OilIT.com new sponsors and more on lists

Oil IT Journal welcomes its new and renewing sponsors for its online editions. Editor Neil McNaughton offers a round-up of technology watching, noting a converging interest from geologists, engineers and e-business in catalogs and wonders if this is what will break down the silo walls.

Before this month’s editorial, a word about our sponsors. First, a big thanks to our renewing sponsors for the 2004/5 period. In alphabetical order, these are;


Foster Findlay Associates


Kelman Technologies

Landmark Graphics


Petris Technology


Venture Information Management

Next, a special welcome to our new sponsors,


HP Invent


By supporting our website and online editions, these companies demonstrate their commitment to oil and gas information technology. Next time you are on www.oilit.com make sure you visit their websites too.


As you are probably aware, our parent company, The Data Room, has been watching oil and gas information technology evolve for nearly a decade. Our coverage spans upstream, pipeline, GIS, construction and also ‘generic,’ horizontal IT—both in the commercial arena and in the standards sector.


This year has been a particularly enriching experience for us. We have renewed our contacts with the plant data management sector—see our report from the USPI-NL meeting on page 5 of this issue. E-commerce has likewise come back into the spotlight with a report from the Trade Ranger Community Conference (page 8). Earlier this year we also attended the World Wide Web Consortium plenary meeting and reported on the activity of the Semantic Web special interest group.


At the same time our regular coverage of industry trade shows such as the AAPG—and later this year, the SEG and SPE, along with specialized vendor and data management shows give us a ‘unique’ viewpoint on the industry. ‘Unique’ is a word we always remove from press releases on the grounds that it is unlikely ever to be true. But our technology coverage is demonstrably unique. Why? Because no other organization attends such a broad cross section of the oil vertical’s conferences. Even internal company attendees usually come from the particular segment; people rarely look over the silo wall.

Out of depth?

Now I use the phrase ‘unique viewpoint’ advisedly. We don’t claim omniscience. We do not pretend to have in-depth knowledge of every field. Indeed whether we are at the W3C, visiting with the Trade Ranger community, or trying to make sense of ISO 15926, 13584 and PI-STEP we have come to a state of being nearly always out of our depth.


At first—and I mean the first year or two of watching technology—this was a scary experience. I remember arriving at the old Plant Information Management show back in 1999 and wondered just what I had let myself in for! It seemed incomprehensible and off-topic, and it required a considerable effort of mind to stick with much of the esoteric jargon.

Business objects

Now I look forward to arriving in a new community and trying to find out what’s going on. To take the temperature of a community. To see if they are heavy duty IT techies (like for instance the business object aficionados of yore), or if they are domain specialists—to whom a ‘standard’ may just be a Microsoft Word document packed with information.


One thing that has forced us into the deep end is the continued emphasis that the industry puts on ‘breaking down the silo barriers’. Talk of the e-field, of simultaneous computer modeling of subsurface and facilities, of GIS as an enabler and other horizontal solutions all means that coverage should be as wide as possible.


But getting back to that unique if somewhat blurry viewpoint, I’d like to try and tie together a few lose ends from our coverage of the last few months—if not of the last few years. To a degree, the ‘techies vs. domain specialists’ dichotomy reflects a differing focus on container or content. For instance are we to standardize the data model, or the well name list? It can be hard to understand just what each community is trying to achieve—often I’m not sure they have really decided themselves!


Which leads me to the commonality I have observed in just about all of the meetings I have attended for the last year or so—the commonality of the catalog. Everyone, from geologists through e-marketers to construction engineers, wants to use standard lists of names. There has been a distinct shift in emphasis from container to content.


But is it good enough to embed a standard catalogue in a proprietary tool? Or even in an ASCII file, Lotus Notes or a Microsoft Word document. For cross silo information sharing, we should be looking to the catalog container as well. Somewhere in the W3C plethoric sub-domains—OWL, RDF, and other XMLs there must be a way to do this. But even the W3C has a problem with its own silos. There are just too many ways to skin the ‘standard container’ cat! This is indeed a great frustration for the subject matter hoppers that we are. If only we could point those domain specialists in the direction of a single, straightforward cataloging technology. Along with units of measure naturellement..

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