SRI oil and gas technology management

The Strategic Research Institute’s conference on Restructuring Oil and Gas Business Strategies through Technology Management was held in Houston last month. Although attendance was low, the presentations cut across the Oil IT space—from upstream document standards and text searching through computer security, refinery control systems and into the retail space.


Glenn Mansfield described Flare Consultant’s work for Shell Expro. As teams collaborate and work sequentially on data, Shell has found a need to ‘pass the baton’ effectively from one workgroup to another. Shell is defining best practices which are shaped by, and embedded in company policy, before being made accessible to all. A spin-off from this project is a new upstream taxonomy—implemented in conformance with the Dublin Core Metadata XML. This has been developed to associates concepts—so that a search for ‘PVT’ will bring up a list of related terminology for further search. The results of the Shell project were presented during two recent workshops hosted by POSC.

Global Information Links

Mike Craig (N. America Web Champion with ChevronTexaco (CT)) described how CT has standardized on an HP desktop and bought 32,000 units for world-wide deployment. All desktops are standardized so that a worker has the same software in Kazakhstan or in New Orleans. Users can add on and self-manage specific tools—all of which are tested by CT before acceptance. An estimated $50 million in support costs has been saved. The number of applications supported is down from around 5,000 to 1,200. Remote access is provided by NetGIL, a CT developed interface using Citrix MetaFrame. Smart card security is under development.

Real-time learning

Steve Abernathy is director of Human Resources with Halliburton Energy Services Group. Halliburton has a huge turnover in personnel. In 1998, 4000 were laid off while in 2000, 6000 were hired! With a deep offshore rig costing $300k per day, ‘on the job’ training is no longer an option so Halliburton has been developing simulators for tasks like coiled tubing drilling, and sand wash. Another project is ‘Chunk-IT’—described as 24x7 learning using a ‘blended model’ of instructor-lead work, virtual work and e-learning. Halliburton’s 28,000 online courses have saved $4 million on travel expenses alone. Thousands of hours of productivity have been ‘handed back to the organization’.

The e-station

Michael Williamson (IBM) described this pilot done for Shell’s US retail arm. The e-station connects Shell’s gas stations to a central IT site over VSA Hughes satellites for data exchange and credit card transactions. The e-station pilot tracks electricity use—spotting faulty air conditioning, or open fridge doors, and lights that go on too soon or off to late. Key technologies include IBM’s WebSphere, Silicon Energy’s Real Time database and application server, Echelon’s LonWorks Energy Management package, wireless system from Graviton and OSGI standard networks.

The Living Business Plan

Scott Reid (Schlumberger – Merak) described a project carried out for Unocal. Unocal used to perform volumetrics and reserve estimates using spreadsheets, linked to a diverse software portfolio and involving a lot of error-prone re-keying of data. Schlumberger Information Solutions stepped in with a workflow called the Living Business Plan (LBP). The LBP is a “complete foundation for the alignment of corporate goals throughout the organization.” For Shell, the LBP has refined the business planning process in SIEP, Oman, Nigeria and in the USA. Tools used include SAP and Merak’s risk portfolio management. Service offerings include customized workflows, infrastructure comes from LiveQuest and eMarketPlace.

Refinery IT

Nirmal Dutta (ExxonMobil (EM)) described how real time knowledge of what is happening at both ends of a pipeline is key to EM’s Cerro Negro heavy crude project in Venezuela. Heavy crude (8° API) is diluted with Naphtha and piped 320 km to a syncrude plant. EM’s Integrated Refinery Information System (IRIS) instrumentation accepts data from digital and analog sensors and offers voice and data integration. An ICIMS-compliant document management system and a CMMS—compliant maintenance system were linked to ERP from JD Edwards. Op Costs were lowered significantly as data was only entered once—and flowed from control system into applications.

AI for text searching

Michael Massey (Pliant Technologies) presented Pliant’s SourceWare which applies Artificial Intelligence to text search and reconstruction (on poor quality scanned forms). The technique is variously described as AI, fuzzy logic, an ‘inference engine’ and ‘beyond taxonomy’. Searching a dataset of 12 million medical abstracts for ‘kidney’ brought hits on ‘renal’ and other miss-spelt versions like ‘kideney.’

LINUX Seismic Processing

Jeff Davis (Amerada Hess) described how cost cutting has hurt Hess’ IT budget. The company still likes to do its own seismic processing – leveraging the talents of two PhD seismic specialists. Hess’ legacy code – now 18 years old – has been re-compiled to run on new Linux clusters. Paralogic helped out with Linux cluster-based IT. Generally, to survive cost cutting, Hess’ high performance computing team has been reduced to ‘skunk work’ – using old computers that were lying around – or buying second hand machines on e-Bay!

E-Business Security

Will Morse (Anadarko Petroleum) listed ways of hardening systems to make them resistant to attack by hackers. Mostly this entails keeping security patches up to date, turning off services you don’t use and proper management of passwords. Morse preaches in favor of defense in depth, “A firewall is just the start!” and advocates having one task—mail, FTP, etc. on separate, dedicated machines. A comprehensive solution to security is required but ‘folks are in denial.’ Morse cited IDC security officer John Gantz who observed “Despite 9/11, corporations see security as an IT function, not a business issue.” Education of managers and users as to the risks and remedies is the key. Everyone should be prepared—not for ‘if,’ but ‘when’ you are hacked!

This article is a shortened version of a five page report on the SRI Conference available as part of The Data Room’s Technology Watch Service. For more info on this, email

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