Blog   |   May 31st, 2017 Using the Next Generation of the Pipeline Open Data Standard (PODS) to offer a safer and more efficient future for pipeline operators

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Pipeline operators around the world took another step towards improving the safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of their operations with the release last month of the first release of the Next Generation Pipeline Open Data Standard (PODS).

“PODS Lite,” developed by the Pipeline Open Data Standard organization, is a subset of the full PODS Next Generation 7.0 Data Model and Data Exchange Specification (DES) being finalized for full release in 2018. I serve as vice president of PODS’ board of directors and have been honored to represent TRC and the industry in this work for 16 years.

While not (yet) a household name (and often confused with the white rectangular portable on demand storage moving container), the PODS organization has been hard at work since 1998 on developing and steadily updating and upgrading a best-practice pipeline data architecture. Five key objectives of our effort are:

  • Reducing the time, cost, and risk associated with implementing geographic information systems as the system-of-record for location for pipeline design, construction, and integrity management.

  • Maintaining a single pipeline data repository and minimizing the need for data transfers among applications and databases, to ensure operators have the best-quality and most timely information and at reduced cost.

  • Freeing pipeline operators from proprietary vendor data models so they can choose what they consider to be the best, or most useful and usable, software programs from multiple vendors and have them interoperate successfully.

  • Greatly simplifying the work involved in transferring data about pipelines and their operations when financial transactions or mergers lead to changes in pipeline ownership or management.

  • And of importance to the majority of TRC’s clients, facilitating U.S. pipeline operators’ compliance with regulatory reporting requirements from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Developing this standard is an ongoing journey, not just a single project that will land at a final destination. Technology, regulations, and business needs are constantly evolving. PODS Lite and the full Next Generation 7.0 PODS model coming next year will include a new core set of tables, new modules to extend that core, and a new specification for exchanging data, along with guidance for migrating data to the new standard and more robust implementation documentation overall.

Of special interest to me has been advocating to ensure the PODS model has the flexibility to fully support the pipeline operators TRC serves: Onshore, offshore, gathering, transmission, distribution, and both North American and international. As someone who has been working with pipeline data models for more than 15 years, and with GIS in the pipeline space around the world for 20 years, I’ve been honored to help reflect in the standard what I understand pipeline operators want from their GIS models. One of their top concerns is ensuring that the 7.0 is a model that can be implemented quickly, and customized to suit individual operators’ needs, while maintaining a standard and well-documented core to provide mechanisms and standards for interoperability.

If you are a pipeline operator, regulator, or vendor or consultant in this space, it is never too late to make your voice heard and ensure your objectives and concerns are addressed in 7.0 and future versions of the PODS platform. Your insights can always add value. You can learn more about how to join us our project teams, work groups, or committees at

Ultimately, this data management work, at the heart of pipeline construction and operation is not exciting or glamorous, but it is important and required for understanding the location and integrity of a pipeline system. For those of us in the business of building databases for the pipeline industry and helping them manage their data, our fundamental job is helping operators manage their pipelines safely. As PODS Next Generation 7.0 becomes fully developed and published and enters into use over the next year, we’ll consider our greatest success all the pipelines that our work helps ensure no one ever hears about: No leaks, no failures, no ruptures, no news, no protests, just safe and reliable operations day in and day out.

Blog Author

Peter Veenstra

Peter Veenstra

Peter Veenstra has over 24 years of GIS and technical experience including extensive experience rolling out enterprise pipeline GIS solutions for domestic and international clients and experience as a consultant, director of software development, software architect, programmer and analyst. As a Principal GIS Technologist at TRC he is responsible for defining and managing project scope, methodologies, choosing and implementing appropriate technologies to meet client needs and is focused on providing GIS database design and implementation to support pipeline operations, integrity management, construction and maintenance. His skills includes understanding of system integration strategies, data management concepts, pipeline regulatory requirements, enterprise systems architecture, GIS data structures, and desktop, web, and cloud-based software solutions. Peter actively participates in industry and data model committees and he is an original author of the APDM. He also serves on the PODS Technical Committee Governance Team and the PODS Board of Directors