August 1999


Seismic boutiques merge (August 1999)

Scott Pickford, now part of the CoreLab group has acquired Coherence Technology Company. Coherence holds an exclusive license from BP Amoco for the use of the patented Coherence Cube seismic analysis software. Scott Pickford is Corelab’s UK-based reservoir management arm.

Specialist specialists Scott Pickford Group (SPG) and Coherence Technology Company (CTC) are to merge. Scott Pickford’s integrated reservoir characterization services will now be complemented by the exclusive and fiercely-protected technology from CTC.

World-wide

The deal involves expansion for both parties with merged offices in London, Houston, Calgary, Jakarta and Lagos—through the CTC Pulsonic subsidiary.

synergy

SPG’s Managing Director Chris Cottam said “We are pleased with this acquisition which adds significantly to our reservoir imaging capabilities. The combination of our technologies will create powerful new tools which will help our clients to characterize, monitor and manage their reservoirs. The Scott Pickford group now employs 400 staff world-wide with revenues of over $50 million.

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GeoQuest software successes (August 1999)

Both Santa Fe Snyder and Oslo-based Fortum Petroleum have opted for single-supplier solutions for E&P software.

GeoQuest has had two successes in the developing trend for one-stop E&P software shopping. Fortum Petroleum AS (Oslo) and Santa Fe Snyder have both awarded software contracts to the Schlumberger unit. Fortum has operations in the North Sea, Russia and Middle East. Fortum’s Knud Nørve stated "We are very satisfied with the service we received from GeoQuest during a software application and support pilot. GeoQuest staff members are dedicated and responsive”. Fortum Petroleum will have access to all of GeoQuest's E&P software. GeoQuest will be working with Fortum's geoscientists to develop workflow standards through data and software integration. Fortum was formed by the merger of Neste and the IVO Group.

Santa Fe Snyder

Meanwhile, Santa Fe Snyder has signed a multiyear contract naming GeoQuest as the “primary supplier” of geoscientific technology to Santa Fe Snyder (SFS). Again, GeoQuest is to supply its full software suite and will provide project conversion, training and workflow consulting. In addition to its US domestic operations, SFS is present in South America, Southeast Asia and West Africa. See this month’s PDM interview with SFS’ Doug Nester for the rationale behind the software deal.

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The new Swiss army knife? (August 1999)

PDM's editor Neil McNaughton tries to sort out the hype from the facts and looks at the scope of XML as a new paradigm for interoperability. He is encouraged by the promise of XML as a quick fix to the problems of data interchange, but warns that only open, publicly available tags and data schemas will facilitate data exchange. Such schemas should be posted on public web-sites.

In the great tradition of new IT toys, XML is gathering steam at an alarming pace. But the same was true of many technologies of the recent past which have failed to set the world on fire. Much press comment (including ours!) has also tended to seek conspiracy and conflict in the rise of new technology, and it is certainly true that neither Bill Gates nor Larry Ellison would miss an opportunity to undermine each other’s efforts to rule the world. For once though, there may be more conspiracy theorists than conspiracies. XML really does seem to offer a (win)n all round.

HTML, SGML

XML has a venerable pedigree. When the US Navy realized back in the ‘70s than to carry the full weight of documentation on a battleship would sink it, it decided to develop a computerized way of representing the information held in manuals. Thus was born the Standard Generalized Markup Language. Over the years, this has developed into an ISO standard, and has had a small, but enthusiastic following of developers who use it to produce complex documentation and also to migrate databases. But in its existence, SGML has seen no success like its ridiculously simple offspring HTML – the language of the web. Whereas SGML is for eggheads, HTML really is for dummies.

explosive

The explosive success of HTML suggested that it might be possible to leverage the success of HTML’s simplicity with some more of SGML’s complex features, with the objective of transparent data exchange. The outcome, XML (for extensible markup language) differs from HTML in that it can be extended - you can invent your own tags. Now this should ring some alarm bells. If everyone starts to invent their own <well_location> <well_position> <well_coordinate> tags, then chaos will quickly ensue. So something else is required, yes you’ve got it, standards.

nirvana?

In e-commerce at large, several organizations such as www.xml.org and the Microsoft-sponsored www.biztalk.org are setting out to produce tag definitions and data schemas which are set to have wide currency in the business world. Likewise, other communities have their own XML flavors such as SMIL for multimedia, MathML, ChemicalML.

