PNEC 2001 Data Integration

Phil Crouse’s Petroleum Network Education Conference has expanded in scope to include e-commerce along with its traditional focus of data integration and management. Held last month in Houston, the 200 plus attendees heard from an unusually high number of vendors, the oil company data managers seemingly have their heads down in mergers and acquisitions. But in general, Crouse’s show keeps its reputation as the data management conference to attend, with many insights into current uses of Geographic Information Systems, XML data exchange and computer security. A round table discussion gave a snapshot of the current state of Application Service Provision.

BP has been testing Wellogix’s Internet enabled software, which is designed to streamline well construction and operations by facilitating collaboration between the operator and various contractors. Wellogix’s Bob Fielding and BP’s Tracy Galloway co-authored a paper based on BP’s pilots in Wyoming and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

E-Field Ticket

A typical scenario starts with a rig-site request for a cement job, sent out a week before the planned work, over a satellite link. Over the next few days, electronic technical proposals and specifications are exchanged and approved. All this was encapsulated in an e-field ticket (eFT), containing the agreed-on specifications and commercial terms. This was then used by the supplier (Schlumberger) to initiate billing. All transactional data is stored in Wellogix’ secure Oracle 9i database.


PetroWeb president David Noel traced the evolution of thinking on E&P data access, from data models to the present situation of multiple databases and multiple clients. Accepting the status quo, Noel advocates the use of ESRI’s ArcView as “very good at connecting disparate databases, it does a great job of integrating internal and external data sources.” Noel further advocates moving the GIS engine, non-proprietary map layers and external database connections into a commercially managed environment outside the client organization. Proprietary data resides internally, behind the firewall. A metadata catalogue is the key to tying this all together. Applications build layered GIS data on the fly – one app has 150 layers, such as seismic, water depth and offshore shipping lanes.

Grand Basin

Vidar Andresen described Landmark’s accelerated re-branding of Petrobank which is now the key component of Landmark’s e-business unit Grand Basin. Originally set up in partnership with SAIC (bought out earlier this year), Grand Basin is now a wholly owned Landmark subsidiary. Andresen traced Petrobank’s history and development for the Norwegian national data repository, Diskos, to its deployment, via PGS, at sites all over the world.

PetroBank is now accessible via Petrobank Online, a web front end for data in the US, London, Stavanger and Australia [see our brief appraisal below].


Geodynamics’ GIS-based data management system was the subject of no less than three presentations, featuring authors from Kerr McGee Oil and Gas, BJ Services, and Enron Transportation services. Enron’s Mark Ferguson described how GIS was used to match pipeline capacity to demand. Enron have integrated Geodynamics’ Petrolynx GIS software with security and access control through Sun’s Java Start plug-in and use the TIBCO Hub Enterprise Application Integration platform.

Morse code

Anadarko’s Will Morse set out to scare his audience by suggesting that disaffected programmers laid-off in Silicon Valley may target oil and gas companies who are ‘gouging consumers.’ Morse’s thesis is that most companies are very unprepared for hacker attacks in the form of denial of service, IP spoofing and so on. He offers some suggestions as to a hacker-proof IT infrastructure based on Open BSD UNIX, which Morse considers the most secure operating system, with Linux catching up. The others ‘are a Swiss cheese.’


Sun’s Network File System NFS 4 (due out this fall) should go some way to plug security holes in current NFS releases thanks to its Pluggable Access Modules (PAM). These offer increased control over users. Morse suggests checking out the CISP standards, and reading the Systems and Network Security Institute’s Journal. He also recommends the VISA Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) self-assessment program for an initial benchmark. Later in the proceedings, Morse offered an unusual application for Network Attached Storage (NAS). According to Morse, “A merger is topologically identical to a disaster.” Anadarko has successfully used Enigma Data Systems’ disaster recovery functionality to migrate systems during the merger with Union Pacific Resources.

ASP – a discussion

The panel discussion on Application Service Provision (ASP) was refreshingly free of hype - almost downbeat in fact. Geonet’s Bill Micho described ASP as a ‘tough marketplace.’ Geonet has been in business for 2 years, and is ‘fully commercial’ since February 2001, operating through monthly subscription, or a higher, hourly rate. Currently over 50 applications are on offer. GeoQuest now offers a monthly subscription service to its software product line, delivered by ASP, and Landmark’s Grand Basin subsidiary does likewise, although Graham Merikow said the move to ASP was not like ‘flipping a switch’. A questioner asked what the situation would be 5 years hence.


