April 1997


CDA appoints full-time project manager (April 1997)

CDA has appointed Paras Ltd. to provide management services destined to ‘formulate a strategic direction’ for the UK’s National Data repository.

Since PDM covered Common Data Access Limited (CDA) last February, CDA’s board has awarded a three year contract to Paras Limited for the provision of management services. CDA has a multiplicity of sub-committees, a prime contractor handling a substantial workload and of course, the constituent member companies. All this has meant that the day to day management of CDA has become a bit too much for the "part time" approach used hitherto. Instead of management being performed by member company personnel, CDA will now have dedicated full-time management, in the form of Alan Smith and Vicky Garrard, both of whom were involved with CDA during its early development. Their roles will include helping to formulate CDA’s strategic direction.

New services

A significant driver for this change has been the scaling up of CDA’s activity, from the "single service" of the well log repository, to the multiple services which will be provided in the future. Paras will provide a focal point for all communications within CDA and externally. The management services will include: assisting the CDA Board and subcommittees, quality assurance services of the current and future systems and providing the technical administration of the company. Paras are currently located on the Isle of Wight but will be relocated to London shortly. Commenting on the contract award David Overton of Amoco, the current chairman of CDA, said "As the Digital Logs operation matures and we embark on the next phases of Well Hardcopy and Seismic the overall CDA project management and administration need to move from a part-time to a full-time basis. This is a key element to CDA's future success.

Good mix

Paras bring the mix of technical, business and management experience that CDA is looking for." Hamish Wilson, Director of Paras added "Paras has been involved with CDA from 1994 when it was initiated as the Common Industry Data Access Initiative (CIDAI) by Amerada Hess and a number of other like minded companies. We have been working with the CDA Board and a number of subcommittees since then. The award of this contract cements our relationship with CDA." Paras has offices in the Netherlands, UK and South Africa and has plans to open offices in the USA, France, Norway and SE Asia during the course of this year. The Group has three major areas of core competence: 'Strategy & Management Development', 'Information & Knowledge Management' and 'Environment' (Eco-competitiveness and Oceanography). On their website, (http://www.paras.co.uk) Paras describe the "Paras approach" as "Embodying a coaching philosophy which defines our success in terms of the sustainable enhanced capability of our clients and the relevant stakeholders". They further describe themselves as "a rapidly growing international consulting company engaged in assisting clients in sustainable wealth creation". Management speak worthy of New Labour indeed! lets hope it translates into a renewed, effective and innovative paradigm for CDA.

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Spectrum – New Data Loading Service (April 1997)

Spectrum now offer workstation data loading services from their offices in Woking, UK.

Spectrum uses Panther's Seismic Data Loader software to migrate seismic data from SEG-Y to proprietary workstation formats such as SeisWorks, SeisX and GeoShare. Supported media include 3480, 3490, DLT and Exabyte. Spectrum are now capable of offering a more complete line of services from raw field data through transcription and tape copying (especially via the Spectrum /Britannia Data management joint venture), seismic processing and workstation loading. This type of approach should be well suited to the requirements of many operating oil co.'s today who increasingly are calling for a one-stop-shop approach to data management.

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Editorial - Business Objects Revisited (April 1997)

PDM’s editor, Neil McNaughton explains how object technology and particularly high-level industry specific business objects may help solve some of the problems we have today with software interoperability. But before the business objects, we need a business plan – and agreement as to who owns and operated the new software.

When I last wrote an editorial on Business Objects PDM August 1996 it described the basics of Object Oriented software, and showed how using these techniques one should be able program in such a way that other programs, written in different programming languages, and running on different machines can be treated as resources at one’s disposal, much in the way a subroutine is called in conventional programming. I showed that while the OO approach to software engineering is of limited interest to the end user, a higher level approach, that of using "Business Objects" has shown promise in potentially facilitating that "holy grail" of E&P computing, that of interoperability between applications. I had written in what I thought was a fairly provocative manner, on a subject where I admit my knowledge was somewhat sketchy, and I had hoped to stir up a lively debate.

Interest

While the article did spark off a high level of interest form our readership as I had hoped, what did not materialise was the lively debate. What most people wanted was more of the same. Well in this issue, we are offering you the first in a series of articles from the industries top object specialists, Nigel Goodwin from Essence Associates.