Browsers

XML is also the big new thing in web browser technology with both Internet Explorer and Netscape offering XML awareness in their latest manifestations. In fact XML is probably already running on your PC if you subscribe to any of the ‘push’ service providers such as CNN and Reuters who both use the XML-based Internet Content Exchange protocol.

WellLogML

Closer to home POSC, INT and Oilware Inc. have encapsulated the Canadian LAS log standard into WellLogML. This illustrates a great opportunity to develop XML based protocols for data exchange around our existing E&P standards. Although the need for cooperation between the standards bodies remains, XML could provide a facilitator in those areas where agreement on standards has proved difficulty to achieve. XML acts as a buffer between data formats, and could become a sort of super-Geoshare lingua-franca provided that it is deployed in an open manner.

caveats

To use the analogy of the HTML based web of today assumes one rather important point. As you browse a web page, you can usually switch your browser to view the page’s source in HTML. It is not just an open standard, but is also open source code. Now if you buy an application that is written in XML, but somehow manages to conceal its inner workings, by encryption, or reference to an undisclosed schema, then this is not the same thing at all. For XML to take off it must be specified and posted openly. It is one thing for an IT shop to develop an XML based application for internal use, quite another for the community at large to benefit from commonly accepted tag definitions and schema which will allow business to business communication.

Business?

Before your eyes glaze over at the thought of B2B and e-commerce let me give you a heads-up. Just as a business object can be anything from a bank account to a well header, so can a B2B transaction represent anything from a credit card purchase to a seismic trade. To achieve the latter seamlessly, we need machine readable SEG formats, and XML could be the way forward.

conspiracy of the month

Seems like there is a bit too much mother & apple pie in this editorial so I will finish up with a conspiracy theory. How about XML as a trojan horse for Microsoft’s attack on the ERP fiefdoms that James Utzschneider talked about in last month’s PDM? Could it be that Microsoft, by adopting an ’opener than thou’ attitude will force SAP and others to lower the drawbridges to their castles. This would then preempt SAP or Oracle from extending their field of influence too far over the desktop? Well its only a (conspiracy) theory...

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An XML primer (August 1999)

XML ‘Xspert’ Antoine Rizk has kindly supplied this introduction to the new language. You can check out the fruits of his labors on the Euroclid website http://www.euroclid.fr (you may like to have a French dictionary to hand).

What is XML?

XML, the Extensible Markup Language, defines a universal standard for electronic data exchange. Described as “the ASCII of the year 2000”, XML may be the solution to problems of heterogeneous databases and data structures. XML specifies a rigorous, text-based manner of representing the structure inherent in data, so that it can be authored and interpreted unambiguously. Its’ simple, tag-based approach leverages developers' familiarity of HTML, while providing a flexible, extensible mechanism that can handle "digital assets" from highly structured database records to unstructured documents and everything in between.

W3C

XML is an Internet Standard way of tagging data. As a web-centric subset of the authoritative SGML ISO standard, XML is based on a proven technology with a good track record. The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) recommended the XML 1.0 standard in February 1998, and it is being widely and rapidly adopted as a standard for document and data exchange in a variety of markets.

support

XML is gaining wide industry support as well from vendors including Oracle, IBM, Sun, Microsoft, Netscape, SAP and others, as a platform and application-neutral format for exchanging information. XML is ‘extensible’ and has spawned several derivative standards, for defining schemas, presentation style-sheets, hypertext links, API manipulation, and XML query language.

XML vs. HTML

The following example shows the difference between XML and HTML and demonstrates the advantages of using XML for archiving, transferring and querying data. The HTML in the snippet below uses tags to present data in a row of a table. But there are many ambiguities. Is "Document Engineering" the name of a book? A university course? A job skill? one cannot be sure by looking at the data and tags on the HTML page. A computer program cannot figure it out either.

HTML code snippet

<HTML>
    <BODY>
        <TABLE>
            <TR>
                <TD>Document engineering</TD>
                <TD>DESS IDM</TD>
                <TD>Antoine Rizk</TD>
            </TR>
            </TABLE>
    </BODY>
</HTML>

If we look at the analogous XML example below. It's exactly the same data, but the tags indicate what information the data represents, not how it should be displayed. It's clear to the user and to a computer that "Document Engineering" is the Name of a Course, but it says nothing about how it should be displayed.