The GeoQuest representative gave a revealingly downbeat reply – if ASP does not prove commercial, ‘we will write it off.’ ASP currently is deployed to support the rest of GeoQuest’s business. ASP security was questioned from the floor – to meet with a strong response from GeoNet. Micho insisted that security is higher with a dedicated ASP provider and infrastructure than that generally obtainable in-house. Another issue raised was the potential trap involved in moving to an off-site IT environment. This will likely involve the decommissioning of internal IT infrastructure – making for a voyage of no return – even if, a few years hence, it is decided to abandon ASP. Burlington is currently benchmarking Landmark and GeoQuest’s ASP offerings while BP has been using ASP ‘for 5 years in Aberdeen’.


Innerlogix president Dag Heggelund gave an enlightening paper that went beyond the usual naïve presentation of XML as a tagged data format. Heggelund’s thesis is that the ‘next generation’ of web applications will be built using an XML-based object technology combining XML data files and XSL (stylesheets) for data translation into and out of proprietary environments. Heggelund downplays the importance of standards, saying these would be ‘nice to have’, but are unlikely to materialize. The key is the XML/XSL technology that allows for interoperability in a non-standard world. The Simple Object Application Protocol (SOAP) is also significant in that it circumvents the battle of the CORBA, COM, Java Beans orbs. XML-based data objects will be delivered from Component Servers – which will store meta data, and allow object navigation and retrieval. But the best aspect of all this is that Component XML does not require a re-write of today’s applications. Innerlogix is working with IHS Energy on XML transforms, this is said to be a big paradigm shift. Some insightful remarks from Heggelund – “well logs should have portable web addresses,” “today’s ‘fat’ applications know too much,” “a data item should not know where it lives, have no knowledge of who uses it and not know where it comes from,” and “Bill Gates is not going to implement Open Spirit!”

Mapping to XML

POSC’s Bobbitt believes that the API RP66 format (used in DLIS and Geoshare) is hard to use and that it is overkill for many information sets. A simpler format is needed to exchange such data. Bobbitt’s intent is not to replace RP66 with XML, noting that a 3D dataset is still efficiently handled in RP66, and probably impossible to do with XML. But a set of well header data files would be easily handled in XML. To map RP66 to XML you need

- agreement on a data model

- rules for all data types

- an accepted, sub-optimal schema

- amenable data (as above).

Bobbitt presented some considerations for the RP66 to XML mapping (available from the POSC website - Questioned as to how large binary data files should be moved, Bobbitt responded that RP66 could still be used, or the X-Link pointer mechanism available in XML.


Bill Quinlivan, a Geoshare luminary and free-thinker (with respect to Schlumberger’s own technology) offered an insightful talk on strategies for application integration. Quinlivan points out that Portal technology is all very well, but that the problems associated with data integration will not ‘go away’ as we adopt portals. Integration spans vendors’ and customers’ workflows and raises two problems – data repository communications and algorithm (application) data access. We work in a very heterogeneous environment with a multiplicity of such problems, complicated by the fact that integration is also a source of competitive advantage within a vendor product suite.


Contenders for integration today include Geoshare, Open Spirit and XML – but Quinlivan notes “life is ten times harder for a receiver than a sender of data.” Quinlivan remarked that the difficulty of a solution might be unrelated to the urgency of the problem. Geoshare, Open Spirit etc. may be “hammers looking for nails.” Quinlivan advocates studying each link development project using a straightforward method that takes account of the cost existing and to-be-developed functionality and the communication technology deployed (shared memory, objects, Geoshare etc.) A cross plot of development cost against cost of use shows the ‘cost-performance frontier’. The final optimization process involved arbitration and selection of cost effective link technologies according to constraints such as development budget and/or cost of use.

PDM’s 15 minute test of PetroBank online

PDM tested PetroBank Online, Landmark’s data vending portal. You first need to download Sun’s Java Web Start plug-in (5MB) then another 5MB or so of PetroBank-specific plug-ins (notably Int’s widgets). Following dire warnings of the access that the system requires to your network and computer, you are online with an attractive, ESRI – type split pane tree plus map view interface. There is very little public-domain data available from the UK, rather more in the US. Our attempts to register failed – as did our attempt to access the user guide. While the client seems relatively functional and stable (in a 15 minute test) – the cgi server-side scripts appear shaky, and the public-domain dataset is minimal. The system offers access to Grand Basin (Landmark)’s Application Service Provision offering, but again our attempts to access these Tarantella-based services were thwarted by server side failure. Early days yet, or possibly a temporary server problem. Check it out on

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