June 2001


Robertson sold (June 2001)

Fugro has acquired Robertson Research for £ 59 million. The acquisition is part of Fugro’s ongoing expansion into oil and gas ‘niche’ service markets.

Fugro is to acquire Robertson Research International for £59 million. Robertson is currently owned 50.1% by senior management of the company and 49.9% by Simon Group plc. Located in North Wales, with offices in Italy and Australia, Robertson’s activities include geological and geophysical services, reservoir engineering, data management and laboratory services. The company employs around 500 people.

Acquisitive

Fugro has proved very acquisitive in recent months with the takeover of Geoteam AS, Seismic Australia Pty, GeoServices, Inc. and Geo-logic Consulting Services B.V., substantially enhancing Fugro’s geoscience offering. Fugro plans to create further growth by integrating Robertson’s products with its growing airborne geophysical activities. Fugro also expects that Robertson will provide the core for future acquisitions.

Fowler

In a letter to clients, Robertson MD Richard Fowler said “Fugro has fully endorsed Robertson's present business strategy and has made it clear that it will encourage and support growth by both organic and acquisition means to help Robertson develop an even stronger position in the petroleum service sector.”

Debt-free

Robertson is a debt-free company and will be consolidated into Fugro’s accounts from July 2001. Fugro anticipates a full year turnover from Robertson for 2001 of £ 31.7 million, an EBIT of £ 6.2 million and a net result of £ 5 million.

Synergies

These figures reflect post acquisition synergies. The purchase consideration of £ 59 million is expected to be settled in cash and loan notes. After selling its interest in the company’s equity, Robertson senior management will continue to work within the company.

6,000

Fugro has over 6,000 employees and offices in over fifty countries. Fugro may issue new shares to finance the purchase which should have a positive impact on earnings this year. For more on the deal see our interview with Fugro Survey Chief Operating Officer, Köbi Ruegg and our brief history of Robertson on page 3 of this month’s PDM.

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Ovation buys LSSL (June 2001)

Ovation Data Services has acquired UK-based Large Scale Storage Solutions. The deal strengthens Ovation’s European presence and diversifies its industry base.

Houston-based Ovation Data Services is to acquire Large Storage Solutions Ltd. (LSSL) of the UK. Ovation is a systems integrator specialized in digital asset management for the seismic industry. LSSL is a data storage solutions company offering storage management systems to finance, manu-facturing, healthcare and petrochemicals.

Johnson

Ovation general manager Gerald Johnson said, “This acquisition strengthens our European presence and enables us to expand into new markets.” LSSL MD Jim Dahnpaul added, “Ovation’s experience will complement our core competency of providing enterprise-wide storage management solutions.” LSSL’s solutions operate across multiple computing architectures in areas such as customer service, point-of-sale, order entry/inquiry, financial transactions, manufacturing, telemarketing and hospital/health care.

eTrust

Last year LSSL partnered with Computer Associates to provide its customers with eTrust Intrusion Detection for Internet content control, auditing and attack detection.

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Who’s to integrate the portal? (June 2001)

Recycling a recent paper on integrating vertical geotechnical applications with horizontal corporate-wide IT, PDM Editor, Neil McNaughton decides that ‘keeping it simple’ is the key to success. But who is best placed to offer such ‘simple’ solutions? Multiple software developers and service providers? Or the new one-stop-shop behemoth?

I must apologize this month because this editorial may sound more like a sermon than usual, but there is a paper that I have presented twice this year* just hanging around on my hard disk, and I just have to inflict it upon you. Sorry. This month’s lesson then, is about the interplay between ‘horizontal,’ enterprise-wide software, like Microsoft Word, Lotus Notes and Web Portal engines, and our beloved ‘vertical’ E&P interpretation applications. Actually, there is an extra dimension that I would like to introduce to the debate - and that is, who is best placed to implement such enterprise-wide integration.

Paradigms

For several years now the E&P data management business has focused on data sharing and integration between
geotechnical applications. Different information technology (IT) paradigms have been applied to the problem, from standard data formats, middleware, and common data models, through business objects, to the vendor application programming interface (API). While all of these tools have moved the industry forward, none can be said to have acquired ‘silver bullet’ status.

Creep

One aspect of almost all applications is that they have an innate tendency to grow. An individual application’s data requirement may extend way beyond the domain-specific data ‘owned’ by the application itself. Most E&P applications have their own built-in mapping package. Vendor suites usually boast a few, and many companies have a bespoke ArcView package.

Synchronicity

This leads to many data management issues, with problems of maintaining synchronicity, of edits and updates, and of duplicating datasets across the department. Such issues are unlikely to go away. New applications are likely to require even more ‘exotic’ data and data types. The exploding data volumes coming in from the seismic contractor and from permanent sensors on production facilities are compounding the problem.

Portals

Today, web-driven corporate IT is making new demands on domain-specific applications. Corporate-wide document management systems and web portals require a much larger vision of what IT is trying to achieve. Everyone wants a look at the latest maps, interpretations or production data. Suddenly, the dirty linen of the departmental data manager is visible to all!

ERP

Interestingly, the problems facing the E&P IT specialist are encountered at many other organizational levels. At the smaller scale, within a ‘suite’ of applications from a single vendor, integration is only a matter of degree. At the broader scale, other IT domains such as Enterprise Resource Allocation (ERA) and production, experience identical issues.

Middleware

Because the problem has a very broad extent, it is rather well studied. Current thinking, at the broadest level, is that techniques such as API’s and middleware (COM and CORBA) have their place at departmental-level and domain-specific computing.

