How to Locate Buried Gas Lines

How to Locate Buried Gas Lines

Locating gas lines is a critical step in any excavation or construction project to ensure safety and prevent potentially disastrous incidents.

Understanding and employing the right techniques to locate these lines can mitigate risk, protect workers, and maintain the integrity of utility services. Ultimately, following the law and calling 811 prior to excavation and hiring a private utility locator to complement 811’s findings is the only way to fully mitigate the risk of damaging buried gas lines when breaking ground.

A warning sign indicating a gas pipeline is buried beneath a field.
Locating gas lines is a critical step in any excavation or construction project to ensure safety and prevent potentially disastrous incidents.

The Importance of Locating Gas Lines

Before any digging or excavation, it is crucial to identify the location of underground gas lines. Failure to do so can result in damaging these lines, leading to gas leaks, explosions, property damage, and even loss of life. Properly locating gas lines also helps to avoid service interruptions, which can be costly and inconvenient for both businesses and homeowners.

Cross Bore and Its Dangers

Cross bores occur when a new utility line intersects with an existing one, usually due to installation via directional boring. Cross bores can go undetected during the initial installation but can become hazardous if the intersected line is later punctured during maintenance or other activities. When gas lines are involved in a cross bore, the result can be an explosion that threatens the lives of everyone around.

Detecting and addressing cross bores is essential for ensuring safety and preventing potentially catastrophic incidents.

Utility Locating Services

Utility locating services play a vital role in identifying the presence and path of underground utilities, including gas lines. These services use a combination of advanced technologies and skilled technicians to accurately map out where these utilities lie. The process typically involves contacting local utility companies near you, who then send out locators to mark the underground utilities with flags or paint.

Key Technologies in Utility Locating

  1. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR): Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a non-invasive technology that uses high-frequency radio waves to detect objects below the surface. When the radar waves hit a buried utility, they reflect back to the surface, allowing Project Managers to create a detailed map of the underground utilities. GPR is particularly useful in identifying non-metallic utilities, such as plastic gas lines, which are otherwise challenging to detect.
  2. Electromagnetic (EM) Locating: Electromagnetic (EM) locating is another popular method for utility detection. This technique involves sending an electromagnetic signal through the underground utilities, which can then be detected using a receiver above ground. EM locating is highly effective for metallic utilities and can provide precise location information. The use of EM locating is widespread due to its accuracy and ease of use.

Steps to Locating Gas Lines

  1. Plan and Prepare: Before any excavation begins, it is essential to plan the project carefully. Identify the scope of the work and the areas that will be affected. Contact a professional utility locating service and inform them about your project timeline.
  2. Call 811: Federal law requires you to contact your state or region’s 811 One Call service prior to excavation, so that an 811 contractor can visit your site and provide you with the approximate location of all public utilities in your dig area.
  3. Hire a Private Utility Locator That Uses Advanced Detection Technologies: Employing a private utility locating company that utilizes complementary technologies like GPR and EM locators, and includes utility line depths, will ensure you have the utility mapping data you need to dig safely.
  4. Verify and Mark: Properly trained private utility locating companies verify their findings using multiple detection methods, then mark the locations of all buried utilities clearly with flags, paint, or other indicators to ensure that everyone on the site is aware of their presence.
  5. Proceed with Caution: Even with thorough locating efforts, it's crucial to proceed with caution during excavation. Hand digging or using vacuum excavation techniques near the marked areas can help prevent accidental damage to the gas lines.

Preventing Subsurface Damage

Preventing subsurface damage is not just about locating gas lines, It is also about employing safe digging practices. Here are some tips to prevent damage:

  1. Hand Digging and Vacuum Excavation: When working near marked gas lines, use hand digging or vacuum excavation to expose the lines safely. These methods minimize the risk of damaging the lines compared to using heavy machinery.
  2. Maintain Clear Communication: Ensure that all workers on the site are aware of the locations of gas lines and the importance of avoiding them. Regular safety meetings and clear communication channels can help prevent misunderstandings and accidents.
  3. Monitor for Cross Bores: Be vigilant for signs of cross bores, especially in areas where new utility lines have been installed. Use GPR and other detection methods to check for intersecting lines and address any issues promptly.
  4. Regular Training and Updates: Stay updated with the latest techniques and technologies in utility locating and excavation safety. Regular training for workers ensures that everyone is aware of the best practices and the importance of preventing subsurface damage.

GPRS Provides SIM-Certified, 99.8%+ Utility Locating Services

Utility detection is critical to any project where subsurface excavation is planned to ensure success and avoid utility strikes. To achieve a comprehensive, safe utility locate, a private utility locating company must be utilized to mark & map buried facilities on private property.

GPRS provides comprehensive digital and PDF utility maps of every utility on site, whether public or private – including depths – and can export your utility data into a wide variety of drawings, maps, and models that provide seamless communication and collaboration on any project.

Our Subsurface Investigation Methodology (SIM)-trained Project Managers have achieved and maintained a 99.8%+ rate of accuracy when conducting utility locates. And the field-verified data we collect on your site is always at your fingertips thanks to SiteMap® (patent pending), GPRS’ cloud-based infrastructure mapping software solution that is accessible 24/7 from any computer, tablet, or smartphone.

GPRS Intelligently Visualizes The Built World® to keep your projects on time, on budget, and safe.

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