From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This page describes my the experiences gathered during fieldwork: the mapping of several 100km of pipelines and more than 800 markers - still counting. The purpose of this page is to give advice and "Best Practice" to everybody who is interested in pipeline mapping.

Some Basic Rules

Respect Private Property: do NOT enter privately owned areas. In any case, ask the owner for permission BEFORE entering his/her property.

Respect Nature: do not damage crop by crossing fields until after harvest. Also, do not trample upon and destroy plants in other areas, like forests, nature reserves etc.

Get Wise: Make yourself accustomed with the laws of your country regarding the use of forest roads, agricultural tracks and other areas, usually not frequented by the public.


Good preparation beforehand helps to save time in the field.

Sat Images

  • The medium in gas and oil pipelines usually has a temperature of about 60°C. Since pipelines are usually located less then 1m below ground, this temperature affects the vegetation on the ground. Therefore, look for disturbances / changes in vegetation, mostly running in a straight line.
  • On high resolution sat images, cone shaped covers appear as small dots. Although it is difficult to distinguish them from other objects like large stones, these dots may be worth visiting. If they run at regular intervals over quite some distance, they are most like pipeline markers.

Maps, existing OSM Data

Pipelines usual run in a (more or less) direct line. When looking for missing markers, draw a line between the last known markers to get an idea where the missing markers might be.

Save existing pipeline data as GPX tracks to your smartphone / GPS tracker. Add waypoints where markers might be located. Also add markers / nodes in question (fixme=*) as waypoints for re-visits.

In The Field


When looking for markers, try to run the track in both directions (to and fro). Markers may be seen from one direction, but may be hidden from sight from the other direction.

During Construction

Stumbling upon a pipeline which is under construction is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Mapping during construction results in more accurate location data than mapping by markers.

  • Do NOT enter a construction site on your own and/or while construction work is in progress. Ask a worker (better: the foreman) for permission to enter / cross the construction site. In my experience, the workers are surprised that finally someone is interested in their work and gladly help.
  • Timing: in case it was not possible to map the pipeline during construction (no access) or you came to late (pipeline already buried), the best time is about one year later, when the soil is solid again and the vegetation has not grown back fully. At this time, the path of the pipeline is visible pretty good.

According To Markers


According to markers


spring or autumn, when no crop on field