Uber-schema

But as IT scope expands, these tightly coupled techniques necessitate an unrealizable IT schema (the ‘uber-schema’) of the whole enterprise. Such an approach, would mandate ‘clean-room’ IT infrastructure, with careful control over operating systems, middleware and software versions. For an even moderately sized enterprise, such control is illusory. Current thinking on integration centers around three concepts – limiting application coupling, sharing metadata and XML-based messaging.

KISS

These concepts are really applications of the KISS** principle, and recognition of the fact that application coupling is a road to hell. Too much shared data quickly becomes unmanageable. Most importantly, restraining the scope of an application to its own ‘core business’ and recognizing that function creep and overlap is to be avoided, should bring more performant applications, and an infrastructure that brings us nearer to the holy grail of interoperability.

Who Do?

Now for the thorny issue of who should implement the integration. Decoupling applications potentially opens up the field to multiple service providers. The whole Internet architecture, from TCP/IP stack, through the intranet, portal and XML-based applications, is especially amenable to such an approach. Each provider works on their particular area of expertise.

Single-source?

On the other hand, as Schlumberger Chairman Euan Baird claims, (see page 10), some clients may want a single-source supplier. In buying horizontal specialist Sema Group, Schlumberger is now equipped to provide the whole caboodle, from communications infrastructure through smart cards to the vertical application. I guess this will be a offering some will not be able to refuse. But one can’t help wondering why Schlumberger doesn’t push the logic a bit further; if they bought a utility or two, they could supply you with electricity as well!

* SMi Data Management 2001 and PPDM 2001 Spring Member Meeting

** Keep it simple, stupid!

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PDM Interview, Köbi Ruegg, COO Fugro Marine Survey (June 2001)

Fugro has embarked on an ambitious acquisition program to increase its already substantial oil and gas business. PDM learned more from Fugro Marine Survey’s Chief Operating Officer, Köbi Ruegg. Ruegg is pleased with Fugro’s mix of oil and non-oil related services, but puzzled by stock market reaction to the deal.

PDM - How much of Fugro’s business is in oil and gas today?

Ruegg - Oil and Gas is our mainstream business sector - with around 55% of our revenues. While most of our involvement has been in geotechnical and survey-related activity, we have been moving in from the fringe of E&P activity - notably with our Geoteam acquisition. But generally we are pleased with our mix of oil and gas and other activities. This diversification has protected us from the cyclicity of the oil and gas business.

PDM - What interested you in Robertson?

Ruegg - We have been observing the way the oil industry is evolving, with consolidation in the super-majors and a trend towards outsourcing. We see a bright future for companies involved in providing services and consultancy to such organizations. The Robertson acquisition strengthens our position in niche markets for geoscience services to the oil and gas industry. Robertson’s geophysical services will enhance our existing seismic acquisition and processing services.

PDM - These are mostly focused on site survey?

Ruegg - No, we have three 2D boats and one 3D boat for full-scale seismic acquisition. We also have a limited seismic processing capability - which will be enhanced with Robertson’s technology.

PDM - We understand that Robertson will become part of your Survey division. Do you have any plans to change your organization to reflect your increasing oil and gas activity?

Ruegg - We have no immediate plans, but we may create a new division in the future to reflect this evolution.

PDM - How will you run Robertson ?

Ruegg - We will keep the existing management structure and Robertson will continue to operate from its North Wales location. Fugro has a strong belief in a decentralized organization. We will be looking into possible synergies between our geophysical processing activities.

PDM - Fugro stock slipped from an all time high following the announcement. Sounds like the investment community were skeptical of the acquisition?

Ruegg - Yes, we were very surprised by the slippage, but the stock price has come back a bit since then.

PDM - The Robertson acquisition only cost around 10% of Fugro’s pre-acquisition turnover. Do you have any plans to further strengthen Fugro’s oil annd gas involvement?

Ruegg - There are a few things in the works we can’t talk about right now. But we are very bullish about the oil and gas sector.

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Robertson Research - or when “core business” isn’t core-business! (June 2001)

Robertson started out as geological consultancy working on limestone quarries in North Wales. The move into the oil and gas consultancy business heralded a switchback ride, with a stock market floatation, subsequent takeover and eventually a management buyout. PDM recalls the highlights of Robertson’s checkered past and reveals the thinking behind the Fugro deal.

Robertson Research was founded in 1961 as a geotechnical consultancy working on North Wales limestone quarries. By the late seventies, oil and gas had become the principle business of the company, which then had expanded with offices around the world.

Simon

In the 1980’s a stock market float was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to diversify out of oil and gas, and in 1991 Robertson was taken over by the Simon Group and merged with Horizon Exploration into Simon Petroleum Technology (SPT). But Simon Engineering, an erstwhile darling of the UK stock market, fell out of favor in the late 90’s and elected to sell non-core assets – including SPT. Parts of the organization were sold-off piecemeal, leaving the exploration services and a boutique seismic processing unit. These, along with the Robertson name, were liberated by a management buyout in 1996, with Simon remaining a shareholder – with a renewed focus on Petroleum.

Non-core

The recent sale to Fugro was initiated by Simon Group’s desire to dispose its remaining stake in the company, considering that, despite good trading performance, Robertson was again “non core.” Ultimately this led to the sale of both Simon’s and the Robertson management’s stakes to Fugro. Crucial to the sale (for Simon and the Robertson management) was the recognition and continuance of the Robertson business strategy, market position and brand name.

No job losses

The Robertson Board insisted that there would be no job losses, no structural changes to the organization nor ‘anything that would have an adverse impact on its business and clients.’ Fugro was also required to demonstrate that it would further enhance the business by making available funds for future growth.

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Robertson buys Energy Information Services (June 2001)

Robertson has acquired E&P database specialists Energy Information Services and affiliate Energy Information Ventures.

