‘Perfect storm’ for e-field standards?

The ‘digital oilfield’ lies at the intersection of two IT domains—upstream and process control. Both are working on XML protocols for interoperability—a perfect storm, or a test bed for W3C technology?

At the 2005 Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Conference and Exhibition, held in Dallas this month, one vendor described the ‘perfect storm’ that is brewing around the standards that will underpin the digital oilfield. At issue is who is to be in charge of automated and optimized oil and gas production. There are currently two overlapping domains.


In the left corner is the upstream, the traditional bailiwick of the production engineer—aided and abetted by the reservoir engineering community. These folks are traditionally involved in the front-end engineering design (FEED) production systems.

Process control

Over in the right corner there is the process control industry, whose mainstream activity is based in the factory, but whose technology, particularly SCADA, is widely used to monitor and control oil and gas production.


The standards storm is brewing because the upstream brigade is moving from FEED to real-time simulation and production optimization. At the SPE, Shell’s Ron Cramer introduced a new project for a PRODML modeling language targeting real time production operations—see our report from the SPE ACTE on pages 6&7 of this issue.


But the process control industry is simultaneously working on XML-based process control standards, notably the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society’s ISA SP95 and its XML manifestation—the Business to Manufacturing Markup Language—B2MML.


Recognizing that one size does not fit all, the PRODML community plans to model up to the data historian and to leave the automation to the downstream ‘black magic’ of SP95. But for the digital oilfield to really take off, greater visibility will likely be required across the ‘frontier’ of the data historian.

Perfect storm?

Whether we are heading for a perfect storm is a moot point. The vendor we spoke to saw the colliding standards as a great opportunity. While ‘wrapping’ different ‘MLs’ into a proprietary system may be good business for a software vendor, it is perhaps not really what the standards movement is about.


In another SPE presentation, Russel Foreman presented BP’s web services real time data architecture project RTAP (more in our SPE report on pages 6&7). Foreman recognizes another potential threat to web services deployment in the form of ‘boxed’ web services from vendors such as SAP. Foreman recommends sticking with the W3C standards as the best route to compliant, interoperable systems. Sounds like good advice in the face of a potential standards ‘storm’.

Click here to comment on this article

Click here to view this article in context on a desktop

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.