Simple XML Page

<?xml version="1.0"?>
    <Course>
        <Name>Document Engineering</Name>
        <Department>DESS IDM</Department>
        <Teacher>
            <Name>Antoine Rizk</Name>
        </Teacher>
    </Course>

So XML represents information content, while HTML represents the presentation of that content.

Style

In order to present the above XML example on a screen, one can transform it into its HTML equivalent using a program, or simply a standard stylesheet language designed for that purpose, called XSL. The advantage of using the latter is that it can be sent for interpretation on the client side. Many different XSL sheets can be defined for a single XML fragment and sent to different users according to their profiles and platform configuration.

XML architecture

The figure above illustrates what the future information system architectures will look like. Here, the user has at his/her disposal an HTML terminal or an XML one, used in client mode to browse heterogeneous databases connected in a three-tier architecture to the internet.

document database

One database could be a document base, another one could be a GIS, and a third one could be a relational or object database. Each tool being used where it fits best. Currently, queries are dispatched to databases in SQL or OQL, or another proprietary form. In the future, queries will be sent in a unified manner in XQL, the XML Query language. Results are generated, joined and assembled back in XML, then sent to a presentation server which uses the future XSL style sheet language to transform XML data into HTML. More info on XML from www.gca.org and www.oasis-open.org/cover.

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ShapesProspector from XoX, Shared Earth Model on a PC (August 1999)

XoX's latest software ShapesProspector offers integrated, PC-based 2D/3D Earth Modeling.

Following XoX’s technology sale to GeoQuest (the XoX Shapes geometry engine is at the heart of GeoQuest’s Shared Earth Model), XoX have developed a stand-alone PC-based tool, the ShapesProspector. (SP). SP allows geologists to create 3D earth models from well-log and seismic interpretations using 2D and 3D modeling techniques. SP enables structural models to be built for analysis and presentation purposes. SP runs on Windows 95/98/NT and handles structurally complex surfaces such as faults, salt domes and lenses.

valid

The new tool allows consistent and geologically valid interpretations to be built around a central 3D-earth model and includes what are described as “excellent” presentation capabilities. Well tops and grids can be imported and exported from and to any format. Model creation and editing facilities are driven from a central 3D-model repository of the subsurface structure. This 3D model captures not only fault and other surface geometry, but also the topological relationships between them that give rise to the zones, layers, and formations in geologic structures. The model can be viewed in terms of the fault and horizon surfaces, or in terms of the volumes.

zoom & pan

The model can be rotated and zoomed and surfaces can be painted attributed with color, transparency, translucency and other graphical properties. A semi-transparent model cab be created that reveals its interior. Solid models can be created from surfaces and grouped into layers and fault blocks for analysis and presentations. Volumes are derived from the 3D structural model and are updated automatically when any component of the volume is edited. Presentations can be made with arbitrary slices, cutaway sections, chair diagrams and others. XoX net revenues the first half of 1999 were up 9% to $1.5 million. More from www.xox.com.

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PDM Interview, Doug Nester, Santa Fe Synder (August 1999)

PDM interviewed Doug Nester, VP international exploration with Santa Fe Snyder. We asked why SFS had elected for an all-GeoQuest solution to its upstream IT.

PDM - One time the big issue in E&P software was interoperability. Why has Santa Fe Snyder (SFS) gone for an single supplier solution to its E&P application portfolio?

Nester - Subsequent to the merger between Snyder and Snata Fe, we decided that a standardized environment was required throughout all district offices from Denver to Kuala Lumpur. An explorationist should be able to sit down at a workstation anywhere within the organization and fire up the same software suite.

PDM – What was the situation before the merger?

Nester - Santa-Fe’s domestic operations were a Landmark Shop, while both SF's international ops and Snyder were GeoQuest - so the choice of GeoQuest was a 'majority decision’ to some extent.

PDM – What other reasons were there for selecting GeoQuest?

