3D Laser Scanning for P&IDs how the Liquid Storage Petrochemical Industry is Wising up to its Growing Potential


3D Laser Scanning for P&IDs

Traditionally P&IDs were generated via manual measurement necessitating a team of surveyors measuring a facility’s static and non-static assets by hand. The work involved significant health and safety risks such as working at height, trips and slips and hazardous substances from general exposure to hazards to bird droppings (guano), with associated time and budget implications. To accomplish these tasks measuring tape, pens, pencils, clipboards and a significant amount of personnel hours were all required.

Our client had already retained a company to perform manual surveying of its storage terminal, but had grown concerned the partially finished project would take 2-3 years to complete. Such a timeline was incompatible with concurrent business initiatives and so they sought out A3D, in partnership with its US subcontractor to complete the 3D laser survey.

Now this cumbersome process has evolved in the form of 3D laser scanning and its related software applications. Last summer, A3D, in concert with their US partner HTS Advanced Solutions, 3D laser scanned a large liquid storage terminal in Houston, Texas specifically targeting more accurate and more precise 2D P&IDs from 3D scan data. To successfully achieve this task, the companies relied on two FARO® Focus Laser Scanners and FARO SCENE Software.

To work as efficiently as possible, A3D planned the individual aspects of the job to run concurrently wherever possible. For instance, once an individual area was scanned and registered, they were converted immediately, ready for the CAD team to start building the P&IDs before returning to HTS for field validation and client team for remote E&I updates. It was only then that they were handed over to our client in their as-built perfect form. The entire process was streamlined so that scanning was prioritised to align with the order in which P&IDs were to be delivered, starting within days of the first recorded data. Running a project that amounted to over 650 P&IDs required detailed tracking which A3D achieved internally using specialist project planning personnel and software. The results were shared with key client stakeholders during weekly progress meetings.

For each area, a drawing template was built which significantly sped up the process of building the subsequent P&IDs for that area and maintained a user-friendly, consistent standard throughout. The laser survey provided ample detail for A3D to create everything except remotely connected instrumentation, which would be added from our clients existing P&IDs, DCS panels or existing wiring diagrams.

“It’s not just the initial projects you’re paying for,” Lewis Boxer added. “It’s the other continuous deliverables that are born out of it. Typically, when you think about point cloud data you think about 3D models. But with A3D’s specialist techniques surrounding 2D P&IDs and related projects, it’s really so much more. The possibilities are endless.”




A3D will complete pre-planning in order to determine the most efficient and therefore, cost effective solution.

Risk & Method Statements

A3D recognise that any form of site work on an operating site must be subject of both RAMS along with planning documents in order to expedite an efficient and safe survey.

3D Laser Scan

Recognized as the preferred method for accurately capturing measured site data using 3D laser scanning instruments. Traditional methods being time-consuming and subject to error.

Register Scan Data 

Once A3D has been out on site with the 3D Laser Scanners we then process the scan using faro scene software.

Point cloud data of Oil Storage Tank and Pipework

PFD Production

A3D have a unique processing technique for producing process flow diagrams from point cloud data.

Plant 3D Data Manager

Metadata Recording

Using Autodesk's Smart P&ID software the system automatically populates the database with useful metadata, this is also supplemented with extra information such as data plate information and asset numbering.

Industrial COntrol Panel to collect P&ID data

E&I Research

A3D's instrumentation department works with our clients to find and understand their E&I systems so that the PFDs can be upgraded into a P&ID status.

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Site Validation

A3D uses a unique technique of validating the new P&IDs with a combination of on-site surveying and point cloud visuals.




A3D are proud to have established point cloud technologies, now recognised as the preferred method for accurately capturing measured site data in using 3D laser scanning instruments. Traditional methods being time consuming and subject to error


The vast engineering experience from over 30 years working within process industries has resulted in A3D now leading in the production of ‘brown field’ technical process models. A3D recognized the importance of our skilled 3D laser surveyors’ site familiarity.


The A3D Tank analysis reports deliver critical information with a level of detail not previously achieved using traditional methods. since we are using advanced 3d laser scanners without the need for temporary access platforms, this technology is a market-leading competitively priced alternative.


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3D P&ID Validation

Using 3D process models to cross-validate with smart P&IDs to determine their as-built accuracy and also allow for their on-site documentation to be kept up to date via a 3D model.

Pharmaceutical 3D Design

Complete 3D laser scanning and 3D modeling of a specific process area ahead of a new capital initiative. This initiative would require process changes to enable removal of gas from the top of the existing two vessels, compressing the removed gas and returning liquid downstream.

Large Petrochemical Terminal

Client required A3D to prepare an Autodesk Plant 3D Process model where ALS would be exporting pipework orthographic drawings as part client’s NDT inspection program in meeting their health and safety initiatives. 

Water Authority Design Service

Completed a project for the water industry at one of their pumping and filtration sites. Our client for this project was an EPC contractor who required first a RECAP scan project file, Smart 3D process model, and Smart P&IDs (Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams). Although smaller in terms of number of laser scans than a typical bulk storage terminal, water industry installations present different challenges.

NDT Inspection Drawings

A major UK pharmaceutical firm, required piping isometrics for NDT purposes of their main process plant, because of the size of the processing unit (over 6000m2) and their limited staff, they asked us to scan the unit and from the scan data produce isometrics. The unit consisted of two buildings (each roughly 500m2), which both had a minimum of 3 floors, and a roofing area, which consisted of a further few levels of steelwork walkways.

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