AAPG Convention New Orleans 2000

PDM spent a pleasant week in New Orleans last month. While not basking in the spring sunshine or listening to the jazz we managed to check out a few of the exhibitors. Despite the less than favorable industry climate, things are moving along fast in areas such as e-commerce and application service provision with many new offerings and older products re-vamped to embrace the new paradigms.

E-commerce is the ‘big thing’ at this year’s AAPG. What is e-commerce? In the strictest sense, it should mean electronically enabled transactions. Click on a web page and buy something (a toaster or a thousand gallons of fuel oil). There is nothing very new about this kind of transaction, supermarkets have used EDI for fifteen years or so to communicate with suppliers and even the taxman. But current usage of the term ‘e-commerce’ is much broader than this and includes anything that involves the transmission of business information over the wire. Using the broader definition, we find again that there is nothing new under the sun. The geophysical industry has been using electronic data exchange to coordinate actions between processing centers since 1975 to our knowledge. So what is new?

new hype!

Well the hype is new and of course there is the web, which promises e-commerce for all. And by ‘all’ we have to include a lot of start-ups who will probably go the way of the UK e-store boo.com before too long! Recently, IndigoPool’s Louis Desroches counted the number of ‘asset disposal’ (license trading) companies as ‘over 50’ and implied that few would see the year out.

four types

At the AAPG we observed four main categories of e-commerce offerings; equipment procurement, asset disposal, data sales and application service provision (ASP). Within each category there is a range in the depth of the offering. Some may be traditional businesses with a new web home page. Others tend towards the stricter definition of e-commerce, with heavyweight input from generic e-storefront providers like Ariba and CommerceOne.

Network Oil

A good example of the first category is Network Oil (NO), a business to business marketplace for petroleum services and equipment. NO says 228 companies are currently using the system. The first auction with about 100 lots in 8 categories, will be held in June. Goods traded are – wellheads, oil and gas country tubulars and other well-related hardware. Already, around $1 million has gone through the marketplace in a pilot project with 2 transacting oil cos and two suppliers. NO founded in 1999 and now has 110 employees in 10 regional offices working on sales and support of clients such as EOG Resources (Enron), Burlington, Unocal, Oxxy and Ocean Energy.

Petroleum Place

Petroleum Place (PP) is described as a vertical portal or ‘vortal’. Based in Denver the PP website has been a hub for North American assets disposal for five years. PP offers first pass engineering tools for asset evaluation with a web enabled/ASP model for reservoir engineering. Subscribers can access detailed information in virtual data rooms. PP is built on Autodesk mapping technology. Plans are afoot to market a productized version of the client interface for in house use. PP’s e-business technology guru Trent Hampton told PDM, ‘five to ten years from now we’ll be one of the few left standing, thanks to the critical mass we already have.’ Currently PP claims 75% of property movement e-commerce activity in lower 48. PP is a private company.

Prospect One

Prospect One (PO) is a facility whereby sellers of exploration prospects can enter their own information onto a form which is then accessible through the PO website. PO offers a pragmatic approach – usually with an online executive summary of the prospect, some ‘exhibits’ in the form of GIF images and the basics of the proposed deal in narrative form. Currently PO is a free listing service but ultimately there will be a nominal subscription fee for sellers. It will remain free to buyers. Search can be ‘map based’ in the US or goal/criteria based for cost of deal etc. PO is a facilitator for buyer-seller contracts and plans to expand services to let sellers demonstrate their prospects – with live hosted discussions. The aim is to reduce cycle time with less ‘phoning around’ while still retaining face to face contact. PO’s CIO Dee Harvey confided to PDM “This is not e-commerce – we have a pragmatic approach. To date IT has focused on the technical, now the focus is moving into the business arena.”


Petroweb (PW) president Darcy Vaughan described how the company was working with data vendors including IHS Energy, SeisExchange and MapSearch. PW’s ‘secret’ is a flexible web-interface to heterogeneous vendor data sets which offers the E&P geoscientist and engineer GIS-browsing capability through a wide range of data types. The PW links to both vendor and in-house data sources and deploys some very intuitive techniques. Moving the mouse over the map brings up ‘tool tips’ with top level information on geographic objects - such as the fluid carried in a pipeline. A click on the object allows for drill down to other attributes – such as ownership details. Clicking on a well drills through to the IHS/PI database in Denver. Pipeline data comes from the Durango pipeline database from MapSearch. The browser uses GIS technology from AutoDesk, along with Microsoft Active Directory. A must-have is the midget CD-ROM demo for the Petroweb – a remarkable Shockwave tour-de-force.

View Seis Partners

View Seis Partners (VSP) has a licensing agreement with Geco to re-market seismic data to small operators in the Gulf Coast. The business model is innovative, VSP offers a temporary license for use of the data (which may be a little as a single seismic line) together with interpretation software from SMT. VSP’s Philip Johnson told PDM that the SMT Kingdom Suite has pretty much become the standard for small operators and that it may well replace the UNIX powerhouses some day. VSP’s agreement with Schlumberger covers some 3,500 square miles of data. Creative financing allows operators to use the data on a ‘sale or return’ basis. If the operator succeeds in selling his or her property, then a ‘consummation clause’ is activated leading to payment of VSP and Geco.