Two groups that are currently working in the E&P arena (1) POSC - Business Objects and Interoperability Workgroup led by Alan Doninger of POSC. This group's mandate is to design a process by which the business objects for E&P are to be built. After this, a second modelling team will come in and build the object definitions. The final result will be a object specification which multiple companies will implement. (2) OpenSpirit Initiative - an outsourcing of a E&P object library from Shell International (SIEP in the Hague). GeoFrame from Schlumberger is also rumoured to be based on business objects using a proprietary BO platform. Landmark is yet to visibly support any BO initiative. Most smaller development shops in E&P express interest in the Business Objects, as long as it won't cost them and they don't have to build it themselves!

SLO..SLO..

Now that I have put my first expert witnesses to work, I can sit back and pontificate some more on where objects are taking us today. One quick answer is that the technology will always be hidden from the end user’s view (the best place for it I hear the hard-line IT-ers shout). Typical "hidden" uses for the technology are in software maintenance, where only updated versions of objects need to be distributed instead of a whole executable or library. But this a limited view of the potential indeed. What would be really fun, what would make end users sit up and listen would be if a big chunk of our data, say a seismic line, could be wrapped up and used as an object across different applications. So that the new SLO definition would allow seamless data to be dragged and dropped from ProMax to SeisWorks, interpreted and then passed on to say Charisma for modelling. Of course to do this, the SLO needs to know a lot more than say what is contained in the SEG-Y format. It would have to include navigation data, and probably attribute information, and god knows what else. In fact it would pretty soon end up looking like a data model unto itself. Which is OK, because the current trend is for the Business Objects to be a kind of meta-manipulator for the data model, as Nigel Goodwin explains.

Jury out

Still unresolved in the OO world are the intriguing commercial issues which we raised in the last OO PDM. Who will pay for this and who will own it? And perhaps most importantly, when will anything workable be delivered. As Robert Peebler stated recently, companies like Landmark just cannot afford to wait around for 10 years while various standard organisations agree to set up more subcommittees. They need results yesterday! Will OO accelerate or retard the dash for interoperability? The jury is still out.

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PESGB, CDA & Standards (April 1997)

Data quality deemed major issue at Petroleum Exploration Club of Great Britain (PESGB) Data Management Special Interest Group. Well naming of multi-branch wells has presented near-intractable problems to North Sea operators.

Paras Alan Smith, senior consultant to CDA, had something of a baptism of fire at the last PESGB Data Management Group meeting. The topic of the day was data quality, and Ashley Dunlop listed his pet data quality problem issues as

When is a well not a well, or well, sidetrack and re-entry naming inconsistencies.

Missing meta data such as depth datums (KB, MSL, Log, Driller, TVD etc.)

In the case of TVD data, missing information as to how the method of TVD computation

Inconsistencies in checkshot surveys

The meeting then focussed almost completely on well naming conventions, with various solutions envisaged. Opinions were expressed on the advantages and disadvantages of using various Universal Well Identifiers such as those from Petroconsultants, the American Petroleum Institute, vendors and CDA.

Unique ID required

The problems of the DTI's well naming conventions were also discussed in particular in the case of abandoned well segments which do not merit a separate DTI identifier. The use of the DTI's drilling sequence number (DTN) was mooted and Alan Smith pointed out that many of these issues were under consideration at CDA Indeed, a subsequent visit to the CDA website (http://www.cdal.com) confirmed that this is well trodden ground. CDA's standards page states "The requirement is to have a unique well identifier, recognised by the DTI and understood by all CDA members, and also to allow for wells to be identified differently by individual companies." Specific requirements of the CDA standard are further described as :

To be able to identify wells uniquely prior to spud by target reference and/or slot number.

To maintain aliases

To recognise components of DTI well number

To be able to sort wells efficiently

CDA's answer to this is to adopt the DTI well registration number as "the only official well number." The rest of the CDA standards web page along with the relevant pages of the DTI's website (http://www.dti.gov.uk/og/) read like a summary of the PESGB discussion group leading one to think that the problem is more one of communication that standards.

Smith's baptism of fire which we referred to earlier came when it emerged that CDA did not archive either deviation surveys or checkshots. This cause some howls of anguish from both G&G's who found, if not common ground, at least similar axes to grind. It is indeed hard to see how much use can be made of logging information without one or both of these additional data sets.