Shortly before it fell victim itself to takeover by Fugro, Robertson Research International acquired Energy Information Services Ltd (EIS ). EIS’ affiliate Energy Information Ventures Ltd (EIV) was also included in the deal.

Investment

The agreement provides for Robertson to invest in the further development of EIS and EIV's specialist E & P databases, mapping systems, publications and other services. The companies will continue to operate from their Redhill, Surrey, base in the south of the United Kingdom.

Fowler

Richard Fowler, Chief Executive of Robertson, commented, “The transaction provides Robertson with important expertise and data to complement and support its extensive product range. Within Robertson EIS and EIV will be able to expand their publications and data businesses.”

Hartley

EIS MD John Hartley added, “'The acquisition signals a new era for EIS. The substantial expertise and resources of Robertson will allow EIS and EIV to provide improved services to their existing clients and to reach new customers all over the world. Initiatives for new publications are already underway.”

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WellPlotML from Geologix (June 2001)

Geologix has released a new XML format for well log display, and also incorporates a new live log data browser in the latest release of GEO-View.

Geologix Limited has been working with other POSC members on an XML standard for cross-application, platform-independent well data sharing. Geologix managing director Samit Sengupta presented a draft of the new spec at the European POSC member meeting recently.

WellPlotML

WellPlotML extends existing well log modeling languages, WellLogML and LogGraphicsML and paves the way for a collaborative environment where a user can publish well logs, with curve data in WellLogML and display parameters in LogGraphicsML.

WIPS

Geologix will be deploying the new standards in its new Well Information Portal System (WIPS). The proposal is now available for review on www.geologix.com/publications.

GEO-View

In a separate announcement, Geologix has released version 4.5 of its GEO Software, and launched a new viewer application, GEOe-View. GEO-View runs as a plug-in for Internet Explorer, and offers access to Geologix’s GEO database. The browser offers dynamic access to log data in the database - a significant advantage when compared with static PDF or CGM log images. Log data values can be read by placing the mouse-pointer on a curve and scale or depth range can be changed at will. GEOe-View may be downloaded for free from the downloads sector of the Geologix website or at www.geologix.com/eview.

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Geochem database now live (June 2001)

After some delays, Robertson’s Geochemical Information Repository is finally online. The worldwide database initially focuses on exploration data.

Working with Houston-based associates Infologic Inc. and Baseline DGSI, Robertson Research (yes, them again!) has announced the late arrival of the Geochemical Information Repository (GIR). The GIR Global database stores geochemical project and interpretative data.

AAPG

The database was finally launched, after some delay, at the AAPG this month. It is intended to be a “one-stop” data bank of worldwide petroleum geochemical data. Initially, information will be exploration-orientated with data types including seeps, source rocks and oils.

Cost-effective

The website will provide cost effective geochemical data delivery by providing time limited subscriptions for geographical areas that can be matched to project evaluation needs. The GIR is designed so that it can also host client’s proprietary data on the central server in a secure environment. Clients can merge their own data with GIR data, to better constrain interpretations.

Query

Other features include map and query search engines and dynamic online interpretive reports including oil gravity distribution maps, palaeo-environmental cross-plots and maturity summary reports. The GIR is Access, Excel and Map Objects IMS-enabled and the data model reflects Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) guidelines for delivery of geochemical data. More from www.girnet.com.

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EarthVision 6.0 enhances work flow (June 2001)

Dynamic Graphics latest modeling package - EarthVision 6 now includes a workflow manager, and Linux and Windows versions for use at remote locations.

Dynamic Graphics has released a new version of its 3D model building visualization package EarthVision. EarthVision 6 includes a new workflow manager and now runs on Linux and Windows.

Paradis

Art Paradis, President of Dynamic Graphics, said “The enhanced, easy-to-learn WorkFlow Manager will help you boost cash flow from existing fields by significantly reducing project work-hours. The Windows and Linux versions operate on economical PCs that will reduce operating expenses for a tangible increase in your bottom line.” The intuitive interface guides users through modeling complex environments including salt domes, diapirs, and complexly faulted structures.

Interpolation

Other new features include property and horizon modeling and a new geometric fault restoration technique which interpolates in geometrically restored, unfaulted space, accommodating varying fault displacements and rotations of fault blocks. Properties can be modeled on a zone-by-zone or fault block-by-fault block basis using conformal or non-conformal minimum tension gridding or kriging. Links to other vendor software include Openworks, Seisworks, and SEG-Y. The new Linux and Windows 2000 versions allow for simultaneous viewing of models between remote locations and the office for team decision-making. Dynamic Graphics clients include BP, Baker Hughes Inteq, ExxonMobil and Shell Expro IK which used the sofware to model the complex eastern flank of the North Sea Brent Field.

Taylor

Steve Taylor, Head of geology with Shell UK E&P said “EarthVision has allowed us to model the eastern flank of the Brent field for the first time, and helped mature several development targets which may otherwise have remained on the shelf.”

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EDS teams with Vertex in Calgary oil patch (June 2001)

EDS Canada and Vertex System Resources are teaming to provide financial, land and contract software applications to the Calgary market.

EDS Canada and Vertex System Resources have announced outsourcing and consulting services for the Canadian oil patch. The new offering will combine EDS Canada’s information technology services with Vertex’s vertical oil and gas software. Vertex software focuses on the financial, land and contractual aspects of oil and gas production, and its tools have been used for upstream property management for 23 years.

Boettcher

EDS Canada VP Andy Boettcher said, “This comprehensive set of services will help Canada’s oil and gas companies manage their resources with more efficiency.”