Nester - Support was paramount as an international company, SSF required on-site support that only GeoQuest could offer in SE Asia. Right now both GeoQuest and Landmark are playing leapfrog, with one leading in one field for a while, then the other innovating in some way. There is no clear leader. But what interested us most was their long-term vision. We sat down with the senior management of both Landmark and GeoQuest and asked where they would be five years from now. We liked what we heard from GeoQuest best. Schlumberger's background in data acquisition in both logging and seismics, and future moves to real time data processing directions were key, with the ability in the near future to integrate logging data into a workstation interpretation in real time - a vision that resonated with SFS's. Currently such international operations are hindered by the need to have specific personnel in specific loactions. The advent of high capacity data links should change this.

PDM - What happened to best of breed?

Nester - We still will have a full suite of Landmark applications which will serve to work on partner supplied data sets, and also which will be used to test bed product enhancements from Landmark.

PDM - What is the scope of the GQ software purchase? Will you be using the PowerHouse data management solution?

Nester - No we will have Finder in-house, and the full suite of GeoFrame applications.

PDM How important was the installed base of GeoQuest products in your decision?

Nester - That played a role, but more in minimizing the data conversion issues. I believe that a good explorationist can switch from one environment to the other quite easily, GeoQuest offers good training for the switch-over. The deciding factor for us was GeoQuest’s vision of a future exploration environment where information is exchanged in real time between all disciplines and encompasses the entire exploration through development project cycle.

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Fakespace merges with Pyramid (August 1999)

Fakespace, suppliers of virtual reality visualization hardware, have merged with erstwhile competitor Pyramid Systems, vendor of the CAVE.

Fakespace has split its activity into two units - Fakespace Labs (R&D) and Fakespace Systems - systems integration and marketing. The Systems arm has also merged with Pyramid Systems - vendor of the CAVE VR platform. More on VR in PDM Vol. 3 N° 10 and from www.fakespace.com.

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POSC interop part II (August 1999)

POSC’s interop initiative has moved on from data-level integration as used in Open Spirit and is now focusing on application interaction.

The POSC interoperability initiative has hitherto focused interoperability through data exchange. Now the focus is on application interaction, so that messages generated by one piece of software - such as a seismic pick - can be shared with other vendor programs such as a well log viewer. More on interop phase II from www.posc.org.

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Oilware’s XMLLog, web - enabled petrophysical data (August 1999)

DLIS, LIS, BIT, LAS, LBS, and other digital well log data formats can now be converted directly to XML in the proposed WellLogML format. EzTools is now using XML internally to summarize the content of all data scanned in preparation for conversion.

Oilware has integrated XML into its EzTools application architecture. DLIS, LIS, BIT, LAS, LBS, and other digital well log data formats can now be converted directly to XML in the proposed WellLogML format. EzTools now also uses XML internally to summarize the content of all data scanned in preparation for conversion.

LAS

The Canadian LAS (Log ASCII Standard) is a simple, human readable format for well log data exchange. The arrival of the Internet has created a demand for transferring and viewing well log data with common, desk top, web based tools. By leveraging the work done on LAS with XML, both of these goals can be reached.

INT

Oilware has been collaborating with POSC and Interactive Network Technologies (INT) to develop a new digital well log data interchange format WellLogML. The new format extends XML, and contains many new features. WellLogML is a sophisticated specification with multidimensional array curves, arrays of parameters, run merging and irregular depth samples.

IE5

Many tools are available such as Internet Explorer 5, for certifying that an XML file conforms to both the syntax of XML and the semantics of WellLogML. Using the Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), XML files can be transformed into different XML files or into different formats altogether. The data can be loaded into Oracle, Microsoft Access 2000, etc. and into desktop applications like Microsoft Excel 2000, Internet Explorer 5. XSL allows XML files to be transformed into HTML, RTF, or even very detailed graphical presentations.

XMLLog

Oilware’s log manipulation toolkit, EzTools can now convert a wide range of formats into XMLLog, Oilware’s implementation of the WellLogML standard. EzTools now uses XML in an internal control file to summarize the content of all data scanned in preparation for conversion. Prior to format conversion, the control file can be edited to select which logical data files, frame types, and curves should be converted.

in Control

The control file can also be edited to change the output ASCII format being created, perform units conversions, and to modify constant values, such as well name, field name etc. The new XMLControl files open the door to a much larger world than hitherto was possible! These files contain all of the information derived from scanning a digital well log data set including file frame and curve information, and well header data. Using available scanning modules, digital well log formats can be summarized in XML format and this information is immediately available to all other XML enabled software. XMLControl files can be loaded into Excel, Access or Oracle. They can also be transformed into HTML summaries, or even API log headers or to build a database - which can be interactively searched over the Internet using XQL.