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A new tape drive from Sony (April 1997)

Sony announces the GY-2120 drive and 64MB.sec transfer rate for the ID-1/DIR-1000H product.

Following our High density media special last month, Robert Huntley who is in charge of the European sales/marketing of the Sony ID-1 & DTF data recorder products for Sony Broadcast & Professional Europe has emailed us to announce the release of the GY-2120 drive which takes over from the GY-10 product and offers ADLC compression giving an average 2.59 : 1 compression. On this basis the native (large) cartridge capacity of 42 Gb becomes 108Gb. (although these figures are unlikely to be achieved with seismic data). Sony have also released the DMS-B9 a 9 slot library using a single GY-2120 drive, offering a total native capacity of 378 Gb. For the ID-1 format a new product the DIR-1000H will be available later this year and will provide a staggering 64 MBytes / second transfer rate (assuming of course that you have a suitable interface for such a rate!)

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ESRI Simplifies ARC/INFO programming (April 1997)

ESRI have just released a newApplications Programming Interface (API) for their flagship ARC/INFO product.

Hitherto, this market leading software had usually been customised using ARC/INFO’s proprietary ARC Macro Language (AML), ARC/INFO software's scripting language. The new Open Development Environment (ODE) API will allow lesser mortals access to the functionality of ARC/INFO using "point and click" programming tools such as Visual Basic, Delphi, PowerBuilder. C and C++ gurus are also catered for in the new API. This innovation permits ARC/INFO to be completely embedded within applications as part of an integrated solution, as well as building new ARC/INFO applications using industry-standard development languages. Visual Basic, and other languages using OCXs and third party plug-ins can now be seamlessly integrated with ARC/INFO applications. Applications coded with the new API will run significantly faster than those coded with AML. On the Windows NT platform, ARC/INFO OCXs can be combined with other custom controls, such as those of ESRI's MapObjects software, to produce, for example, a quick viewing application that can easily call complex ARC/INFO analysis.

$200 million revenues

On the UNIX platform, the API facilitates linking of ARC/INFO to other applications using Motif, Tcl/Tk, C, C++, or other standard UNIX programming tools. The ARC/INFO Open Development Environment will be released as Version 7.1.2 and will be automatically shipped to all ARC/INFO users under current maintenance in the second quarter of 1997. A recent survey (Geographic Information Systems Markets and Opportunities) by Daratech Inc. gives ESRI 35.2 percent of the total GIS software to the North American market in 1996 putting it in the number one slot. Total GIS software revenue of North American GIS vendors grew a "healthy" 7.9 percent in 1996 to $591 million. The Daratech study revealed that ESRI commanded, making the company the number one North American software vendor in the GIS market as a whole. ESRI's estimated software revenues reached upward of $207.7 million.

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E&P Business Objects – some basics (April 1997)

Nigel Goodwin of Essence Associates and a leading proponent of Business Objects offers some words of explanation – and caution – on this hot topic.

As a relatively immature profession, the IT industry is in a better position than most to create a language whose purpose is obsfucation and confusion. Some of the buzz words widely used by those selling and purchasing software, but which are almost meaningless without some further explanation, are client server, fourth generation, data warehouse, database and last but not least, object. It is not surprising that a simple question such as 'what is an object?' can cause great discomfort in the responder - if translated into 'what is a thing?', most philosophers would fail to give a simple, brief, all-embracing response, because the term itself is heavily overloaded. At its simplest level, an "object" is a "thing" - anything. However, IT professionals fear they may be held in ridicule if they refer to, for example, C++ as a thing-oriented language, so they substitute the word "object" instead. "Things" are nouns. "Walking" is not itself an object, it is an activity - something which happens in time and space, which changes the state of something. It is a possible behaviour of a person object. "Things" have information about them. Indeed, whenever we talk about information, we need to identify the thing the information is about. In data model terms, the thing is the entity, the information is the attributes. In many cases, information is about more than one thing - a salary is information about both a person thing and a company thing. A person’s name is not itself an object - it is information about a person object. In the IT world, the term "object" generally refers to the thing itself (the person), the information about the thing (the person’s name) and the behaviours of the thing (a person can walk). Below are some examples of the application of these concepts.

