Services Performed by Subsurface Utility Engineering Companies

Subsurface utility engineering companies play an integral role in helping engineers and contractors locate existing utilities and pipelines at project sites. SUE methods have proven helpful in collecting accurate underground data, as well as helping to improve safety conditions.

Subsurface utility engineering companies make use of particular methods to find the position of installed pipes. Common methods include data management, geophysics, surveying, and civil engineering.

There are many kinds of equipment that can be utilized to identify utility positions. A few of the most readily available include air/vacuum extraction, ground penetrating radar, pipe and cable locators, acoustic emission, magnetic methods, and metal detectors.

Implementing SUE methods gives engineers better tools for calculating project costs. It also helps prevent the potential for system redesign or utility relocation that occurs when pipelines are broken or discovered once construction work starts.

Engineers had limited resources for finding subsurface utilities prior to the development of SUE methods. When pipes and utilities were found or damaged the construction process was delayed, costing project owners and contractors large sums of money. Even worse, not being able to determine locations of existing utilities often led to workplace injuries and deaths.

SUE methods were mostly utilized by the Department of Transportation during its inception in the early 90s. It wasn’t until the “Purdue University Study” results were made public that other uses for SUE technology were discovered.

The Purdue Study evaluated over 70 projects in four states that integrated subsurface utility engineering. In addition to substantially reducing project costs, SUE proved to improve construction safety and result in fewer project delays.

The American Society of Civil Engineers established standardized guidelines soon after Purdue Study results were distributed. These methods have become commonplace since 2003. Today they are used by the U.S. military, transportation industry, utility companies, and pipeline construction companies.

An additional benefit of SUE methods is it lessens dangers associated with utility design, and repair and replacement of existing utility pipelines. Discovering utilities once work has started can be quite costly. Engineers will either have to redesign the project or relocate existing pipes. Either remedies result in project delays and additional man hours.

Subsurface utility engineering plays a vital role in lowering the possibility of damage to property, accidental injuries, or release of toxic contaminants into ecosystems that happens when utility pipelines are damaged or lines cut.

It’s advisable to employ subsurface utility contractors skilled in acquiring accurate data through locating and mapping techniques. Contractors and their employees should be highly trained in SUE methods and capable of finishing the task in a reasonable amount of time.

SUE companies need to have a wide variety of locating and data equipment including: CADD-compatible software, ELF, VLF, and LF electromagnetics, air/vacuum excavation, geophysical designating, advanced surveying, resonant sonics, magnetometers, and terrain conductivity meters.

Last, but not least, subsurface utility engineering companies have to comply with American Society of Civil Engineers guidelines. ASCE requires contractors to provide proof of satisfactory insurance policies, along with evidence of financial stability to ensure they can cover the costs of materials and labor.

Working together with subsurface utility engineering companies improves productivity and construction safety. Kana Pipeline is a favorably recognized SUE contractor providing pipeline services and value engineering to southern California for nearly 30 years. Visit us today at


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