POSC

POSC is the custodian of the 80+ page WellLogML document and the related XML DTD which is available at www.posc.org/ebiz. More on EzTools and XMLLog from www.oilware.com.

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SGI - VR“in a cubicle” (August 1999)

Based on Fakespace’s ImmersaDesk, SGI’s new virtual reality center is designed for small workgroups.

SGI Reality Center desk solutions are said to “enhance insights and decisions and enable hands-on, intuitive interaction with data sets, models, and simulations. Onyx2 graphics workstation provide “unsurpassed” stereoscopic resolution and performance.

cost-effective

Offered at a cost-effective price, each desk is transportable and fits into a lab or work environment. The top of the range SGI Reality Center 2000D is built around the Fakespace ImmersaDesk R2, while the entry level model 1000D Is designed for one or two users. More from www.sgi.com/realitycenter and vr@sgi.corp.

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Remote data capture with GeoSCOPE (August 1999)

Hampton's GeoSCOPE has allowed Ramco's engineers and geoscientists to analyze 30 years of data from Azerbaijan's largest onshore oilfield, Muradkhanli.

Hampton Data Services’ GeoSCOPE is a web-based E&P document management system and GIS. GeoSCOPE was used by Ramco to evaluate a large oilfield in remote Azerbaijan. Armed with scanners, field notebooks and satellite phones, Russian speaking specialists performed on-site capture of the legacy paper data which was then transmitted back to Ramco's London HQ on tape and CD-ROM. Hampton’s MD Wally Jakubowicz told PDM "This is where GeoSCOPE really comes into its own as the data can be loaded and made available for analysis immediately.

video

The data base has moved around with technicians and specialists adding their own layer of knowledge. We even added video footage of the well site and other key locations to add to the completeness of the picture. Video reports of meetings about the site can also be stored in GeoSCOPE”.

future is XML

Jamie Cruise, Hampton’s head of IT “We believe that current data management systems are blighted by poor interoperability, inflexibility and high maintenance costs. We are using web technology to build a new generation of dynamic information systems. GeoSCOPE uses commodity internet technologies and XML is the new paradigm for computer-to-computer interoperability. XML allows us to generate appropriate log displays automatically when viewing legacy log formats over the 'net from within GeoSCOPE. More from www.hamptondata.com

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Books - COM & XML (August 1999)

PDM book reviews “Distributed Applications with COM and VB”, and “Building an XML-based application.”

We omitted a key reference from last month’s Microsoft-centric PDM, a book which explains COM and Microsoft’s strategy for distributed applications and object technology. Despite the focused title “Distributed Applications with COM and Visual Basic” is actually an excellent backgrounder in object technology and related developments such as Microsoft Transaction Server.

COM <> XML

It is also instructive in our current study of XML, which is conspicuously absent from the book, published in 1998. But by understanding what COM is, you can see why Microsoft are keen on XML. COM was released with OLE2 in 1993 and marketing mystique has led to considerable terminology overlap with OLE and ActiveX which Pattison describes as “a new sexier term for the Internet”. In reality, COM applications are restricted to networked computers running Microsoft operating systems. Given that the vast majority of computers that run the web are UNIX boxes, this is quite a handicap.

Enter XML.

Building an XML-based Application is currently only available in French, but an English translation is in the offing. The book is provides ample technical information on XML, and related technologies such as XSL and CSS, but is also very aware of the marketplace. In fact the Application of the title involves an XML EDI data exchange between a UNIX shop, deploying Sun’s Java Project X and an all-Microsoft trading partner. This underscores the ‘other’ key usage of XML - interoperability. 

Building an XML-based Application by JC Bernadac and F. Knab (Eyrolles, 1999).

Distributed Applications with COM and Visual Basic by T. Pattison (Microsoft Press, 1998)

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XML core of SAP’s interop initiative (August 1999)

mySAP.com is the new B2B (business to business) solution from software giant SAP. The underlying technology? You’ve got it, XML.

SAP AG has just unveiled the underlying messaging and Web collaboration technologies in the Internet-Business Framework, mySAP.com. With extended Web messaging based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), the Internet-Business Framework enables access and open exchange of business messages, allowing companies to “take advantage of Web collaboration opportunities” and to form “dynamic business communities”.