Object-Oriented User Interface

This concerns the way in which, in interactive graphics editing, a graphical object is first selected, and then an action is performed. For example, in a drawing package, a symbol (such as a rectangle) is selected using the mouse. Then an action is chosen (delete, move, resize, change fill colour, change line thickness etc.). This contrasts with a more conventional command interface (such as DOS) where, for example, an action is chosen (RENAME) and then a file object is selected. This change from verb - noun to noun - verb has, for most of us, become completely intuitive when dealing with simple graphics editing. Whether the style is appropriate in, for example, interactive log analysis is more open. Is it intuitive to first select a log and a log depth, and then select what action is to be performed (depth shift, interpolate, change value, scale, shift)? Or is it more intuitive to first select that a depth shifting process is going to take place, and then select the log to be shifted? Most interactive log analysis products adopt a semi-object oriented user interface.

Object Oriented Language

Object oriented languages in principle enable libraries of reusable objects to be maintained. Of course, there have been libraries of reusable code available for decades, be it from algorithm specialists such as NAG or a programmer's personal toolkit. Design concepts such as coupling and cohesion have guided programmers into writing code which has a greater chance of widespread applicability. Reusable code is much more of a design and management issue than a programming issue.

C++ was invented to support object-oriented programming. Object-oriented programming takes the best of the ideas embodied in structured programming, and combines them with powerful new concepts that allow you to organise your programs in a different way. A program is decomposed into subgroups, which combine the program code and the data in a tightly coupled object. There are three important concepts:

Encapsulation, a mechanism to bind together the code and the data into a "black box" which is protected from outside interference. A well designed FORTRAN program can similarly bind together code and data, but there is no protection mechanism, and the design tends to become abused over time.

Polymorphism, whereby one interface can achieve multiple methods, depending on the type of data. For example, a single function "add" can be used for integers, reals, imaginary numbers, and maybe even characters (where "add" is treated as a concatenation). Polymorphism tends to reduce program complexity, by eliminating multiple interfaces to very similar functions.

Inheritance, whereby one object can acquire the properties of another. An object can be a special case of another object, in which case it can have particular additional behaviour. For example, in a map drawing package, all graphical objects can be moved, changed colour, scaled etc. A road object has all these general properties, but also it may have the property that it can be linked to a route database, and be presented in flashing colours when selected as part of the best route. Inheritance again reduces complexity and programming effort, because all the basic graphical manipulation code has only to be programmed once for all graphical objects.

Object-oriented database.

It can be misleading to discuss database management system technology in terms of 'relational' or 'object'. It is better to think of it in terms of 2nd and 3rd generation. 2nd generation databases were implemented using relational technology (following Codd and Date's 12 rules for relational databases). At a similar time, 2nd generation object databases were being developed, arising out of the need for persistent C++ structures. The database world is now moving towards 3rd generation systems. It is widely accepted, by both the 2nd generation DBMS vendors and many sectors of industry (both commercial and technical), that 2nd generation relational or object databases do not fully satisfy business requirements, although they were a major advance on previous 1st generation systems.

Three of the major technical limitations with 2nd generation relational and object databases, which have important business consequences in the E&P industry and all other industries, are (and these address both the data model and the database implementation):

complex data types

multiple inheritance

query language

The business consequences which are impacted by these technical issues are: 'can I store my business data at all?', and 'even if I can store it, can I model my business satisfactorily, and can my application development and maintenance be done effectively?'.

A 2nd generation relational database cannot store E&P data effectively at all; nobody seriously stores log data in a 2nd generation relational table. If log data is stored at all, it is stored in object extensions to 2nd generation relational databases. A database which includes object extensions to 2nd generation relational databases is essential. Such databases have been available for some time - some RDBMS databases include functionality to store log data intelligently, and allow retrieval of individual depths. Other RDBMS's have implemented fewer object features, and have to store log data as complete unintelligent BLOBS (merely a sequence of bits with no structure).

Query language

Regarding the query language, it is accepted that an SQL - based query language is essential for application development as well as for end-user access. DBMS vendors, both relational and object, have been, and will continue to, implement the necessary features to overcome the limitations in 2nd generation DBMS's. In particular, DBMS vendors from a relational background have been implementing object features, and DBMS vendors from an object background have been implementing features commonly found in 2nd generation relational DBMS's (such as query languages and transactions).

