Conference Report (January 1998)

PDM attended the SMi conference on E&PData Management and Data Repositories held in London this month. Despite a (hopefully)short sharp downturn in the oil price, the mood was relatively buoyant - at least from thedata management vendors viewpoint. Some dissent was expressed however by those at thecoal-face.

Helen Stephenson noted more willingness to attack the problems although she doubted whether technological solutions were keeping pace with the ever increasing data volumes. David Archer, President and CEO of the Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation (POSC) shared the positive mood, he told PDM "We feel that our users are optimistic and that they are starting to feel that the use of the POSC standard is becoming inevitable". The inevitability of standardization was the leitmotif of the conference with strong support for the "there is no alternative" (TINA) position expressed by Stewart Robinson of the UK DTI. POSC itself is increasingly having to find its own funding and is about to start up consultancy services. Archer confided to PDM "We need to start earning money".


Tim Bird head of Information Technology with Enterprise Oil plc. made the important distinction between data logistics and data quality. The focus of most work to date done by data management software vendors has been data logistics. This leaves us with "solutions" which only address half the issue. Modern data management systems focus on "storing and moving data with ever greater speed". In short the QC/QA function has been overlooked. Unfortunately if the proper constraints are not applied to the data as it is acquired, this business process can degenerate into the transport, at high speed, of bad data. As they used to say "garbage in and garbage out" - but faster. Bird proposes a new focus - whereby data management is equated with data logistics AND data quality. This can be addressed in a multitude of ways, from clearly defined units of measure to standard data dictionaries, unique well identifiers etc. Bird also stressed the importance of defining standard naming conventions - at a project level before it was too late.


This theme was picked up on and amplified in a horror story recounted by Mairead Boland (Shell Expro) - subtitled "to hell and back, one woman's journey through the world of petrophysical data management". As an indication of the monetary value of data management Boland related how a naming convention slip-up cost Shell around $5 million in a North Sea development. Boland also emphasized the need for cooperation in the implementation of common naming standards between oil companies, contractors and government.


Ugur Algan from Petroleum Exploration Computer Consultants (PECC) described the deployment of their PetroVision flagship data management tool currently used in 11 sites world-wide. The most recent installation being at Common Data Access (CDA) - see article elsewhere in this PDM. PetroVision uses the POSC Epicentre data model, with data accessed in a "purist" manner through a Data Access and Exchange (DAE) layer. Algan agrees that the use of a completely specified data model such as Epicentre does not solve the data quality problem. But the constraints implicit in populating an Epicentre data model do go a long way to improve data quality. On the issue of leveraging the corporate data store by providing efficient links to vendor applications, Algan underscored the need for cooperation between vendors, which was qualified as "variable - some are monolithic, some are keen to interact". Commenting the recent signature of the CDA contract with PECC, Stewart Robinson described PetroVision as the DTI's future "POSC window on the world". On the data quality debate, Robinson stressed the importance of peer group pressure by colleagues keen on sharing correct data. Recognizing that while POSC is not "the solution", Robinson agreed that it was a component of a solution, and emphasized the practical contribution that a quality National Data Repository could play.


Contrasting views of Inter/Intranet deployment were presented by Ron Winwood of Hardy Oil and Gas and Chevron's IT supremo David Clementz. Winwood gave an enthusiastic description of the deployment and real-world use of Hardy's Intranet which allows for efficient communications between their subsidiaries in far flung parts of the world. Video-conferencing to Australia was cited as a particularly effective use. On a rather different scale, Chevron has around 30,000 users in more than 90 countries creating a wide battlefront for Chevron's defense against intrusion. Chevron have recently conducted an audit of their network and are using the results of the study to educate their data managers in security.


Clementz described Chevron's approach to Internet security as protecting the "castle's moat" emphasizing the risks to any system from hackers, unscrupulous competitors, foreign governments, thrill seekers and bandits. Security problems range from theft, sabotage, fraud to plain old accidents. A frightening array of readily available tools for network hacking are freely available on the Internet. These can sniff your packets - snatch passwords during transactions and allow subsequent access to the system by hackers. IP spoofing can allow a hacker to masquerade as a bona-fide part of the Intranet and other nasty Internet hacking techniques - such as the "Ping of death" - can just clog up the system. A 1997 FBI study (they don't spend ALL their time looking for BC's girlfriends) estimated that 75% of intrusions involved financial loss and of these about half came from outside attacks. Chevron take all this very seriously and have a police force operating an active monitoring program. Much of this effort was in educating personnel in correct implementation of security policy.

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