Cheadle

Vertex president Robert Cheadle added, “Producers have been searching for quality business solutions from a long-term, stable supplier dedicated to the industry. Vertex and EDS can now deliver the products and services most sought after by industry leaders.” The EDS and Vertex agreement covers business processes and integrated data capabilities in the field of exploration and geosciences, land and contracts management, engineering and production, capital project management, field data capture, asset management, and back-office information management.

ASP

EDS will deliver these services both through a traditional client-server model and with Web-based, Application Service Provision (ASP).

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DTI Well Header XML proposal (June 2001)

The UK DTI and POSC are heading an industry initiative to develop an XML standard for well header information.

Key players in the North Sea oil industry are to collaborate on the development and implementation of standards for exchanging basic well data over the web. Senior representatives from BP, Shell, Esso, Conoco, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Paradigm, CDA, DTI and POSC met recently to develop and implement an XML standard for well data in the North Sea within three months.

Maton

Paul Maton, European Director of POSC said “The frustration across the oil industry of not being able to easily and unambiguously identify wells hides a large consequential cost. The global oil industry, from oil and service companies to data vendors, needs standards in these areas to realize the full potential of e-business.”

Robinson

Stewart Robinson, IT Director at the DTI Oil and Gas Directorate, stressed, “This is not an attempt to railroad the industry to adopt UK standards. The close-knit nature of the UK oil community makes the UK an ideal test bed for these emerging standards. We are working with POSC to globalize the solution and I am in contact with many other interested governments around the world.”

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PNEC 2001 Data Integration (June 2001)

Phil Crouse’s Petroleum Network Education Conference has expanded in scope to include e-commerce along with its traditional focus of data integration and management. Held last month in Houston, the 200 plus attendees heard from an unusually high number of vendors, the oil company data managers seemingly have their heads down in mergers and acquisitions. But in general, Crouse’s show keeps its reputation as the data management conference to attend, with many insights into current uses of Geographic Information Systems, XML data exchange and computer security. A round table discussion gave a snapshot of the current state of Application Service Provision.

BP has been testing Wellogix’s Internet enabled software, which is designed to streamline well construction and operations by facilitating collaboration between the operator and various contractors. Wellogix’s Bob Fielding and BP’s Tracy Galloway co-authored a paper based on BP’s pilots in Wyoming and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

E-Field Ticket

A typical scenario starts with a rig-site request for a cement job, sent out a week before the planned work, over a satellite link. Over the next few days, electronic technical proposals and specifications are exchanged and approved. All this was encapsulated in an e-field ticket (eFT), containing the agreed-on specifications and commercial terms. This was then used by the supplier (Schlumberger) to initiate billing. All transactional data is stored in Wellogix’ secure Oracle 9i database.

PetroWeb

PetroWeb president David Noel traced the evolution of thinking on E&P data access, from data models to the present situation of multiple databases and multiple clients. Accepting the status quo, Noel advocates the use of ESRI’s ArcView as “very good at connecting disparate databases, it does a great job of integrating internal and external data sources.” Noel further advocates moving the GIS engine, non-proprietary map layers and external database connections into a commercially managed environment outside the client organization. Proprietary data resides internally, behind the firewall. A metadata catalogue is the key to tying this all together. Applications build layered GIS data on the fly – one app has 150 layers, such as seismic, water depth and offshore shipping lanes.

Grand Basin

Vidar Andresen described Landmark’s accelerated re-branding of Petrobank which is now the key component of Landmark’s e-business unit Grand Basin. Originally set up in partnership with SAIC (bought out earlier this year), Grand Basin is now a wholly owned Landmark subsidiary. Andresen traced Petrobank’s history and development for the Norwegian national data repository, Diskos, to its deployment, via PGS, at sites all over the world. PetroBank is now accessible via Petrobank Online, a web front end for data in the US, London, Stavanger and Australia [see our brief appraisal below].

Geodynamics

Geodynamics’ GIS-based data management system was the subject of no less than three presentations, featuring authors from Kerr McGee Oil and Gas, BJ Services, and Enron Transportation services. Enron’s Mark Ferguson described how GIS was used to match pipeline capacity to demand. Enron have integrated Geodynamics’ Petrolynx GIS software with security and access control through Sun’s Java Start plug-in and use the TIBCO Hub Enterprise Application Integration platform.

Morse code

Anadarko’s Will Morse set out to scare his audience by suggesting that disaffected programmers laid-off in Silicon Valley may target oil and gas companies who are ‘gouging consumers.’ Morse’s thesis is that most companies are very unprepared for hacker attacks in the form of denial of service, IP spoofing and so on. He offers some suggestions as to a hacker-proof IT infrastructure based on Open BSD UNIX, which Morse considers the most secure operating system, with Linux catching up. The others ‘are a Swiss cheese.’

NFS 4

Sun’s Network File System NFS 4 (due out this fall) should go some way to plug security holes in current NFS releases thanks to its Pluggable Access Modules (PAM). These offer increased control over users. Morse suggests checking out the CISP standards, and reading the Systems and Network Security Institute’s Journal. He also recommends the VISA Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) self-assessment program for an initial benchmark. Later in the proceedings, Morse offered an unusual application for Network Attached Storage (NAS). According to Morse, “A merger is topologically identical to a disaster.” Anadarko has successfully used Enigma Data Systems’ disaster recovery functionality to migrate systems during the merger with Union Pacific Resources.

ASP – a discussion

The panel discussion on Application Service Provision (ASP) was refreshingly free of hype - almost downbeat in fact. Geonet’s Bill Micho described ASP as a ‘tough marketplace.’ Geonet has been in business for 2 years, and is ‘fully commercial’ since February 2001, operating through monthly subscription, or a higher, hourly rate. Currently over 50 applications are on offer. GeoQuest now offers a monthly subscription service to its software product line, delivered by ASP, and Landmark’s Grand Basin subsidiary does likewise, although Graham Merikow said the move to ASP was not like ‘flipping a switch’. A questioner asked what the situation would be 5 years hence.