In this sense, current commercial DBMS's such as Oracle, Sybase, Informix, DB2 etc., are not pure relational. They historically come from a 2nd generation relational background, but they are moving, some faster than others, towards a 3rd generation hybrid technology. 2nd generation relational databases are history.

The SEQUEL

RDBMS vendors believe they can offer a relatively smooth path towards 3rd generation hybrid databases. New SQL standards, such as SQL3 and SQL/MM, integrate most of the beneficial object-oriented features into an existing relational query language as follows;

Distributed objects. Initiatives such as CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) deal with the needs to manage objects which are physically distributed across a network. This becomes relevant when two people working on different work stations want to communicate their interpretations dynamically - if a well marker is moved by one person, it also moves on other workstations.

Business objects (for programmers). These are formal definitions of things with their associated data, and the behaviour of the thing. For example, a thing might be a well log trace. It has data (a log name, a set of values), and behaviour (it can be deleted, changed, resampled, displayed as a log curve, a cross plot, a histogram or depth shifted). During the design stage of software development, all data objects and behaviours would be defined. These formal definitions will probably be written using a formal language, understandable by IT specialists.

Business objects (for analysis). These are informal descriptions of the things used by the business, described in terms understandable to business practitioners. The information about these things can be mapped to formal data models if desired. These business objects can be regarded as data footprints - the footprint of an application, or the footprint of a data exchange file. In many cases, the business objects can also be related to documents - a document is a business object plus the presentation layout of that business object. These informal business objects are very useful when performing business or system analysis, or business process reengineering, as they help identify the information flows and the opportunities for greater effectiveness, either through organisational/cultural change or through better utilisation of information technology. In business modelling , the business objects are linked to the business activities which use or create them. Example of these business objects are: well log, production rates, material shipping order, electrical line index, share register. Examples of such business objects, covering the whole E&P lifecycle, may be found at: http://www.essence.co.uk/essence/

Which of the above aspects of objects need concern the end user? There have been conferences devoted to the business benefits of objects, but this is almost always restricted to business benefits to software developers, not end users. The user interface issues mentioned earlier are familiar to workstation users. While the strictly programming aspects actually have no direct implications for users, they may lead to faster, more reliable implementations, with better user interface features. The database issue will enable better control of E&P data, and reduce the proliferation of unmanaged data files (as its name implies, a database management system is about the management of data, not just storage of data).

Lingua franca

Distributed objects may have longer term consequences for the ways in which people work together, but introduces a whole new set of user interface design decisions. Business objects, inasmuch as they facilitate clarity and hence improved communication between users and IT professionals, may have as much an overall business impact as any of the other aspects. It will mean that when a log analysis package says it can handle well header information, we can have a common agreement on what well header information really is. Or if a design contractor hands over to operations an ‘equipment list’, we know what we are getting, and how it relates to other business objects such as Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&ID’s). Through agreed common definitions of E&P business objects, there will be a lingua franca, understandable to end users, which can be mapped to standard data models, such as POSC’s Epicentre, which is a lingua franca understandable to data model specialists.

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New Release (V3.0) of Geographix’ SeisVision (April 1997)

The wholly owned subsidiary of Landmark Graphics Corporation has just announced a new release of its SeisVision seismic interpretation software for MS-Windows based PC’s.

Prizm, SeisVision's sister product was featured in PDM in our special PC edition in September 1996. What is new in release 3.0 of SeisVision is the ability to integrate 2D data into a 3D interpretation. Also included are tools for loading data and tying different vintage surveys. Structural interpretation is also enhanced with the ability to flatten on a picked horizon, a must in pre-salt interpretation for instance. GeoGraphics, with the deference due to their parent company, state that "SeiVision complements Unix-based seismic interpretation workstations" but add that "complete integration" is achieved with their own brand "leading PC-based applications. LGC must be pretty pleased with their GeoGraphix acquisition, it gives them a foot in both camps, and must allow for stimulating inter brand competition within their organisation.

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GeoQuest Developing and Marketing QLA 2 (April 1997)

GeoQuest announced that it has assumed responsibility for ongoing development, marketing and distribution of QLA 2*, the industry's 'premier' PC-based petrophysical interpretation program.

