PDM Interview - Stewart Robinson - CIO of UK DTI

UK DTI Oil and Gas division’s CIO Stuart Robinson told PDM how the department collects and disseminates data from the UKCS. He also revealed the Well Operators Notification System (WONS) for electronic submittals and consent to drill.

Stewart Robinson is head of IT Support with the UK government’s Oil and Gas Directorate. The Directorate’s objectives include the promotion and regulation of exploration and the collection, analysis and dissemination of data on the UK’s hydrocarbon reserves. The IT Section is most involved in the latter activity providing database design and development, graphics, plotting, digitizing and software consultancy. The section maintains close ties with oil industry standards bodies such as CDA and POSC, of which Robinson is a board member.

PDM – What is your current thinking on data modeling in the upstream?

Robinson – We started out like everyone else and wasted a lot of time building a large database, but now have a different way of working. Now we only collect data that we actually used, to make sure that it is correct. Other data not destined for immediate use can be requested from providers on an as-needed basis. For instance, 10% of production data will be captured, the remaining 90% will be held on demand. POSC was a good idea, but Epicentre is complicated. I don’t believe that there is a ‘correct’ data model. Currently we have a simple data model in Oracle Designer 2000. But our real effort has been in cleaning the data - this has taken much time and resources. We sometimes wonder if it is worth the effort.

PDM – Surely it is, if only to ensure consistent nomenclature such as well names?

Robinson - Naming is important and we provide companies with a list of well names recognized by the DTI. Some wells such as sidetracks are not recognized by the DTI and CDA/DEAL is working on a ‘definitive’ list. We are also working with other national regulators on standard codes for well type etc.

PDM - How is the DTI shaping up in the UK’s push for ‘e-government’

Robinson – The government has mandated that data will be collected and stored electronically by January 2004. All departments are required to store a master digital data set. We are moving fast into e-commerce, especially with the launch of Well Operators Notification System (WONS). WONS is a fully electronic method of submitting well applications and receiving consents. Operators can also notify the DTI of operations on wells and obtain official well numbers. The system has just gone live.

PDM - What about production data?

Robinson - Activity is monitored by the DTI through production reports and by collecting some “occasional” data such as tops, and test results. Such data will in the future be lodged with DEAL/CDA, or with commercial repositories. There will also be links to academia. Data on demand requires data standards and the DTI is extremely interested in the developments centered on XML. The idea is to keep it simple but standard. We have brought together discussion groups from regulatory authorities around the world - to try and agree what should be reported. We have also had contacts with PPDM, POSC and PIDEX.

PDM - You must have looked at the work done by POSC for the US MMS

Robinson - Yes, but this project computerized existing forms. We want to take a look at the business process and do some reengineering while designing the e-commerce. Production reporting through XML has been live since June 2000 and well data is now published on-line in ASCII.

PDM - What technology components do you deploy?

Robinson - Today the online data is limited and we have a relatively low transaction rate. Our rudimentary Linux-based system is adequate. As more reporting is included more sophistication will be required. Current web technologies are based on Apache and Linux. But systems also include Oracle, NT and UNIX. Security is a constant concern, and all systems are approved by DTI specialists. We used to have lots of software in-house, including several Landmark and GeoQuest licenses. We were confronted with the problem of high license cost and low use, so we are now interested by ASP and are talking to GeoNet and Ilex. More generally, we are working on XML data transfer between ASP-enabled applications.

PDM - Do you develop yourselves?

Robinson - SQL development is performed in-house, with help from oil company developers. We also do some ArcInfo work internally. The DTI’s annual data summary - the “Brown Book” is put onto the web by an external provider [Data by Design.] Plans are afoot to migrate this to a more dynamic web environment - or possibly to share this effort with DEAL.

PDM - What’s next?

Robinson - To get the full e-commerce server running will require considerably more funds from the treasury. Assuming these are forthcoming, we should be fully operational in two years. Ultimately we will have the UK Oil Portal, with access to all public domain data. Oil companies will have password and PIN to view their own data. There will be workflow tracking for approvals and the site will evolve to manage partner access to data.

PDM - What of CDA and DEAL in this context?

Robinson - The legal agreement with CDA defines roles and puts a service level agreement in place. Oil company reporting obligations can be part satisfied by membership. DTI is an informal attendee at CDA meetings, and business processes are shared. These include email and XML data definitions for activities such as spudding a well. As for DEAL - the DTI is more closely involved, and is on the steering committee, and supplies data on a regular basis. The DEAL data indexes will be shared by the DTI.

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