ESRI Petroleum User Group

What is remarkable about the ESRI PUG crowd is their enthusiasm for the latest developments in ESRI’s GIS software product development. It is unusual to hear enthusiastic applause for new features in computer software, but the addition of geo-referenced transparent bitmaps of surface imagery in ArcGIS really seems to have hit a sweet spot in user expectations. While not announced publicly, ESRI’s new petroleum specialist Andrew Zolnai told PDM of ESRI’s plans to put a spatially-enabled version of the PPDM data model into the public domain.

The Earth Sciences Research Institute (ESRI) Petroleum User Group (PUG) 2001 conference convened in Houston last month and mustered the highest-ever attendance in its 11-year history. The majority of the 550 attendees was from the E&P sector and seemed impressed with the latest functionality of ArcGIS and ArcIMS. It’s not every day that applause breaks out during a software demo!


Clint Brown, director of software development, outlined the main issues for ESRI’s clients today. Most of these center on the migration path to the new Arc8 tools, with high expectations for the ArcIMS Internet map server. Despite the plethoric (and intimidating!) product nomenclature, ESRI’s intent, according to Brown, is to “merge systems into single scalable architecture, responding to trends and user requirements in GIS.” New technology drivers for the oil business include the incorporation of exotic data types such as raster, imagery, voice and time series data. This is happening against the backdrop of significant changes in computing platforms which are now distributed, networked, interoperable, loosely coupled, server-based and need to support a range of clients. Brown sees two camps emerging. On one hand there is the SunOne/Java/UNIX environment and on the other, Microsoft’s new MS.NET architecture. ESRI intends to remain platform neutral and will support both platforms. There will also be ‘lots of different clients.’ These will range from wireless, Windows CE, Palms, through browser-based, Java to desktop ArcGIS. XML is the backbone for client access to GIS-enabled Internet servers providing ArcIMS and ArcGIS services. XML will be used as the protocol and Arc for commands.


Brown sees key developments emerging in the management of GIS metadata as enabling data sharing. The integration of CAD vector imagery geo-referenced bitmaps is also germane to the upstream – for example for the display of land/lease records. ESRI is also planning to take over some of the database high ground and is pushing the concept of a ‘geodatabase,’ a scalable container for GIS data. The rationale is to ‘do the geography in the GIS’ and to reduce development overhead through ‘intelligent data.’


ESRI’s Ron Hughes presented the Arc Internet Map Server (IMS) product. IMS was first developed as an extension to ArcView, which evolved into MapObjects. Now, streamed GIS data is instantly available to web-based clients. Hughes demonstrated a server generating a map, zoomed into an area and rendered a map from streamed data. A Java viewer lets you add a local data layer, demonstrated by adding a layer showing rivers across the U.S. ArcIMS is said to be the future of ‘casual-use’ GIS. ArcView 8.1 is more powerful than ArcView 3.2, at the expense of a more complex interface.


Unocal’s John Baines is a GIS evangelist! The Explorationist’s Canvas is Unocal’s attempt to get away from the light table, Mylar, reports and books and to pull its data together into a ‘cohesive story.’ The Canvas was used to prepare Unocal’s bid for acreage in Brazil’s Campos Basin. The resource assessment team needed a composite stratigraphic column, understanding of the sedimentological environment and petroleum system. ArcView and Landmark’s OpenExplorer bring disparate data onto the Canvas to provide the multi-disciplinary asset team with a large amount accessible data. Unocal is trying to ‘beat mother nature’ in terms of pattern recognition and analog models.


Robert Hopkins (Burlington Resources) s howed how GIS was used to leverage information in its new land database. Well information, satellite and topographic images and third party lease data were integrated into the Petroleum Land Analysis Tool (PLAT) system, developed by Burlington. The system addressed business needs such as lease expiry, payments and locating Burlington’s interests by formation and other attributes. PLAT, a custom ArcView extension coupled to a land data mart, lets users define their own queries. Surface imagery can be combined with well and lease information and query results can be output to spreadsheet. The spatial environment promotes use, and enhances landman productivity, because they can now create their own maps.

Field development

The advent of 3D and 4D GIS (GIS with a time component) is helping Earth Sciences Associates solve field development problems in the gulf of Mexico, ESA’s John Grace explained. Using data from the US Minerals Management Service (MMS), a comprehensive 3D GIS covering all fields in the Gulf of Mexico has been developed. 7500 producing reservoirs were included as a 2D polygon of the productive area along with top and bottom for each completion. These surfaces were gridded in Spatial Analyst to map reservoir extent. Spatial Analyst was then used to grid production, GOR and other fluids. Radial flow gridding was also used to map fluid movement and to track GOR and other variables over time.

ArcGIS 8

By the time you read this, ArcGIS 8 will have been rolled out. The new software, demonstrated by ESRI’s Nathan Shepherd, was received with great enthusiasm. Shepherd demonstrated on-the-fly map projections to much applause. But the real showstopper involved access to external data from within ArcGIS. Shepherd went onto, grabbed some wildlife habitat imagery, and showed how control of layer transparency could be used to view both surface imagery and the underlying map data. Other enhancements include control over symbology, scalability across mobile platforms - especially ArcPad.

Deep water

Boykin Witherspoon (MMS) described a new concept from the agency, ‘Open GIS.’ The first component is custom software that will be used to document MMS scientific investigations such as the collection, and conceptualization of multiple data types in coastal and territorial waters. MMS project goals include environmental studies (a digital standard is being drafted), and their integration with existing data. The development is being undertaken by ESRI.


Ron Brush (New Century Software) provided a status report on the Pipeline Open Data Standard (PODS). Developed in conjunction with the GTI (formerly Gas Research Institute), PODS is a database standard for the pipeline industry. The data model involved the upgrading of a previous industry standard pipeline data model ISAT 1.0. PODS will therefore become ISAT 2.0. The PODS Association oversees model development through working groups of industry and vendors. PODS, described as an ‘enterprise pipeline data model’ has over 300 tables, describing facilities, compliance and inspection activities. PODS contributors include Conoco, Chevron and TransCanada Pipelines. More from


Conoco’s Chuck Rinehart offered advice on how to move GIS data to a UNIX storage area network (SAN) ‘without getting killed’. Conoco’s Houston SAN boasts four terabytes of user data and applications. The move to this environment involved changing every file link and pathname. About 120 GB of GIS libraries and 2,800 individual ArcView projects were migrated to SAN disks with redirection of some 180,000 embedded APR file paths files to the new locations. The benefits of SAN? Disks are now decoupled from the server and disk to server bandwidth has been improved. The philosophy adopted in moving the data was ‘keep the Business Running.’ To this effect, Conoco moved 120 GB of GIS data with minimal impact on customers .

Click here to comment on this article

Click here to view this article in context on a desktop

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.