QLA 2 delivers a complete set of tools for comprehensive well log analysis based on the dual-water model. The interactive log analysis tools support log, crossplot and tabular displays developed from standard or user-defined parameters. The QLA 2 system accepts digital data from a variety of sources and interfaces to display multiwell cross-sectional views of petrophysical data. GeoQuest currently is working on enhancements to QLA 2. Enhancements include the transition to a Windows 32-bit environment, as well as open database connectivity (ODBC) to support the use of QLA 2 with other ODBC-compliant applications. The addition of QLA 2 to the GeoQuest product line strengthens GeoQuest's product offering to the PC-user community. In 1995, GeoQuest entered the PC market through the acquisition of the ECLIPSE reservoir simulator product line. In 1996, GeoQuest acquired two PC-based production database applications-The Production Analyst and OilField Manager.

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Landmark – the 'revolution in the white-space' (April 1997)

At the Dallas AAPG convention, Landmark is unveiling what is described as 'the industry's most complete suite of integrated reservoir management solutions'. These are set to fill the 'white-space' between existing applications and to facilitate inter disciplinary co-operative working.

Landmark continues to enhance and build on its integrated family of solutions for the entire oil field life cycle with the "most complete computer-aided reservoir management solution". Landmark has integrated and updated more than 15 key reservoir technologies as well as enhanced the technology and expertise it acquired last year from Western Atlas Software. Landmark's integrated family of reservoir management solutions provides the essential tools for reservoir management ensuring effective exploitation of assets from initial discovery, through appraisal and depletion, and on to field abandonment.

To boldly characterize..

This new solution will "enable geoscientists and engineers to better characterize both large and small reservoirs more quickly and accurately". In addition, multidisciplinary asset teams will be able to simulate the movement of formation fluids, estimate recoverable reserves more precisely, manage wells more efficiently and gauge the economic impact of various production scenarios. "While the vast majority of reserves are found in existing fields, current production methods leave as much as 70 percent of hydrocarbons in the ground," said Robert P. Peebler, President and CEO of Landmark. "With Landmark's integrated computer-aided reservoir management solution we will enable our customers to find and produce reservoirs that were previously impossible to detect and uneconomic to produce." Several applications that comprise Landmark's integrated reservoir management solution were recently included in Landmark's Release 97 software shipment.

Synchronized release

Release 97 was the industry's first synchronized release of a broad and integrated suite of E&P software applications. Release 97 included new versions of nearly 20 of Landmark's applications that were developed, tested and certified for concurrent release on Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics and IBM computing environments. Landmark's integrated suite of computer-aided reservoir management applications are integrated through OpenWorks 4.1, Landmark's dynamic data environment. Integration through OpenWorks allows multidisciplinary asset team members the ability to share and work with the same data—at the same time—in a common environment, resulting in more accurate interpretations. Landmark has also announced the expansion of its professional consulting services for computer-aided reservoir management.

Data management

These services include data management, workflow improvement, applications integration, certified installation, on-site client support, training and education. "While technology is allowing oil companies to flourish in an increasingly competitive environment, we understand it is the people who are using the technology that make their companies successful," said John Gibson, Executive Vice President of Landmark's Integrated Products Group. "With this release, Landmark continues to deliver on our commitment to helping people enhance their skills and work more productively, so that oil and gas companies can get the most from their reserves while reducing project cycle time and minimizing risk."

Rationalization?

Reading between the lines of this hype, what really appears to be being released at the AAPG is Landmark's "Release 97" press release (featured in the February PDM), although to be fair, the new offering is more focused on production and on the reservoir with ex Munroe Garret's Aries asset management system amongst others. The title of this article refers to Robert Peebler's vision of a major change taking place in the "whitespace" between E&P applications, whereby the focus is on activity that bridges the gaps between the existing domains of competence. Thus a reservoir engineer will dialogue with a geophysicist and a financial planner using the same data. While Landmark's "long as your arm" list of software tools do cover the whole gamut of E&P activity, putting them in a strong position to defend their position as revolutionaries of the whitespace, one cannot help feeling that the spread of domain centered applications and the multiple OS/hardware supported is crying out for rationalization.

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Merak – Company Profile (April 1997)

The Calgary based Merak Projects Ltd. (www.merak.com) provides an integrated suite of applications which work atthe interface between engineering and finance in a producing oil company.