XML throughout

The Internet-Business Framework is said to “fully embrace XML on all architectural levels”. New WebFlow technology enables collaborative business processes to take place between companies using SAP and non-SAP components. WebFlow provides a fast and flexible way to drive end-to-end collaborative Internet business processes within a single enterprise, with its partners and among entire business communities. An XML-based metadata repository hosts information about how to get the right message, in the right format, to the right place and provides the relevant data structures for collaborative Internet applications.

Business Connector

Within the Internet-Business Framework, XML-based Web messaging is handled through the SAP Business Connector component, providing secure and remote access to all business data and applications. Based on open Internet communications standards, the SAP Business Connector uses hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) to exchange XML-based business documents over the Internet and across company firewalls. In addition to supporting all SAP message formats including Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPIs), the SAP Business Connector provides the openness and flexibility to comply with current and future business semantic standards.

flexible

To provide a high level of collaborative flexibility, the SAP Business Connector incorporates an easy-to-use graphical tool that can convert and map between SAP message formats and XML-based business messages. For partners that display information on simple Web pages, the SAP Business Connector can, for example, retrieve catalog information such as prices from a supplier's Web site and integrate the information with business applications - automatically and in real time.

knowledge sharing

To allow knowledge sharing within a business community, SAP will provide customers with an XML-based metadata repository hosted on the mySAP.com Marketplace portal at http://www.mySAP.com that contains downloadable information about interfaces, mapping definitions and other semantic integration requirements for complete business community messaging. To help drive the broad and rapid adoption of business integration standards, SAP participates in numerous standards bodies and supports content standardization efforts including BizTalk, e-speak, Open Application Group, XML.ORG World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and of course COM for Energy.

workflow

Closely linked to the exchange of information across company boundaries is the control of business processes across company boundaries using WebFlow technology. With WebFlow, companies can publish events and work items over the Web and, in turn, subscribe to external events and work items coming from the Web.

non-SAP

WebFlow is based on a proven workflow engine and allows a business community to create and share Web-based. WebFlow integrates with external systems through tightly and loosely coupled connectors that can share control of SAP and non-SAP components over the Internet. A graphical user interface allows for creating and monitoring Web flows and simplifies the deployment of collaborative business processes. The SAP Business Connector allowing XML-based messaging is now available for download to customers of SAP. More from www.mysap.com.

 

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COM for Energy?, XML for Energy?, BizTalk for Energy? (August 1999)

Technology moves so quickly these days that it can overtake the marketing department. PDM tries to guess what we'll see when they open the COM for Energy box.

The COM for Energy initiative (PDM Vol. 4 N° 2) is an object lesson in how the marketing department sometimes gets overtaken by new technology. Microsoft’s COM object model has seen several incarnations over the years, and the term has been regularly abused by the marketers. We expect that all will be revealed at the first COM for Energy public meeting to be held in Houston on September 9th, meanwhile here is PDM’s best shot at what the specification will involve….

Not COM!

COM for Energy will not be a COM spec! We make this bold statement in the light of Microsoft’s switch of tactics and its alignment on XML as the preferred method for data exchange. What is most likely to emerge from the initiative is a BizTalk - www.biztalk.org - type specification based upon XML.

confusion

Bill Diggons (SAP and COM for Energy) told PDM that the COM moniker was confusing, and that the initiative was contemplating a change of name – perhaps to “Objects for Energy”. The scope of the initiative was explained to PDM by Landmark’s John Lewis. The plan is to build on SAP’s inventory/costs database and connect to drilling engineering during the design of new wells. Casing availability is one target. Today the technical design of a well is optimized, then procurement is initiated. The new plan is to have synchronous data on materials and costs available during the design phase. BP Amoco’s drilling engineers alter well casing design to take account of casing inventory.

not-for-profit

Today this activity is intra-company, but tomorrow will encompass procurement and true e-commerce. We queried Microsoft’s Scott Fawcett as to how open the initiative would be, Scott confirmed “the (COM for Energy) specifications are to be in the public domain, this is a not-for-profit venture”.

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Biggest prestack yet? (August 1999)

Anadarko’s multi-block 3D depth imaging survey in the Gulf of Mexico will be processed by GX Technology.

