Engineering Design for Pipeline Water Crossings

What We Can Do:

Many pipeline failures are caused by river bed and bank scour that exposes the pipeline to damage. Buried pipelines may be exposed by channel shifting and flooding that scours the overlying protective material. Maintaining securely covered pipeline crossings is a critical part of design and risk management for pipeline systems.

Gene Yaremko
Erik Rowland
British Columbia:
Derek Ray
Brent Wolfe
Ed Wallace
Marc Villeneuve
Asia and Africa:
Bruce Walsh
Latin America:
Guilherme deLima


NHC has provided hydrotechnical services to the pipeline industry to protect their infrastructure since the firm was founded in 1972. Our services typically include:

  • Input to route selection and location of river crossings
  • Design of erosion control measures
  • Participation in regulatory and environmental hearings
  • Preparation of surveillance and monitoring plans
  • Risk assessment of existing pipeline crossings
  • Design of remedial measures for exposed or threatened pipelines
  • Planning and execution of field data collection programs at river and stream crossings
  • Assessment of flood hydrology, river bed scour, and lateral stability of river channels

Technical Approach & Capabilities:

NHC pipeline experts rely on many years of experience in designing pipeline crossings to determine the most suitable locations for proposed crossings. Our field engineers and technicians are highly trained to collect the data required for the engineering assessment and design of each crossing, whether it's a narrow stream or a large, fast-flowing river.

Accurate as-built profiles for existing pipelines are rarely available. The typical approach for determining pipeline depth is to survey using pipe locators. However, this method is seldom accurate or feasible on large, fast-flowing streams. To overcome this difficulty, NHC uses a high-powered electromagnetic locator mounted off the side of our river boat, which is capable of logging real-time pipe depths and bed elevations to an accuracy of +/-20 mm (+/-1 inch). This method allows us to precisely and efficiently determine pipeline profiles on large, fast-flowing rivers.


Since 1972, NHC has worked on most of the major pipeline projects proposed for northern and central Canada and Alaska. NHC has completed over 300 projects for pipeline industry clients. Our clientele includes companies and agencies that plan, design, permit, and construct pipelines, their consulting engineers, and pipeline operating companies.

  • Route Selection and Hydrotechnical Design
    NHC has extensive experience assisting in selecting routes at major river crossings and providing the hydrologic and river engineering support to the design.
  • Survey and Inspection of Pipeline Crossings
    NHC's advanced in-house system for conducting pipeline depth-of-cover surveys provides quality and accuracy unmatched in today's industry. NHC’s inspections provide a sound basis to identify threatened pipeline crossings.
  • Risk Assessments
    Inspection programs often include multiple crossings where field data on cover conditions and stream characteristics are used to identify potential at-risk structures.
  • Remedial Measures
    NHC regularly designs and constructs remedial measures for exposed and at-risk pipelines. We often employ two-dimensional numerical modeling software to evaluate potential impacts of erosion and to develop erosion protection and river training works.

Electromagnetic pipeline locator mounted on river boat

Pipeline crossing exposed during
100-year flood event

Exposed pipeline near
Conception, Argentina

Rock spur to protect exposed pipeline


NHC professionals bring expertise and a wealth of experience to pipeline river surveys and assessments. Our use of state-of-the-art survey systems provides accurate engineering analyses that reduce maintenance needs and ensures that pipeline crossings are durable, functional, and environmentally safe.