS Pro allow you to update the spatial representation and then use the provided geoprocessing tools to update the event representation.  Each event type will have a defined event behavior, stay put (get stationing based on x/y location) or move (maintain stationing and update x/y location).

These event behaviors are applied through a batch geoprocessing tool right in ArcGIS Pro which updates all events based on spatial changes.  If you were using core Esri tools in the past to manage your pipeline features, I don’t have to tell you that this would have been a very labor intensive process.  Not to mention if you needed to update station series GUIDs or downstream stationing values!

Simple step by step pipeline workflows/wizards are provided in the side panel (based on the tool selected in the ribbon) that allow the user to proceed through the particular task.  The example below shows a re-alignment.  If you have additional layers or GPS points from the field maintenance package, you could easily integrate those into your project and snap to those predefined locations.

As mentioned previously, some organizations we’ve worked with want to add stubs where the pipeline was cut, retired and re-routed.  These can also be easily added as new routes on the appropriate network, classified and named as stubs.

This is just a glimpse into some of the concepts and tools that will be used in the future for centerline and event maintenance.  I’m very eager to see what Esri and the full release has in store for the industry, but just working with the Beta version, I see some promising tools that will really stream-line pipeline and event editing.  Not only are they easy to implement and use, but Esri has opened some nice functions through the Pipeline REST API which allows for further customizations to your organization’s web environments.

Imagine a day when you can simply select multiple features and dynamically segment them on the fly. How does dynamically segmenting fields on the fly from MAOP, Document Ranges, Class and HCA for Part Q on your Gas PHMSA report sound?  Pretty good to me!  I hope you are as excited as I am for what the future holds for these core Esri Pipeline Referencing tools.  As always, reach out if you have any questions or if you’d like SSP to help set up these great ArcGIS environments.

Clarke Wiley, Director of Pipeline –

We Wrote the Book

The Indispensible Guide to ArcGIS Online

Download It for Free

Clarke Wiley

Clarke Wiley is the Director of Pipeline at the Utility, Telecommunications and Pipeline GIS consulting company SSP Innovations in Centennial, Colorado and has been working in GIS pipeline software solutions, integrity management and data management for over 10 years.


  • Thanks for this. Do you know if UPDM is required or can this extension manage custom data models?

    Any word on when it could be released? Any plans for ArcMap support or will it stay as an ArcGIS Pro extension?

    • Clarke Wiley says:


      Thanks for the good questions! The extension has been designed to work ‘out of the box’ against the UPDM schema, but it is certainly not a requirement.  In fact, PODS is looking to release a future lite GDB schema that will work directly with the extension and allow operators to extend upon that release as needed. For custome data models, the APR extension does expect certain fields on the core features and managed events. There could be a fair amount of configuration depending on the custom model, but most of this can be handled through the APR Desktop (ArcMap/Catalog extension) toolset.

      SSP Innovations is at the Esri PUG in Houston this week and we were informed that the APR extension will be released with ArcGIS Pro 1.4, slated for Q4 2016.  Along these lines, ArcGIS Pro will be the platform for APR and specifically managing the spatial representation/measures of your centerlines.. It is the expectation that the extension will solely remain in Pro and will be the desktop environment that users perform these centerline edits.  As a reminder, the event editing (point or linear online pipe features), will reside in the web and deployed through ArcGIS Server and managed web services/maps.  

What do you think?

Leave a comment, and share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>