Comment of the Day: What Lies Beneath

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT LIES BENEATH “. . . roads go over top of petroleum pipelines all the time with an agreement & bond to protect them. Citie$, countie$ and large entitie$ do it all the time. The whole of the Woodlands Town Center, including the regional mall there, is built atop a pipeline, which runs alongside the foundation of the Anadarko Tower. Even Lake Robbins, though it’s not at all deep, is on top!” [movocelot, commenting on Comment of the Day: Where the Townhomes Ain’t]

7 Comment

  • No subdivision is built on a pipeline. The pipeline easement may run through a subdivision, but nothing but a road or a sidewalk can be built on it with permission from the pipeline company.

    Also, pipeline companies have very stringent rules for building on or under their pipelines. Pretty much all subdivisions outside of the Beltway in the Houston region will have a pipe near it or running through it.

    The only danger from living near a pipeline is from an idiot either digging on or around one and striking it. Outside of that, they are very safe. An active pipe is that companies revenue stream. If they have an accident, you can kiss that company goodbye! If the pipeline is inactive, it must be filled with an inert gas to protect the pipeline from corrosion and maintain pressure.

  • The current issue of Cite has a map of all the pipelines, excluding water, for this region.

  • ^Raj, I look forward to the issue about the pipelines.

    ^kjb434: I believe pretty much anything can be “built on it with permission from the pipeline company.”

    Meantime,I stand behind my comment.
    Office, retail, parking and streets are all over this pipeline like white on rice! Perhaps this is the only instance in the entire world? but this is The Woodlands, where Petroleum and Development go hand in hand, you know.

    I remember when the mall was approved, and, there was a hubbub about it straddling a pipeline?! It’s built on a big hill of infill which took years to accumulate. I assumed it was for 1)design effect & 2)positive drainage but MAYBE there’s extra structure & access underneath there. Since the mall’s inception, of course, there have been LOTS more permanent structures filling in the Town Center, as well. It’s probably 85% roadway, greenspace & parking lot and only 15% humanity-packed office & retail at any given time, but it’s all on top of that pipeline.

    [I looked for maps and articles today but couldn’t find anything for show and tell. But, check out Donoho’s Jewelers on GoogleMaps: 9590 Six Pines Drive, 77380.,+The+Woodlands+TX+77380&fb=1&gl=us&hq=Donohos+Jewelers,&hnear=The+Woodlands+TX+77380&cid=0,0,14420893443868427465&ei=rwe4SrbaOY6RtgeZwYzvDg&ll=30.167058,-95.461342&spn=0.010018,0.014012&t=h&z=16

    See the forest-cut running to the northwest at about 330degrees which indicates the pipeline easement? This line also runs southeast from this spot toward the intersection of The Woodlands Parkway with I-45, and then on through Oak Ridge North subdivision.]

  • I call BS on the entire premise of building office retail or anything other than a road or maybe parking lot over an active pipeline.

    Do you have any idea how much it costs to acquire land rights and build a pipeline? It’s crazy expensive. You’re not going to let someone build a mall or office building on top of your pipeline. What happens when that line needs maintenance or better yet replacement? You need access. You don’t just hand over those right to a real estate developer for a few bucks.

    And if you’re a real estate developer, good luck getting a construction loan or a permanent loan for a building on top of a pipeline. What happens when the pipeline company needs access? Are you just going to tell you tenants, “Sorry folks, we have to tear down the building now so PipeCo can access their pipeline under our building.”? What are you going to tell your retail customers when the parking lot is torn up and their customers have no where to park?

  • There are different types of pipelines. Not all look like the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Houston (and most major cities) have a network of pipelines going throughlout the city. Certain types do require an easment, others don’t. One goes under the Galleria.

  • movocelot and PaxMcKatz;

    A building or a parking lot will not be built on a pipeline unless it is an abandoned line. In that case the line is inactive, has been filled with inert gas, and the easement has been abandoned. The pipeline is no longer a potential hazard. The Woodlands Mall is not on a pipeline. Grow up. I have worked with several tracks in an around the area. There are no petrochemical pipelines running free through development.

    Bernard is quite right. The pipeline companies will have easements on all their lines. They are expensive, but considering their cargo the easements are worth it. If they didn’t have an easement, they wouldn’t be able to maintain the line beneath the ground. On top of that, pipeline companies make sure the path of the line is accessible as much as possible for maintenance and to place markers (which have emergency phone #’s on them and the owners name). Of the thousands of acres I had the privilege to be involved in some aspect of development design, identification and understanding the pipeline in and around the tract is a critical design component.

    Pipeline probes by the owners are requested where roads, ditches, channels may cross them. Detailed info from the pipeline companies are also needed when utilities or storm and sanitary sewer pipes need to go underneath or over the petrochemical pipeline. Most engineering firms keep a database of pipeline company contacts (there are over 20 different ones in our region, probabaly more) because designing around them is common occurrence.

    Also, homeowners aren’t shielded from knowing about the pipelines in and around the neighborhood. The sales person may not say anything, but it is easily noticeable by seeing the pipeline markers.

    The pipeline companies can’t stop development around them. They do control crossing the lines, but work with engineers to design it in a safe way.

    If a pipeline goes under the Woodlands Mall or Galleria, who owns it? If it is a natural gas pipeline, then it is servicing the building. Nothing unusual there. Also, the Galleria, goes well below 20-deep underground. No-pipeline is installed that deep unless it is going under a channel or bayou. Some just go over these features because it’s cheaper. These petrochemical lines rarely have to be buried below 4 feet to avoid freezing since the contents and the pressure keep the lines warm prevent freeze (thats the reason the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline is above ground because it will harm the permafrost and frozen ground outside of permafrost zones).

  • KJB is quite right. Just trying to get pipeline approval to build a road across them is chore, a parking lot is a pain, and no one would be allowed by easement or law to build a building across a pipeline. If there is a pipeline under a building, then someone made a mistake.

    Also, they are not secrect. The Texas Railroad Commission maintains records of all wells and pipelines that are permitted. Their website has a GIS application that shows all of the records, although the app is slow and not the best visually. Of course, it is not an exact representation and was entered from old scanned drawings or by a summer intern making minimum wage, so take it as an indication of what is out there.

    With recards to The Woodlands Mall. I checked information available within my office, and there are two pipelines running through the parking lot to the west of the mall running northwest to southeast. I recall seeing the markers and that there was some relocation work with the buildings to the south of the mall. One line is a 20″ oil pipeline and the seconds is a small 2″ refined product line.