Write-off?

The GeoQuest representative gave a revealingly downbeat reply – if ASP does not prove commercial, ‘we will write it off.’ ASP currently is deployed to support the rest of GeoQuest’s business. ASP security was questioned from the floor – to meet with a strong response from GeoNet. Micho insisted that security is higher with a dedicated ASP provider and infrastructure than that generally obtainable in-house. Another issue raised was the potential trap involved in moving to an off-site IT environment. This will likely involve the decommissioning of internal IT infrastructure – making for a voyage of no return – even if, a few years hence, it is decided to abandon ASP. Burlington is currently benchmarking Landmark and GeoQuest’s ASP offerings while BP has been using ASP ‘for 5 years in Aberdeen’.

Innerlogix

Innerlogix president Dag Heggelund gave an enlightening paper that went beyond the usual naïve presentation of XML as a tagged data format. Heggelund’s thesis is that the ‘next generation’ of web applications will be built using an XML-based object technology combining XML data files and XSL (stylesheets) for data translation into and out of proprietary environments. Heggelund downplays the importance of standards, saying these would be ‘nice to have’, but are unlikely to materialize. The key is the XML/XSL technology that allows for interoperability in a non-standard world. The Simple Object Application Protocol (SOAP) is also significant in that it circumvents the battle of the CORBA, COM, Java Beans orbs. XML-based data objects will be delivered from Component Servers – which will store meta data, and allow object navigation and retrieval. But the best aspect of all this is that Component XML does not require a re-write of today’s applications. Innerlogix is working with IHS Energy on XML transforms, this is said to be a big paradigm shift. Some insightful remarks from Heggelund – “well logs should have portable web addresses,” “today’s ‘fat’ applications know too much,” “a data item should not know where it lives, have no knowledge of who uses it and not know where it comes from,” and “Bill Gates is not going to implement Open Spirit!”

Mapping to XML

POSC’s Bobbitt believes that the API RP66 format (used in DLIS and Geoshare) is hard to use and that it is overkill for many information sets. A simpler format is needed to exchange such data. Bobbitt’s intent is not to replace RP66 with XML, noting that a 3D dataset is still efficiently handled in RP66, and probably impossible to do with XML. But a set of well header data files would be easily handled in XML. To map RP66 to XML you need - agreement on a data model - rules for all data types - an accepted, sub-optimal schema - amenable data (as above). Bobbitt presented some considerations for the RP66 to XML mapping (available from the POSC website - www.posc.org.) Questioned as to how large binary data files should be moved, Bobbitt responded that RP66 could still be used, or the X-Link pointer mechanism available in XML.

Quinlivan

Bill Quinlivan, a Geoshare luminary and free-thinker (with respect to Schlumberger’s own technology) offered an insightful talk on strategies for application integration. Quinlivan points out that Portal technology is all very well, but that the problems associated with data integration will not ‘go away’ as we adopt portals. Integration spans vendors’ and customers’ workflows and raises two problems – data repository communications and algorithm (application) data access. We work in a very heterogeneous environment with a multiplicity of such problems, complicated by the fact that integration is also a source of competitive advantage within a vendor product suite.

Contenders

Contenders for integration today include Geoshare, Open Spirit and XML – but Quinlivan notes “life is ten times harder for a receiver than a sender of data.” Quinlivan remarked that the difficulty of a solution might be unrelated to the urgency of the problem. Geoshare, Open Spirit etc. may be “hammers looking for nails.” Quinlivan advocates studying each link development project using a straightforward method that takes account of the cost existing and to-be-developed functionality and the communication technology deployed (shared memory, objects, Geoshare etc.) A cross plot of development cost against cost of use shows the ‘cost-performance frontier’. The final optimization process involved arbitration and selection of cost effective link technologies according to constraints such as development budget and/or cost of use.

PDM’s 15 minute test of PetroBank online

PDM tested PetroBank Online, Landmark’s data vending portal. You first need to download Sun’s Java Web Start plug-in (5MB) then another 5MB or so of PetroBank-specific plug-ins (notably Int’s widgets). Following dire warnings of the access that the system requires to your network and computer, you are online with an attractive, ESRI – type split pane tree plus map view interface. There is very little public-domain data available from the UK, rather more in the US. Our attempts to register failed – as did our attempt to access the user guide. While the client seems relatively functional and stable (in a 15 minute test) – the cgi server-side scripts appear shaky, and the public-domain dataset is minimal. The system offers access to Grand Basin (Landmark)’s Application Service Provision offering, but again our attempts to access these Tarantella-based services were thwarted by server side failure. Early days yet, or possibly a temporary server problem. Check it out on www.petrobankonline.com.

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QC Data rebrand (June 2001)

IHS Energy is re-branding the recently acquired QC Data unit and has launched a website dedicated to online log delivery.

Colorado-based IHS Energy Group has rebranded its QC Data division. The new IHS Energy Log Services (IELS), has also launched an expanded e-business Web site (www.IHSLognet.com), to deliver digital well log data and related data sets to customers. IELS claims the largest commercial database of digital well logs in the U.S., and also provides digitizing services for proprietary paper-based logs and maps.

MMS

IELS has a digital-log outsourcing relationship with the U.S. Minerals Management Service, and also provides petrophysical data processing. Based in Houston, IELS has offices in New Orleans and Midland, Texas.

Ingeberg

IELS VP and QC Data founder Jan Ingeberg said “we are now able to offer more value to our customers because our products and services complement many of IHS Energy Group's data products and services, including PI/Dwights PLUS and Data Logic Services.”

