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Detail requirements for an ALTA of a refinery

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In regards to an ALTA survey for refineries and gas plants, what are the standard detail items typically included, such as piping, tanks, racks, piers, foundations, and buildings? Additionally, what are the best practices for labeling these features on the survey?

Posted : March 23, 2023 5:31 am
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Interesting question for sure. Everything (well almost everything) in a refinery is structural by the nature of the facility. 

Did you get the work as low bidder?  Not being derogatory, but the title companies love to save money and ALTA is the easiest way to start.

Seems like this would be a very specialized ALTA save the details for the table A, but it's all in the contract for services that defines what you're going to be collecting and providing.


Posted : March 23, 2023 5:48 am
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Read the ALTA Standards, ask your client, or gain some more experience.

Standard: 5 (Fieldwork) D (Buildings)

Optional Table A: 7 & 20

Posted : March 23, 2023 5:49 am
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Member BeerLegger

Specs regarding buildings are pretty well spelled out in the standards. (Sec 5D). 

With respect to other improvements, ALTAs are focused on how they might impact or affect title. If something looks like it might be evidence of an easement, or a potential encroachment, or of other unwritten rights, it needs to be shown. (Or if it is within five feet of the boundary, period.)

From the header in Section 5:

"Except as related to the precision of the boundary, which is addressed in Section 3.E. above, features located during the fieldwork shall be located to what is, in the surveyor’s professional opinion, the appropriate degree of precision based on (a) the planned use of the surveyed property, if reported in writing to the surveyor by the client, lender, or insurer, or (b) the existing use, if the planned use is not so reported."

I did quite a few industrial-type ALTAs years ago when living in Texas, and more recently have done several for big data centers (think AWS) with a lot of incomprehensible (to me) equipment situated around the buildings.

The vast majority of those items can be depicted by their outer extents.

For instance, if there's fixed (permanent) equipment sitting on site, and I have no idea what it is, I'm going to show the extent of it as determined by the guidance in italics above, and label as "machinery/equipment" unless the client explicitly adds an Item 20 requirement and shows me exactly what level of detail they want and provides the nomenclature for any and all features I tie.

Posted : March 23, 2023 6:29 am
Tommy Young
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I looked at a refinery a couple of weeks ago. They asked for a timeframe and a very rough estimate (I know, I know).  I have no intention whatsoever of locating any improvements in the interior of the property, only those near the exterior boundary lines that might affect title.

Posted : March 23, 2023 7:25 am
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Again a great reason why this site ROCKS!

Posted : March 23, 2023 7:52 am
Brad Ott reacted
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Posted by: @rover83

focused on how they might impact or affect title


like in Love Canal, these places are the necessary evil of the society we live in, and the impacts of the use might not be obvious at first glance, but if you dig down (pun intended hey I used to work in environmental science) the less obvious becomes a huge liability esp when It seeps into your neighbors yard or the river or water table of the local municipal area.

Like all the people who are impacted by the recent NS rail accident.

good luck getting clean title on that those places (again pun intended)


Posted : March 23, 2023 8:02 am
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Mapper of Things Member

Posted by: @rover83

For instance, if there's fixed (permanent) equipment sitting on site, and I have no idea what it is, I'm going to show the extent of it as determined by the guidance in italics above, and label as "machinery/equipment"...

I haven't done heavy industrial topo but this is how I've handled these sorts of items so far-- map the extent and label it mechanical.  I haven't had anyone come back and ask for greater detail so far.

Posted : March 23, 2023 8:17 am
John Putnam
Posts: 1989
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What timing, I'm waiting for NTP on an ALTA for a chemical plant.  My scope includes Table 'A' item 8, substantial features.  As part of my proposal I excluded detail mapping of the process and storage facilities.  I will outline those areas on the final ALTA.

In this case the ALTA is part of a design project on a small portion (5 acres out of 40) of the site.  I'm really not sure why they want an ATLA on the entire site.  If they were to require the entire site to be mapped in detail the fee would be well into 6 figures.

As for the ALTA standards, the require you show building on the subject property, not structures.  That is unless the structures are adjacent to the property line or expose a potential unwritten conveyance.  I would not consider the all refinery process and storage facilities as buildings.

Posted : March 23, 2023 9:02 am
Jitterboogie reacted
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I've done many large ALTA's, including one for an oil refinery.  Like others have said, concentrate on things that may affect title.  Show footprints of large buildings, use a dashed box around processing equipment and structures. Negotiate a good Table A checklist to remove minutiae not relevant to the transaction.  In the end, it wasn't bad at all.  Except for trying to clearly show and identify the hundreds of easements all over the property, sheesh!   

Posted : March 23, 2023 11:04 am
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Surveyed a small chemical plant for about a month one year. They wanted every pipe and vessel, and then they demo'ed it. 

Posted : March 23, 2023 1:24 pm
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I've worked (and helped on the design) in a number of refineries over the years. Not being in the USA I can't specifically comment on the ALTA requirements, but others have already indicated to "Block" what you survey when you can.

Be aware that you might find all sorts of restrictions regarding survey equipment in parts of the site, specifically IS (intrinsically safe) areas where you can only take sealed units, or not be permitted to change batteries. There's always a way round these, but it might mean a two person team, so the prism is a dumb one. If you need IS radios the refinery can probably lend you a set.

Also be aware - if there is any spilt black oil contamination anywhere near your working area - DO NOT TREAD IN IT - you'll never get clean!

Posted : March 24, 2023 3:13 am
Jitterboogie reacted