ESRI Petroleum User Group 2002

The ESRI Petroleum User Group celebrated its 12th year with its largest attendance to date with 450 registered. The PUG’s origins go back to the 1989 ‘Project Database’. In this industry-wide request for technology and GIS ‘challenge’ to vendors, the then unheard of ERSI came out ahead. Since then, ESRI has come to dominate the oil and gas industry’s use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). GIS cuts across the spectrum of oil and gas activity with a large proportion of the PUG coming from the pipeline community. Here, environment and regulatory pressures are driving GIS development. The results are an impressive use of GIS combining vector, bitmap and spatial data to create accurate maps for use in emergencies. The addition of GPS and wireless GIS underscores the oil industry’s position as an early adopter of such innovative technologies.

Operation Database

Charles Fried (BP) recapped the original ‘Operation Database’ project of 1989 - a shoot-up between GIS vendors in which ESRI came out ahead. ESRI’s Operation Database specialist John Caulkin then showed how the original AML code still compiles to produce a recognizable display - an Arc 5 project running under Arc 8! Caulkin went on to show ESRI ‘as now’ – with a fireworks display of functionality. By combining trend analysis, geostatistics and Spatial Analyst’s powerful smoothing you can prove anything with any data! Reserves in place, mass balance calculations etc. are all computed with ‘small VB routines’.


Caulkin, who used to be a geologist with Tenneco, demonstrated geology-related GIS information processing using data from the Munroe Gas field in Louisiana. The Visual Basic script editor was used to concatenate flow rate information with water cut into a string, which was then formatted to color code gas and water. A demo of Arc Publisher followed – publish to .pmf format with control over what (limited) end-user map functionality was to be offered. The .pmf files can be picked up in the free ArcReader utility where users can query simple features and turn map layers on and off. The .pmf format is built of pointers to live data.


Clint Brown (ESRI) ran through the recent and future enhancements to the ESRI product line. The Geodatabase, introduced with Arc8 leverages the relational database with the addition of a spatial feature class – a table with columns for geometry or image data. ArcCatalogue is another key development – organizing collections of spatial data with metadata standards into a catalogue of distributed data sets. Transactional Data Management lets you ‘time travel’ through your data. Loosely coupled replication is ‘very important.’ Data bases ‘talk to each other’ and synchronize to facilitate ‘scalable GIS’ – from full-blown Arc GIS to embedded, lightweight GIS with XML broadcast to any client. GIS is ‘a language’ allowing for operations on spatial objects through a ‘rich set of commands and scripts and a generic GIS model.’ The big news for the upstream is that Arc GIS 8.3 – due out later this year adds linear referencing for pipeline stations and seismic shotpoint posting.


G.Net is a concept – ESRI president Jack Dangermond’s vision of how ArcIMS will be accessible through a metadata portal. G.Net will build a GIS framework on top of the Internet through web services to enable a user to go through a ‘broker’ to find a data publisher. G.Net will be underpinned by standards, XML, UDDI, WSDL and SOAP and ‘may happen’ in either Microsoft’s .Net environment or with Sun Java.


Shelly Degler described how Buckeye Pipleline uses GIS to manage data and track pipeline integrity. Pipeline management involves thousands of right of way documents, with updates and distributions, and a multitude of CAD drawings. Early attempts to do risk management were abandoned after 3.5 miles of data were captured – because ‘you can’t do it all at once.’ Working with GeoFields, Buckeye’s second attempt involved data captured on a ‘will it be used?’ basis. The database includes risk data to comply with DOT Integrity Management Rules. An immediate benefit was the visual QC that GIS offers – a valve showed up in the middle of the Ohio river! Buckeye has a rich history going back over a century – some right of way documentation was signed by Rockefeller himself! Buckeye’s project cost $2.1 million over three years and is now ‘100% complete and 25% under-budget.’


John Grace (Earth Science Associates) showed how 3D visualization and modeling can be achieved using ESRI’s 3D Analyst. Logs and borehole tracks are stored as Shapefiles. 3D bodies such as the reservoir are modeled as ‘Multi-Patch’ irregular solids and viewed as a CAD/CAM wire frame drawing. Although the technique benefits from some neat 3D manipulation and visualization techniques, the process of turning geology into a CAD representation appears cumbersome.