GX Technology Corp. Of Houston is claiming what might be the largest ever 3D imaging project. Designed to evaluate several hundred OCS blocks including those held by Texaco Anadarko’s survey will target subsalt and salt related plays. Anadarko’s GOM exploration boss Bob Lunn stated “We intend to make extensive use of prestack depth migration. The best results are obtained when interpreters and analysts from both companies work together to understand the data and the geology.” 

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XML and legacy data (August 1999)

PDM wonders if the plethoric SEG-Y standard formats could benefit from an XML treatment and concludes that while an SEGML flavor of XML might be an option for remastering, it is no panacea for legacy data.

XML is not exactly alone in competing for our attentions. In the field of software interoperability alone we have heard similar offerings from Landmark and Microsoft with the COM for UNIX initiative of last year, CORBA is currently the preferred glue for Open Spirit and other E&P initiatives. In IT at large, COM is a route to software interoperability within in the Microsoft camp, but it is complicated, and applications need to know a lot about each other's behavior and data models. CORBA plays a similar role in the UNIX environment, and suffers from the same constraints.

KISS principle

XML is designed to operate on the KISS principle - "keep it simple, stupid". The idea is to agree on a chunk of exchangeable data - say an article code, description, cost and availability. Note especially the agreement part - XML is extensible, and this is potentially a dangerous thing. The danger should be avoided by agreement at the schema level. Open an HTML document and you will see <!doctype html public "-//w3c//dtd html 3.2//en" >. This is a pointer to the definition of the HTML language. It rarely changes, and so an application does not need to use this information. Not so for XML. An Office 2000 Microsoft Word document saved as html starts out with stuff like <html xmlns:o="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">. This points to the extended XML schema containing the tag definitions for Office2000.

SEG-Y

Lets walk through a familiar problem and see how XML could be applied to a solution. The venerable SEG-Y format for seismic data has suffered over the years from inconsistent use, and a desire to stuff more and more information into the format than was catered for in the initial specification. The latest attempt at re-defining the standard has met with limited acceptance, because change, of any sort is anathema to the installed base. SEG-Y is therefore a prima facie candidate for what the French would call a "re-looking à la XML".

slug-out

Instead of a committee slugging it out over the actual data format itself, agreement would be at the schema description level, with accepted tag definitions. Different flavors of SEG-Y could then all be current, with their own detailed schemas posted on the web. Now the interesting stuff starts. Instead of struggling to understand how the details of a foreign SEG-Y format slot together, you just load the tape, and press 'read'.

push-button?

The XML enabled SEG-Y reader then reads the URL address of the schema, visits the website where the schema details are housed, downloads the schema and uses it to read the tape. Of course this strategy would be no good for reading untagged legacy SEG-Y. But there may be benefit in considering such a strategy for remastering large volumes of old but standard data into a new, highly portable XML based format. That at least is the theory. The key point here is that the schemas must a) follow an accepted domain specific usage, and b) must be public. If you are offered 'XML based' products which do not follow these rules you may not be getting the full benefits of the standard.

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Petris and Neuralog cooperate on cross section software (August 1999)

Neuralog’s cross section software to integrate Petris’ WINDS Enterprise.

Petris Technology Inc. and Neuralog have agreed to develop an adapter for NeuraSection and WINDS Enterprise. The adapter will provide connectivity between Neuralog's cross section software and any other application connected to WINDS Enterprise. This will allow for locating and loading well log images and header information into NeuraSection.

Enterprise

WINDS Enterprise provides users with a synchronized GIS and Text-based "front-end" search mechanism to all exploration data within their enterprise. It uses "adapters" and a "spider" to build and maintain a meta-data catalog of data contained in leading application datastores such as Z&S Recall, Landmark's Open Explorer, GeoShare and now NeuraSection. Data transfer can be initiated from one store to another with on-the-fly reformatting.

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Conferences (August 1999)

PDM recommends the following upcoming conferences

Date

Location

Title

Organizer

Contact

21-22/9/99

London

Knowledge Management in Energy

IBC Ltd.

44 171 637 4383

28-30/9/99

London

POSC & POSC/CAESAR AGM & meeting

POSC, CAESAR

1 713 784 1880

4-6/10/99

Singapore

ITOPIA ‘99 IT for Oil and Petrochemicals

Innovation Associates

65-321-9100

12-14/10/99

Nice

CIMdata Europe ‘99

CIM Data Inc.