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Landmark demos ASP (June 2001)

Landmark demonstrated its Application Service Provision (ASP) offering at the AAPG this month.

Landmark Graphics unit GrandBasin demonstrated its Application and Data Service Provision at the AAPG this month. As revealed in last month’s PDM, GrandBasin is now a wholly-owned Landmark company.

Lesar

Dave Lesar, president and chairman of parent group Halliburton said “GrandBasin is going to change the way the E&P industry works by enabling knowledge workers to access the applications, data and information they need in real time.”

Gibson

Landmark president and CEO John Gibson added, “You've seen a flurry of activities around GrandBasin in recent months, and we're signaling the market to watch this space for even more to come. We believe the industry is ready for a single-source, full-service provider of Web-enabled applications, data and information.” The AAPG proof of concept demonstrations offered E&P knowledge workers “anywhere, anytime access” to applications, data and information for real-time decision making.

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New @Risk dev kit (June 2001)

The latest version of @Risk’s dev kit lets developers incorporate Monte Carlo and other analyses in their Windows applications.

Palisade has announced a new version of its @Risk developer’s kit (RDK). The new dev kit lets software developers add risk analysis to analytical tools. The RDK adds the full functionality of @Risk including Monte Carlo simulation, graphing and reporting, distribution fitting and the @Risk interface to custom applications written in C, Visual Basic, or any other Windows-based programming language.

COM

Version 4.0 of the RDK expands risk analysis capabilities and provides a new ActiveX/COM interface for integration into existing applications. Applications include financial modeling tools, corporate financial systems, energy/utility simulators, and other industry-specific programs.

RiskAdvisory

These applications can be run on a desktop or in a network or web environment. One enthusiastic user is Calgary-based consulting house RiskAdvisory that uses the dev kit to help mid-size utilities get a handle on the many uncertainties that underpin their operations.

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Unocal’s EnergyOpps goes online (June 2001)

Unocal is to sell surplus properties via an online data room dubbed EnergyOpps. Petroleum Place will provide the technology infrastructure.

Following BP’s Virtual Prospect deal with IndigoPool, Unocal has chosen Petroleum Place to deploy a customized electronic data room as part of its “EnergyOpps” disposal effort. Carl Lothringer, joint venture manager of Unocal’s Gulf Region said, “Petroleum Place is enabling us to create our own customized, branded marketplace. We will now be able to expose our large inventory of quality upstream exploration and development opportunities to a wider range of qualified potential business partners. These prospective partners can be provided, through Petroleum Place, with the data and applications necessary to creatively and efficiently evaluate the opportunities.

Bread and butter

Assets such as primary term leases and producing properties that have become non-core to Unocal are very likely to be another operator’s bread and butter. EnergyOpps will allow us to efficiently advertise our opportunities to those operators.”

Vickers

Petroleum Place CEO Gary Vickers added, “We are extremely pleased that Unocal has selected Petroleum Place as its online marketplace. We are committed to providing Unocal with services and technology to drive additional exploration activity.” EnergyOpps will leverage the established Petroleum Place acquisition and divestiture marketplace together with robust electronic data room technology.

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Merak rolls out 2001 vintage economics (June 2001)

Merak Projects has announced new versions of its economics software PetroDesk and Value Management. Better integration of software components, usability and the use of Microsoft Excel as calculation engine are featured.

Calgary-based Schlumberger unit Merak Projects has released new versions of its economics software Value Management and PetroDesk. The new release of Value Management introduces new versions of Peep economics, Decline, Capital Planning, VOLTS and Decision Tree.

Hogarth

Lance Hogarth, Merak Value Management director said, “The core focus of the 2001 Value Management suite is usability and functionality as well as better product integration.” Decision Tree now offers Excel as a calculation engine in addition to Peep, within the Visual Monte Carlo module. Clients can now use the scripting calculation engine to solve custom problems. VMC and Monte Carlo, embedded in Peep, now allow tracking of probabilistic time series, such as cash flow or production.

PetroDesk 2001

The 2001 release of PetroDesk offers engineers new opportunities for comparison, data aggregation, and data presentation. PetroDesk Product Manager Todd Olsen said, “Usability and visualization are improved in the 2001 release and other enhancements include list functionality, flexible query, a new layer management pane and color-filled contour maps. Information is now more accessible and intuitive to the user.” The enhanced list allows users to group together records that share a common value or symbol, and display summarized information for these groups. The new “active legend” Layer Management Pane lets users manage and manipulate maps from a single location.

Query

PetroDesk's Query tool now boasts added flexibility so that information can be aggregated from multiple data sources. An improved Query dialog box, enhanced Editing feature with drag and drop and the Query Elements Tree provide the ability to locate attributes used to build a given scenario.

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PIDEX and CIDEX cooperate on XML (June 2001)

The API’s PIDEX data organization is to cooperate with its chemical brother CIDX on XML standards development.

The American Petroleum Institute's Petroleum Industry Data Exchange (PIDX) and the Chemical Industry Data Exchange (CIDX) are to cooperate on developing standards for XML-based electronic business transactions within and between their global industries. With combined annual sales of more than 2 trillion dollars, the chemical and petroleum industries represent a significant market for business-to-business transactions.

Simmons

CIDX executive director Patricia Simmons said, “As companies begin to transact using XML, the need for standards, extensions, enhancements and support grows. By pooling our resources we can accelerate this development while meeting the needs of both industries.” PIDX initially will explore adopting Chem eStandards, already developed by the chemical industry.

Martin

Kendra Martin, executive director of API's PIDX said, “Chem eStandards provides an excellent starting point for PIDX development and will allow us to meet the needs of the oil and natural gas industry.” Further participation in cross-industry standards groups such as OASIS and UN/CEFACT is also envisaged.