GeoNet (GN) appears to be one of the first out of the blocks for E&P application service provision (ASP). GN provides a searchable buyer’s guide to third party software with a navigable tree structure of geoscience topics. All software will be ‘web enabled’ – in fact emulators allow UNIX or Windows software to run unmodified with initial access through browser. GN has signed with 18 companies including FlagShip, Terrasciences, SMT, RockSolid Images, GeoScience and Maurer Engineering. The GN website has been up since March and by July should offer online ASP – selling software on an hourly basis. Prices may be in the $10-100 per hour range. One industry source told PDM that conventional software marketing is a ‘dying’ business. “No one has money for upfront investment in software – hence the move to ASP.”


PGS is to offer ASP access to the full suite of Tigress software from servers based in Houston and London. The applications will run within a web browser using emulation technology for UNIX-based applications and PGS can host data and even review and or interpret as required. Benefits to client companies include less hardware and infrastructure investment. PGS’ Stephen Shorey told PDM “Tigress is going strong with users at 100 sites in 30 countries. It sells on cost and functionality which is closer to 100% than the competition.”


Schlumberger’s Rosella Gonzalez showed how the new knowledge work tool Mindshare can be used to facilitate distant collaborative work on a range of Schlumberger’s interpretation tools. A complex workflow involving WellPix, Stratlog, LPM (the StratiMagic look-alike) and GeoViz was captured to key documents and images in Mindshare, a platform independent web-based project description tool.

Surf and Connect

As revealed in PDM (Vol 5 N° 3) PGS are working hard on a new e-commerce offering built around the GIS browser Surf and Connect (aka “surfer”). Surfer uses ArcView, Java Dialogues and a Query Builder. The demo we saw was of the entire license history for the GOM and ran in ASP mode on an off-site server and local Netscape browser. PGS is evaluating ArcInfo 8 including the new Internet Map Server but feel that ESRI have been slow to adapt to the web.


Query can be by area of interest (AOI) and Surfer can also access seismics in PetroBank within a polygonal AOI. One a pick list has been established, project-ready seismics can be exported in Geoshare, Landmark or SEG-Y. Surfer also includes “SuperGrid” – for resampling and building new arbitrary 3D surveys from existing ones. Underlying technology includes Sun Microsystem’s Iplanet which provides Netscape with X-terminal capability. Surfer can browse OpenWorks, Finder, spreadsheets and Access databases. Version 1.3 of Surfer is ready now and provides base mapping and high-quality cartographic mapping with output to CGM or PostScript.

GeoProbe V2

The high-end visualization software Geoprobe from SGI/Texaco start-up Magic Earth is out in a new version. Apart from a new color scheme, the software offers illumination and shadowing of cubes and a new tool – the ‘cutprobe’ a hollow box cursor. Magic Earth are teaming with Rock Solid Images (RSI) to add petrophysical ‘reality’ to the GeoProbe attributes using RSI’s Attrib2D tool. An ASP offering is planned as well as a PC version. The probe costs around $99k per seat, but you can have a free trial study from www.magic-earth.com.

Shared Earth Technologies

Shared Earth Technologies (SET) wants to provide small to medium sized companies with a shared earth model (SEM). SET offers four views of data in the SEM. Plan, 3D, Cross Section and Correlation views of the same model can be visualized in different windows. Editing a horizon in one view initiates real-time changes in all others. Seismic time surfaces can be included and matched to well data surface. At this stage of product development, SET uses a variety of interoperability mechanisms including LAS and ASCII import and direct calls to the OpenWorks dev kit. Ultimately, SET plans to use Open Spirit middleware. Denver–based Shared Earth has finance from Altira. More from www.sharedearth.com.


Version 2 of XoX ShapesProspector (SP) reflects XoX’s maturing from geometry engine and dev-kit provider to application vendor. Previously, XoX sold its geometry engine to developers at SMT, Shell Oil and GeoQuest, but is now marketing SP as a stand-alone PC-based modeling tool. Melissa Harrel put the SP through its paces for PDM. Using well tops and a cylindrical salt model as input, the SP ‘interprets’ a complex (and credible) salt geometry honoring the well cuts (including multiple overhangs). Other functions allow mappings imposing parent/child relationships and other geometrical rules. The portable SEM can be used to take the model to the wellsite. The PC version of ShapesProspector costs $9,950. More from www.xox.com.


If there was a prize for the strangest gizmo at the show it would go to Continuum’s ConCave. A Photomaton-like alcove displays seismics simultaneously on the curved wall and on a flat floor. Phillips Petroleum’s ‘Seismitarium’ software handles the bizarre geometry. Continuum are selling this entry level Virtual Reality center at $30k a pop.

Trap Tester

Badley Earth Sciences are to replace the old Fault Analysis Package (FAPS) with TrapTester (TT). TT builds a 3D computer model of a prospect which can be viewed and tested for seal integrity. Other factors such as spill point and hydrocarbon column height can also be risked with the software. TT integrates major interpretation platforms ‘seamlessly’ and is intended to make seal analysis a routine procedure for the geoscientist. Roll out for the product will extend through 2000 culminating with full voxel interpretation capability by year end.


Seacon Systems believes that the future of seismic storage is the digital video disk (DVD). Seacon chairman Bob Bearnth told PDM “The DVD standards war has been won. DVD is now the storage media of choice for seismic.” DVD currently offers up to 4.7 GB storage and performance is such that the DVD can be used as a hard disk. Software and even the operating system can be physically removed from the system if needed. This offers high level physical security and facilitates machine rental or sharing. When you are through doing whatever you do, you can go home with your data, applications and everything else on a DVD. You can alternatively lock up your software investment in the company safe, perhaps the ultimate in computer security. Mid-year 2000, drive capacity is slotted to increase to 9.2GB. The current disks cost less than $40 each and the drives are in the $ 400 - $600 range.

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