1 734 668 9922

18-19/10/99

Houston

Internet Strategy for Oil and Gas

First Conferences

1 800 814 3459

26-28/10/99

Calgary

PPDM Fall Conference & AGM

PPDM

1 403 660 7817

27-28/10/99

Houston

Geonetix ‘99—Integrated IT for Petroleum

Pennwell

1 713 963 6252

1-5/11/99

Houston

SEG Annual Conference & Exhibition

SEG

1 918 497 5557

15-16/11/99

Amsterdam

Smart Petroleum Management

First Conferences

44 171 400 9595

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POSC & XML (August 1999)

POSC & XML

David Archer, CEO of POSC has contributed his thoughts on the emerging standard and its likely impact on E&P IT.

First of all, everyone is writing and talking about XML, and all the hype cycle charts include XML. Can this be the "Next Big Thing"? I believe that it will be, for the foreseeable future and in the most positive sense. We cannot dismiss XML as just another passing fad. Java and XML are the fundamental enabling technologies for today's Internet-based and eBusiness-oriented world. Both provide portability, flexibility and the means to implement a wide variety of applications directly on the Internet.

exponential growth

The exponential growth of the Internet was fueled by its building blocks, HTTP and HTML. HTML consists of a very limited number of well-defined tags that tell a browser how to render an .html file. Both the content (the stuff between the tags) and the realization (the way it looks on the screen) are bundled into the .html file. However, deciphering just what the content means is virtually impossible since the tags are there for display, not information sharing, purposes.

too static

The result has been fantastically successful, but it didn't take long to realize that the HTTP/HTML situation was too static both for interactive and application-to-application information exchange. Enter XML. Like HTML, XML is part of the SGML family, not as static as HTML and not as complex as SGML. XML is attractive for a number of reasons. Everyone is doing it, hence there are already a large number of tools for constructing, parsing and rendering XML-based documents. XML is document-oriented and permits the construction of document models, with user-defined tags that represent the content of the document independently of how it might be displayed. Document display and perhaps more accurately, transformation is handled by the companion XSL. XML enables application-to-application information exchange. Encoding information in XML form makes it possible for applications to exchange information directly and with understanding, a powerful enabler of eBusiness.

schemas

To such interchange, industry segments must agree on standard terminology and information interfaces, in the form of XML DTDs, schemas or equivalent so that applications can exchange information with sufficient understanding to deal with the information. Such interchange is a major growth area, with most growth in eBusiness in in Business-to-business (B2B) commerce.

$ 1 trillion

IDC estimates that this will grow from $50billion in 1998 to over $1trillion by 2002. There is a rush to establish the registry or to be the authority for XML interfaces see, for example, XML.org & Biztalk.org as there is perceived value in being closely identified with and even controlling the standards in certain domains.

impact

I believe that eBusiness concepts will have a huge impact on all aspects of the E&P business, from connecting business and technical information to exchanging data among technical systems. Again we find ourselves at the same place we were many years ago, what will be the metadata and content standards for the information that we must share? And how do we establish and maintain these? POSC is moving rapidly in to this domain with activities to define XML DTDs for standard well-log formats (see the WellLogML article on page 6).

API

We are also working with industry bodies such as API (the PIDX group) and regulatory bodies (Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Land Management, Texas Railroad Commission) to establish common DTDs and associated interfaces for oil and gas regulatory reporting. As similar issues face regulatory agencies and operators worldwide, we believe that this work will be applicable on a global scale.

opportunity

This new environment provides an opportunity for us to leverage the past work of these groups and to bring it into the Internet-fueled world. And this world needs content and metadata standards more than ever before.

alphabet-soup

All the above having been said, it's not XML alone that will make a difference. But by effectively combining the alphabet soup of XML, XSL, XLL, HTML with Java, HTTP and the rest of the Internet-related technologies we can get well down the road of information sharing and interoperable systems that we need for the new world of business.

hype?

So .. XML? Hype or Here-to-Stay? Emphatically, it's here-to-stay, at least as an underlying piece of the interoperability puzzle. I predict that eventually (less than a year) there will be less buzz around XML itself with the focus more on using it as part of a family of information exchange/sharing-oriented languages and as an information transfer medium, and on reaching the agreements on how we might use it with eBusiness not eTechnology as the driver.

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