Pipeline in Vegetated Area Case Study

North America

Oil and Gas

Historical Analysis

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Project Overview

3vG performed historical InSAR analysis to determine ground displacement prior to a pipeline business interruption in a remote area.

Client Challenge

  • Detecting and monitoring geohazards across thousands of kilometers of pipeline
  • Pipeline right of ways are typically in remote locations; ground instruments and field visits can be expensive
  • Geohazards exist even on low-angle slopes, and slope displacement is often very subtle (i.e., 2 cm per year).
  • Slopes are vegetated and covered in snow during winter months

Solution & Results

3vG analyzed radar satellite images acquired by ALOS-1 between February 2007 and March 2011.  ALOS-1 is an L-band satellite whose radar waves penetrate through vegetation, and in some cases, light dry snow, to provide displacement information of the ground underneath.

An InSAR analysis was performed on the ALOS-1 satellite images covering an area 105 km wide (east-west) by 70 km long (north-south). A significant landslide occurred within this area in 2013, causing a business interruption to our client’s pipeline. The results of the historical InSAR analysis showed displacement occurring from 2007 to 2011 on the order of 2 – 10 cm per year along the pipeline right of way and surrounding terrain, directly where the landslide occurred. The analysis validated InSAR as being able to remotely identify ground movement prior to a landslide occurring, and before any ground instrumentation was installed. The extent of the displacement area generated via InSAR also matched the extent of the actual landslide shown via a LIDAR image taken after the business interruption. The InSAR analysis also identified a second large area of movement 19km south of where the landslide and business interruption occurred, which the client later confirmed as being a known geohazard currently being monitored.

Historical InSAR analysis shows the displacement rate of a landslide moving at 2 cm per year from 2007 – 2011. In 2013, a pipeline traversing this slope failed, causing a business interruption.

LIDAR showing a landslide across a pipeline right-of-way

LIDAR showing a landslide across a pipeline right-of-way

3vG also generated time series charts of displacement over time for approximately 18 million data points across the image area. These charts help identify whether the displacement is progressive or regressive over time. The results show general linear slope creep behavior until early 2010, followed by a 6-month deceleration in movement. In August 2010 the slope resumed sliding however, at a faster rate.

Time series graph showing InSAR Analysis of area of interest.


  • Identify unknown geohazards and areas of displacement along pipeline networks
  • Monitor known geohazards over time and be alerted to accelerations / progressive behavior
  • Assist in prioritizing locations for field inspections
  • Determine the extent of displacement areas; ground instrumentation can only identify movement at the instrument
  • Use historical data for route design and new pipeline construction


3vG demonstrated the value of InSAR as an additional tool for pipeline integrity managers focused on geohazards. An analysis of L-band radar satellite images acquired from 2007 – 2011 identified a land mass moving at a rate of 2 – 10 cm per year, prior to a landslide occurring in 2013 which led to a business interruption. Ongoing monitoring with regularly updated displacement reports can detect new risks that may develop and monitor known ones to help prevent geohazard induced pipeline incidents.

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