Change of PDM ownership, stocktaking time, and a new mission? (August 1997)

Neil McNaughton reflects on PDM’s past and future from his new perspective as publisher AND editor.

Some corporate news from PDM this month. Our publisher, Andrew McBarnet who's idea it was, and who launched and supported PDM during its first year is bowing out and is going to concentrate on his other ventures. PDM's editor is leaping into the breach and will, when the ink has dried on our agreement, be PDM's publisher through his company The Data Room. Otherwise, nothing else will change, we will still contrive to provide our readers with timely news and authoritative opinion in matters relating to E&P data management and computing. We would like to take this opportunity to wish Andrew well in his new ventures.

This seems like a good point to take stock of where we have got to and where we are going. First how is PDM doing? Well Andrew's marketing acumen and (of course) PDM's great intrinsic worth have taken us to a subscription count of over 120 after our first year of activity. Subscribers are spread all over the world and include most major oil companies and contractors with a split of around 50/50 between the client and service side of the business. We are planning to introduce new services and subscription configurations in the near future, with special rates for multiple subscriptions to the same company, and soon, an Intranet service. We will also be pushing for more coverage (and subscribers!) in the US and Canada, and will be consolidating PDM as a truly international newsletter. Subscribers, contributors and other interested parties are invited to update their records with the information shown on the back page of this issue.


Looking back over our first year we have seen an explosive growth of interest in data management, a growth which has spawned a plethora of conferences, quite a few papers and a host of data management oriented offerings from the vendors. Regular readers will have noted though that PDM's position vis a vis this enthusiasm is that there is more smoke and mirrors than substance in much of what passes for a data management "solution" today and that the industry has a long way to go before data management becomes what is should really have been all the while - a central but more or less transparent part of the E&P workflow.

So you know we are skeptical, and that in our view data management has a long way to go. But some recent papers have led me to believe that the data management problem is actually having a much more pernicious impact on the way we do our business than is apparent from the foregoing. Let me explain.

Processing is interpretation

As a first witness I will call Allen Bertagne who, writing in an editorial side box in the July Leading Edge points out that with 3D data, the "interpretation" process is increasingly being performed in the processing house. Bertagne states that the processor has become the de facto interpreter and that interpreters had better become processors if they want to retain their traditional key role. This view tallies with the observation that whereas in the old 2D days, fault alignment in particular required all the interpreter's art, today the faults just pop out of the 3D data. These "obvious" faults will however be more or less obvious, or even may be spurious depending on how the data has been processed. Stacking velocity picks, migration velocities decon and all the other tweaks that the processor makes do significantly influence the final result and the map and the drilling location.


My next witness is myself. In last December's Leading Edge I wrote what I now realize was a hopelessly utopic view of integrated interpretation in an article entitled Trends in E&P Data Management. This article (please contact me at The Data Room if you would like a reprint) describes an idealized iterative workflow which vendors, consultants and others like to present as the way things are. In fact I had personal experience of the iterative paradigm and the close knit asset team when working for a major consulting organization. But the iterations and asset team were centered on a table of mainly paper data, with relatively little help from the workstation. In so far as I was writing of trends I was not wrong, but when I argued that seismic processing should integrate the asset team's workflow I was getting seriously ahead of current practice. This fact was made clear to me in the form of two reality checks, both from BP personnel. David Feinman talking at the GeoQuest Forum97 (PDM Vol2 No. 5) described a linear workflow designed to respond to very specific time constraints involved in developing Algerian gas fields. No iteration here. Janet Rigler (BP Exploration Houston), speaking at the PNEC Petroleum Data Integration and Management Conference (see elsewhere in this issue) concludes that existing data management and data delivery technologies are stretched to the limit in supplying a near-linear interpretation paradigm and that the much vaunted iterative workflow is a myth.

Key role

So to summarize, on the one hand we really need to integrate processing into our workflow if we are to retain control of the interpretation process, and also because oilfield development is intrinsically iterative, with new depths and petrophysical data coming in with each new well. But our current technology will not even allow us to iterate the relatively simple part of the workflow, that based on one data set of stacked seismics. Why can't we do it? (this is where we came in) - Data Management that's why. Until we can manage our data properly, until new well information can be incorporated into interpretative reprocessing, until we can iterate around the structural/reservoir performance prediction route in a timely manner, we will be missing out on the full potential of our data and providing sub-optimal answers to oilfield development. This then is PDM's brief, to enhance awareness of the data management and E&P computing dilemmas with the aim of pinpointing the problems, and while we will shout from the rooftops when vendors come up with credible contributions to their solution, we will also continue our questioning and debunking of some of the more overblown claims of success.

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