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Landmark to resell SCM fault package (June 2001)

Subsurface Computer Modeling’s “helper” applications for Z-Map are to be resold by Landmark.

Landmark has signed a deal with Subsurface Computer Modeling (SCM) to resell SCM’s Suite of Z-Map “helper” applications. SCM Suite complements and extends Z-Map with enhanced surface modeling and framework building.

Gibson

Landmark president John Gibson said, “This cooperative working relationship gives customers access to the SCM Fault Modeling Procedures as well as other applications in the SCM Suite.” SCM Suite applications are workflow based and extend Z-Map Plus with solutions for modeling complex faulted reservoirs. These models can be rapidly updated and provide the framework model required as input to Landmark's Stratamodel 3-D geocellular modeling application.

Olson

SCM president Mack Olson added, “Z-Map Plus and Stratamodel users will be able to integrate SCM Suite methods into their workflow, enhancing the quality of the resulting framework models and geologic interpretations.” SCM Suite provides both normal and reverse fault modeling, automated volumetrics and management tools for Z-Map Plus projects. It also extends Z-Map Plus' macro parsing functionality with saved parameters. An extensive set of utility programs and macros add to the Z-Map Plus user's ability to handle complex mapping issues encountered daily.

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Baird defends Schlumberger Sema rationale (June 2001)

Euan Baird defended Schlumberger’s acquisition of Sema Group at a meeting with analysts in Paris this month. Despite troubled times in the IT sector, Baird sees bullish fundamentals in oil and gas, and a rosy future for the combined service offering from the new Schlumberger-Sema Group.

Talking to analysts in Paris this month, Schlumberger chairman Euan Baird was bullish on the oil price and on prospects for the new combined Schlumberger Sema Group (SSG). Following the announcement of Schlumberger’s takeover of the Anglo-French consultancy, Schlumberger’s share price has lost some 30%, with the poor performance of the tech segment more than offsetting the stronger oil sector. Baird presents the Sema acquisition as the last step in a long process of building an integrated oilfield services offering, from the automated oilfield into the networked office.

Interface

Schlumberger’s strategy remains unchanged - that of “working on the shifting interface between what our clients do themselves, and what they outsource.” Baird is convinced that the arrival of a very powerful private networking capability, “not the internet,” will shift this interface further in Schlumberger’s favor. The company’s involvement in networking dates back to 1985 with the first commercial global network (SINET). The Sema acquisition adds a hitherto missing element, that of large scale systems integration. This adds a new culture to Schlumberger, making the company a credible competitor to major integrators like IBM and Accenture. En passant, Baird gave himself a pat on the back for IndigoPool, with a claimed $4 billion of assets currently on the portal, and also for the WesternGeco joint venture. This has created a seismic behemoth with a market share three times that of its nearest competitor. Baird’s predictions for the future of the oil price remain fundamentally bullish. Spare capacity in the Middle East is down from 10 to 2 million bbl/day, with most of this heavy, sulfurous crude. Oil companies “must spend more” to assure future supply - especially as natural depletion is currently running at around 8%. All this translates into a rosy future for Schlumberger’s high-tech reservoir focused offering. Fighting the down-trending depletion curve means technology - as witnessed by the high current spend on domestic US produced oil - an indicator of future world-wide spending patterns. A component of this spend is the increasing linkage of technical and business systems - where Sema’s expertise in integration with Enterprise Resource Planning systems will be deployed. Baird claims “enormous” interest from oil and gas clients on the potential of this technology transfer into real-time reservoir monitoring and control.

Festooned

Notwithstanding the bullish future, Baird recognizes that the IT sector is “festooned with pessimism!” - but believes that costs synergies and a couple of strategic asset disposals will allow SSG to bring home the bacon with 20% revenue growth in financial 2003, maintaining a debt to capitalization ratio of below 30%. But Baird’s underlying conviction, and indeed the lynchpin of his strategy, is that client companies “want to deal with a company that does everything.”

Q&A

Analysts expressed concern for the near term with difficult times ahead in the technology sector and with a slow-down in IT spend in the European Union. Baird defended the medium term outlook while acknowledging that, if the worst came to the worst “We will react appropriately, as you all know we can.” Despite the ongoing pressure on Schlumberger stock, Baird ruled out a buy-back “unless the situation gets a lot worse.” Baird also ruled out any more acquisitions for the next year or so - “All our bandwidth is dedicated to consolidating what we have now.”

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Cartographic hardcopy from Petrolynx (June 2001)

A new version of Geodynamic Solutions’ Petrolynx enterprise GIS offers enhanced access to vendor datasets and cartographic quality printing from the web browser.

Geodynamic Solutions Inc., is to release a new version of its GIS software Petrolynx this summer. Petrolynx, a suite of browser-based products, can be used either over the Internet or corporate Intranet. Petrolynx Web Maps 2.0 offers the ability to print large scale, cartographic quality maps from the web browser. Base maps, seismic, leases, pipelines, and any other spatial data can be sent to hardcopy directly from the browser.

Reports

A map-based feature can be linked to a report in Petrolynx Reports. This now extends reporting capabilities to worldwide data including IHS Energy’s Petroconsultants IRIS, Geoquest’s Finder, and LandMark’s OpenWorks. Petrolynx Reports 2.0 also can be extended to access any relational database including commercial and proprietary data. Information can be linked back to a map in Web Maps.

Sanderson

Geodynamic VP Bruce Sanderson said “The addition of cartographic map output from Web Maps 2.0 delivers the most advanced browser-based mapping solution to the petroleum industry. Petrolynx’s browser-based tools enable everyone in the organization to access mission critical data from both a mapping and reporting perspective.”