The scope of Merak’s software runs from well completion data management and well-head data capture through production forecasting, economics and decision tree analysis to portfolio management and budgets. Merak has been developing software for the oil industry for over fifteen years and was initially a Unix shop. Since 1990 Merak has migrated into the Microsoft windows environment, first to DOS, then 16 bit Windows. Today all Merak development is for 32 bit MS Windows environments (Windows 95 and NT). Merak utilizes standard technologies such as Microsoft OLE/COM, ODBC and the Microsoft Foundation Class Libraries. These may seem arcane considerations for end users. They are not. Building software from these component technologies has very real immediate benefits for the end user. Firstly the use of the MFC libraries makes for a familiar look and feel, minimizing training; anyone who is used to word processing or a spreadsheet will immediately know how to open projects, print and move around the program. Secondly the OLE/COM object technology means that data can be shared between different products in the Merak range eliminating the need for data re-entry, and also between other OLE/COM compliant Windows apps, such as Excel, Word and so on. Finally the ODBC bit gives Merak independence from a database vendor, so their products can run on Access, in a single user environment or can plug into a Unix based Oracle server in a larger organization. Multiple databases can be used for security or organizational requirements.

PEEP PEEP..

Merak’s flagship product is the Petroleum Economics Evaluation Package – PEEP which comes in two flavours, US PEEP and World PEEP. As one might expect, the US version is hardwired for the tax and reporting regime of the US, while the World version allows these parameters to be configured on a country by country basis. Tax computation is something of a black art, and is generally not amenable to generalised algorithms. World PEEP can be pr-configured (Merak can supply what they term "base generics" for some 30 countries) but its strength is that a company can configure PEEP to suit its own tax and reporting requirements. Merak moved into the North Sea marketplace last year, setting up an office in London and acquiring the OGLE economics package from PGS. This is still supported by Merak, but the philosophy behind the acquisition was cannibalistic, with OGLE destined to be subsumed into PEEP in the medium term.

Show me the Value

PEEP provides the motor for Merak’s Portfolio product which is described as a petroleum "volume and value" management system. A company’s producing assets can be broken down into subsidiaries, partnerships and fields and managed as individual units, or consolidated at various levels for forecast, budget or reporting requirements. An attractive aspect of the design of Portfolio is the way in which data can be defined at an appropriate level and then will ripple down through the organizational hierarchy. This is described as "inheritance" – a groovy Object Oriented term used, for once, in an entirely comprehensible and appropriate manner. Other members of the Portfolio family are Forecast – which does just that abd Decision Tree. I was ready for my eyes to glaze over when I was shown this tool, decision tree analysis has been around for a while without exactly setting the world on fire. But I was in for a surprise, Decision Tree, with its tree and "tornado" plots is quick and intuitive, and the results presented in an intelligible manner. Maybe this will be the "killer" app for this type of analysis. Merak state that it is a sure fire way of closing a PEEP sale, so you had better leave your checkbook at home when they show you this one!

Multi-currency

Merak’s products are divided into two camps, the Economic Engineering Workstation which includes PEEP and Portfolio, and the PetroDesk field operations environment. The "division of labour" is not always easy to grasp, and there is overlap between several of the products. Merak would probably claim that this reflects working practices, and that anyhow, the commonality of the database means that overlapping product functionality is quite manageable.

These products are well crafted and have obviously grown up over a period of time into mature applications loaded with functionality. One example of Merak’s thoroughness is the way units and currencies are handled. These can be switched around at will at any desired level of the Portfolio hierarchy, and the data seamlessly takes the new frame of reference into account. engineers, asset managers and financial controllers should take a close look at these innovative tools.

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RockWare software over the web (April 1997)

Rockware is now offering trial versions of its most popular software for download from its website (www.rockware.com).

Prosect (deviated wellbore computation), DLG (line graph plotter), Digitize (guess what!) are available amongst others. In the old days of clanking UNIX software, taking up a "free trial" was just like signing the check. Once you had installed configured the software and learned how to use it, there was no was you would go back. If you had tried to unload the trial, your system would have probably never run again anyhow. All this has changed with Windows based demos. I downloaded Erupt, a shareware volcanic eruption modeling program developed by the USGS from the RockWare site. Except for its overwriting a Windows system file with an older version – a problem that Windows (95) trapped (unusually) the installation went smoothly and within minutes I was building my own Dante's Peak (go see it!) with sound effects and all. Now I'm working on downloading Linda Hamilton.

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