Wood Mackenzie

Consultants and data providers Wood Mackenzie were one of the few upstream data users to deploy MapInfo. But their clients are all ESRI users so WoodMac has been forced to migrate to Arc GIS 8.1 - performed by Geodynamic Solutions Inc. The ARC 8.1 suite was deployed with ArcEditor for mapping, ArcSDE for storage and ArcCatalogue for data management. The project involved re-engineering the existing the MapInfo-based tools into the relational spatial model and significant efficiencies were claimed. Customization (an advanced labeling tool, feature editor, batch exporter, data loader and bookmarking tool) was achieved using Visual Basic and ArcObjects. More from and

BHP Billiton

Ekaterina Casey explained how BHP Billiton uses ER Mapper for image processing. Shaded relief maps are used to study geology and seismic horizons. BHP contracted Eagle Mapping and Wintermoon Geotechnologies to integrate ER Mapper with ArcView. Eagle has ‘glued’ ArcView and ER Mapper together, while Wintermoon added expertise in satellite, gravity and magnetics and data analysis to ER Mapper. The project has brought ER Mapper functionality to a broader audience. Casey advocates ‘using applications for doing what they were designed to do.’ This involves complex optimization across GIS/SDE and IMS. GIS is also used to provide geo-located knowledge management with links to Documentum.

Emergency Response

Enron is not all smoke and mirrors. Elaine Tombaugh told how its Transportation Services unit operates over 33,000 miles of pipelines. Enron needs to respond rapidly to leaks and other problems and needed a robust solution for coordinating field response to emergencies. The solution, which evolved out of a pre-existing ArcView IMS solution, was developed in partnership with R7 Solutions and includes MapObjects, SAP and telephony. This development is claimed to be one of the first enterprise systems built on Microsoft’s .Net platform. The system receives around 100 calls per day. These are ‘triaged’ to determine the level of the emergency and dispatched. Telephone automation can initiate a conference call of appropriate teams on the fly and notify local authorities or 911 contacts.

IHS Wildcat

Tor Nelsen, (IHS Energy) described how its clients are faced with the problem of accessing local GIS information along with commercial, distributed data sources, preferably all through a common interface. IHS has tried a variety of solutions to this problem and is currently enthused by the new generation ESRI technology. The key is consistent handling of spatial layers – with ArcSDE as the de-facto standard. The IHS model is based on the KIS principle – keep it simple. Rather than doing a full-blown data modeling exercise, the new model just adds 20 attributes to each layer object. This strategy makes it possible to perform a spatial query on a ‘truly massive’ dataset. Arc GIS 8 ‘solves a major part of the data integration problem.’ Wildcat is IHS’ toolbox for building this kind of solution – and leverages technology from CompuWare and Safe Software. Nelsen provided an impressive demo of data access (to Denver) with query by form - bringing up cartographic data on a transparent DOQQ image. Wildcat allows access to all of IHS data (Petroconsultants and PI/Dwights), proprietary in-house data and data on the web such as the USGS.

Migrating to ArcGIS

Reliant Energy is an international energy services and delivery company with $20bn revenues. Cynthia Salas described Reliant’s post merger rationalization of 4 GIS systems ArcInfo. Salas noted that GIS development was outside the competence of most IT professionals – describing GIS as a ‘niche within a niche.’ Reliant developed its data model from scratch with normalized nomenclature and taxonomy – using Visio and Microsoft Repository. After migration, maps were printed out and overlain on the old maps for QC. All editing continued on the old system while the new one was tested. Only after thorough testing and training was the new data migrated. Salas recommends onsite support from contractors (ESRI and Miner and Miner), she also recommends that consultants ‘educate your folks’.

Real time GIS.

Wade Koteras (Energy Objects) showed how GPS can combine with wireless GIS to offer engineers real-time support in the field. The new technology enables ‘one call before you dig’ solutions and emergency response collaboration. The position of vehicles, containers, ambulances and drilling rigs can be tracked in real time. One-call systems include geocoded street addresses. Spatial analysis of digging locations avoids ‘conflicts’ with underground utilities. Digging tickets can be dispatched automatically. Koteras elaborated on the complex issue of synchronicity. This needs balancing between simple strategies (which may miss changes) and real-time systems which can swamp networks. Koteras advocates using enterprise messaging systems such as that from Tibco.

R7 Solutions

R7 Solutions’ Alex Bain was showing-off wireless GIS capability with a Wi-Fi network set up in the exhibition. GIS, GPS and wireless can combine to support field engineers involved in maintenance, survey and environmental cleanup. The demo showed an oil spill offshore Galveston Island against a satellite image backdrop. Using a Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC with a wireless card, an oil spill response team can track the evolving situation via a real-time map on the iPAQ. Interaction (to indicate extent of the spill) on an iPAQ in the field updates a central GIS repository and the information can be shared with workers at other localities. The solution was developed with ArcPad 6.0 in VB Script. ArcIMS is used on the server and Safe Software’s feature manipulation engine is also deployed. In the field a ruggedized device such as that from would probably be used. The solution is currently under testing – the first enterprise version should be out later this year.

More info

This article is abstracted from a 20 page report on the PUG produced as part of The Data Room’s ongoing Technology Watch Service. For more information on this email .

This article originally appeared in Oil IT Journal 2002 Issue # 3.

For more information or to comment on this topic email here.