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3D Viewer for Open Spirit (June 2001)

A new OpenSpirit-compliant browser offers platform-independent visualization of well, seismic and interpreted data.

INT and OpenSpirit are to jointly develop an OpenSpirit-enabled 3D Viewer. INT president, Olivier Lhemann said “Our goal is to bring economical 3D visualization to the desktop. We want to provide components to developers in the E&P industry that allow them to produce better, more affordable and maintainable applications in less time.”

Buckley

OpenSpirit CEO Neil Buckley added “The rich set of development tools offered by INT, together with the OpenSpirit Application Integration Framework, handle the complex task of visualization and data integration, freeing the software developer to focus on improved algorithms for finding reserves.”

Java

Written in Java, the viewer will offer platform-independent support for 3D visualization of well, seismic and interpretation data. The viewer will be distributed as a free utility within the OpenSpirit runtime.

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Data Access Protocol (June 2001)

GeoSoft’s new streaming technology offers online access to high volume datasets for Montaj users and, with the new free viewer, a wider public.

Geosoft has announced new data access technology, to be deployed in Oasis Montaj 5.0.8. The Data Access Protocol (DAP) enables transfer of high volume data from a designated DAP data server to an Oasis Montaj client over the Internet.

Spatial

DAP uses streaming technology to transfer high-volume data and associated metadata. DAP is spatially aware and allows for user-specified spatial querying and retrieval. DAP provides localized data that matches the current Oasis Montaj map window and projection information.

Free Viewer

Geosoft has set up a public domain server offering free access to global topographic data at 1000 m resolution along with DNAG magnetic and gravity data for North America. PDM downloaded the free viewer (around 20MB) and tried out the software. We managed to make a gravity map of the San Francisco Bay Area in about 30 seconds, but for some reason, could not see the topo data. Moving over to France we quickly drafted topo maps at a variety of scales. All in all a seductive, albeit proprietary new technology.

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GeoScout enhanced (June 2001)

GeoLogic has enhanced its data browser GeoScout and now offers online land and H2S reporting services to Western Canadian operators.

GeoLogic’s geoScout software offers western Canadian operators an exploration development and acquisition tool bundled with data from Manitoba to the Beaufort Sea. The latest V5.0 release of GeoScout is claimed as ‘the most comprehensive re-write of geoScout ever.’ Ease of use has been enhanced and over 200 user requests are incorporated in the new release.

LAS

The user database now provides better control over proprietary data and the well ticket now gives the user control over the display of data. Other improvements include an unlimited number of map overlays, simultaneous display of raster and LAS logs and new interactive correlation tools.

H2S

GeoLogic also offers an online land information database, PNGRweb based on an older Virtual Data Services product (Virtual Data Services was purchased in 1997 and now operates as a division of GeoLogic.) Another internet-based offering is H2Sweb, introduced in January 2001. H2Sweb reports include potential H2S release rate summary, key well completion information, H2S concentration and flow rate data summary. Reports are also accompanied by footnotes and DST remarks. More from www.geologic.com.

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Sesican bags Troika (June 2001)

SeiScan has taken over Troika and will now offer transcription along with its vectorizing services.

SeiScan Geodata has acquired Troika International through a share swap. SeiScan provides seismic and well log scanning and vectorizing services. Troika is best known as the developer of the Magma transcription package and also offers consultancy services.

MacMillan

SeiScan MD Gordon MacMillan told PDM “The new organization will be capable of capturing, conditioning and adding value to all types of exploration data whether in the form of tape or hard-copy.” Both companies are based in the UK. The new company will trade under the SeiScan Geodata banner with headquarters in Cheam, South London and international offices in Houston, New Delhi and Jakarta.

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e-biz consolidation? (June 2001)

Cooperation between erstwhile competitors Trade Ranger, NetworkOil and theoilsite focuses on technology sharing but may herald further consolidation in the troubled sector.

Trade Ranger, the online e-procurement site set up by a group of major oil companies back in 2000, has signed a marketing agreement with NetworkOil for purchase and sale of oil and gas surplus equipment. The new agreement covers online listings, e-auctions, and traditional auctions simultaneously broadcast over the Internet. Trade-Ranger will also host private markets for its members to support internal redeployment of surplus energy equipment within their companies. Trade-Ranger's members will also benefit from supporting services provided by NetworkOil such as inspections, refurbishment, logistics, appraisals and the availability of investment recovery specialists.

Farley

Trade-Ranger CEO Claire Farley said, “We chose NetworkOil because of its ability to combine advanced technology with traditional business methods. This has made it the leading provider of surplus energy equipment management and disposal services. The NetworkOil solution, combined with Trade-Ranger's in-house offerings, will provide multiple channels for divestiture and acquisition of surplus equipment.”

Page

Stuart Page, NetworkOil CEO added, “This relationship represents a tremendous opportunity to create value in an underserved market in the energy industry. NetworkOil will bring to Trade-Ranger processes that have proven to be extremely effective for trading, acquiring or disposing of large blocks of quality surplus equipment and other capital assets on a global scale.”

theoilsite

In a separate agreement, Trade-Ranger has entered into a software exploitation and development agreement to incorporate UK-based theoilsite's e-tendering capabilities. theoilsite's proprietary EAS-e Request for Quote tool covers both open and closed tendering and will be available for use in the third quarter of 2001. Farley said of the deal, “E-tendering is an important step toward web-enabled procurement. theoilsite tool was a natural choice for Trade-Ranger since it has a proven track record and has already been adopted by several of our customers.”

Consolidation?

These cooperation agreements between erstwhile competitors may herald further consolidation in the troubled e-business sector.

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