Subsurface Utility Engineering SUE

Subsurface utility engineering SUE is a process that uses multiple technologies that help vertically and horizontally locate underground utilities and pipelines. By obtaining quality information, pipeline contractors can reduce jobsite risks, avoid construction delays, and minimize potential for utility relocation.

Subsurface utility engineering SUE has been utilized by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration since the early 1990s. Today, surprisingly, only a few pipeline construction companies utilize SUE technology so they can place bids on state projects and apply for federal-aid highway funds under the Brooks Bill.


Subsurface utility engineering was primarily used for highway design, but is now being used by the U.S. military and FAA. It is rapidly becoming the preferred technology for use with environmental restoration programs.

Subsurface utility engineering companies work closely with utility companies and provide them with planning sheets and existing utility information. SUE companies use surface geophysical equipment to identify existence of subsurface utilities.

Air/vacuum excavation equipment is also used to identify utility positioning and determine if conflicts exist within plans. If utility relocation is required SUE companies prepare relocation designs and agreements for project owners, consultant designers, or DOT.

SUE services can include utility design, utility coordination, surveying and mapping, 3D underground imaging, ground penetrating radar, GPS surveys, and geographic information systems (GIS).

The subsurface utility engineering process provides a 3D mapping of utility systems from which design plans are developed. SUE contractors start by gathering utility records and compiling data into a composite drawing.

The next step involves visiting the job site to locate visible surface features, such as sewer manholes and catch basins, and conduct a topographic survey. If existing utilities have direct impact on the proposed design, SUE contractors must further investigate by using geophysical techniques such as ground penetrating radar or pipe and cable locators to assess conflicts and possible utility relocation options.

SUE tools are essential for identifying and categorizing subsurface utilities. Project managers can limit their risks by knowing the location, depth, and size of existing utilities, as well as identifying the condition and composition.

In addition to lowering project risks and costs, subsurface utility engineering calls for cooperative effort amongst engineers, contractors, utility companies, and project owners. Open exchange of information expedites progress of construction projects while providing a safer work environment. It's not always easy to assess pre-existing underground conditions without any supporting documents. Retrieving accurate records and working together not only provides for a safer work environment, but in the end, may save on time and costs by acquiring pre-existing information that may benefit everyone involved in the SUE process.

Subsurface utility engineering can help private companies, public utilities, and municipalities reduce construction costs while improving construction safety. SUE technology can save taxpayers thousands of dollars in highway and road construction costs.

At Kana Pipeline, we utilize several tools to assure location of all subsurface utilities. We are experienced with ground penetrating radar; pipe and cable locate systems; and other tools such as locatable rodders and sondes.

As an experienced utility contractor, Kana is familiar with numerous installation techniques for various types of facilities including: sewer lines, storm drainage systems, electric lines, telecommunication lines, fireline, water lines, petroleum lines, gas lines, cable and fiber optic lines.

We strive to maintain our reputation as an industry leader as a subsurface utility engineering contractor by staying abreast of SUE technology and completing projects safely, on time, and within budget.

We invite you to learn more about Kana Pipeline and the subsurface utility engineering SUE services we offer. Our staff is always happy to discuss project needs, answer questions, and provide project proposals.