ESRI Petroleum User Group 2005

There were around 900 in attendance at the 2005 ESRI PUG—a record. The hot stuff for ESRI is the new ArcGIS Server which unifies ArcGIS, ArcIMS and ArcSDE in what is today a .NET-based web services model. ChevronTexaco, Shell and OMV described their very different corporate GIS deployments. The lack of true 3D functionality is exercising ESRI’s oil and gas users—the current 2D solution isn't up to reservoir model visualization. Pipeline data model wars are back with ESRI’s APDM model lending support to the ISAT camp. Finally, a new ESRI Developer Network subscription is now available offering all products and development tools for a modest fee.

ESRI’s Clint Brown offered a keynote which emphasized new ESRI technologies—the emerging web services based ArcGIS Server, a new ArcReader ‘swipe tool’ for paging between different datasets for change detection and a cute 3D view for publishing ArcGlobe documents. ArcGIS Server, which unifies ArcGIS, ArcIMS and ArcSDE, lets users create complex, dynamic maps which can be served to remote web clients via SOAP/XML. ArcGIS Server should help companies integrate software environments although it currently only supports the Microsoft .NET framework. Brown insisted that ‘web services are in the mainstream of ESRI development’—even though they are currently ‘a bit shaky’. Microsoft Visual Studio 2003 was described as ‘fragile.’ Popup killers present a danger for web services and performance varies. ESRI is testing integration with SAP’s NetWeaver platform.


John Calkins (ESRI) offered a offered a GIS fireworks display analyzing satellite imagery over what was presented as a ‘nuclear fuel enrichment facility’ at Natanz, Iran. Calkins (an ex-geologist) showed how geoprocessing was used to ‘explore’ for similar facilities, taking account of constraints such as proximity of roads, distance from centers of population and especially, earthquakes. The latter led to Calulkin’s ‘aha! moment’ as the reason for the Natanz site became evident. Time variant data in ArcMap was used to ‘replay’ the history of construction. Calkin suggested this could be leveraged in oil and gas exploration for competitor analysis.


Gregory Schutz showed how pervasive GIS has become in ChevronTexaco (CTC). From plate tectonic reconstruction, through competitor analysis, seismic well and pipeline planning to retail market location of service stations. One intriguing application involves the 50,000 strong tanker truck fleet that CTC operates. The tachometer is coupled to a GIS and can be used to observe excessive breaking or acceleration. Such information can be used to coach driver behavior or, in extremis, a supervisor can call the cops and hit a button that slows the truck down to 5-10 mph! CTC’s global GIS vision is for all data in a single database image, enabled by SDE. Schultz also showed a CTX internally developed decision support tool iDeSIDE. This integrates unstructured document access via MetaCarta and a bidirectional link between ArcMap and Spotfire’s DecisionSite.


Thierry Gregorius presented Shell’s global enterprise rollout of ArcGIS 9—under a ‘groundbreaking agreement’ with ESRI. For Shell, GIS is the ‘Swiss army knife’ of the energy business. Each regional office has a GIS master database with binary data in SDE, and geometry in Oracle SDO. Project environments leverage the ESRI Personal GeoDatabase to offer live GIS data at the desktop. A ‘sophisticated’ support model is being rolled out, linked to Shell’s global, 7x24 IT help desk. Asked how GIS could be improved, Gregorius requested, ‘No more bugs please!’ According to ‘a study,’ GIS produces some of the most bug-ridden software of any industry. Shell’s Portal gives seamless web text search for any GIS feature. Users click on a feature and a keyword is supplied to all Google tools available. Gregorius observed that while Portals are great, ArcGIS cartography and high quality paper maps remain ‘core business’ to Shell. Metadata and catalogs make predictable and reliable retrieval of relevant data.


OMV’s GIS workflows were the subject of Achim Kamelger’s presentation. Following the acquisition of Petrom last year, Vienna-based OMV now has 65,000 employees. OMV’s GIS projects are of a similar scope to CTC above and depend on consistent attribute names in layer files and SQL queries to build useful maps. OMV stores its GIS data in a geodatabase on an SDE server and is ‘trying to eliminate Shapefiles’. Problems include the fact that not all mapping applications can plug in to the SDE server, locking of the personal geodatabase and user management (hard to synchronize with LDAP, Active Directory). OMV’s MIS system gets production data from the field and serves maps and pie charts over ArcIMS. Future developments will include links to Petrel, GeoFrame, OpenWorks, Eclipse and Petrosys. Open Spirit will likely be a key component of the solution. OMV’s GIS is also moving mid/downstream.

Shell Oil Products

Shawn Hansson described how Shell Oil Products was using pipeline data management to support risk and integrity assessment. Much impetus for the work came from the US DOT risk management program which mandated inspection programs that matched local conditions and also led to consequence modeling. With help from Geofields, Shell uses GIS analytically in its risk assessment program. This is scheduled to last four years and will cover 10,000 pipeline miles and over 100 terminals.


Brad Taggart (Petroweb) was enthusiastic about web services in ArcGIS server. Service oriented architecture (SOA) is not new, previously there were DCOM and CORBA. But these have been ‘eclipsed’ by web services. Web services are platform neutral and ‘easier to develop’ than DCOM. The downside is performance, ‘your mileage may vary.’ Taggart suggests that if all you need is to put a map on a web page, then use ArcIMS. But ArcGIS Server provides the whole functionality of ArcObjects including geocoding and geoprocessing over the web. Current Petroweb projects include an area of interest (AOI) application which kicks off proximity searches across multiple databases. Subsequently, web services monitor events occurring within the AOI and notifies users when new data arrives.

3D Working group

Shell’s Brian Boulmay chaired the 3D working group which is attempting to help move ESRI technology into the 3D modeling field – recognizing that it would be unwise to ‘re-create Petrel in ESRI’. The ESRI user community would like to be able to drop a Petrel (or other geoscience) model into a future ‘voxel-enabled’ 3D ESRI product. Shell and others consider the lack of true 3D functionality in ArcGIS as the main roadblock on ESRI’s further progress in the oil industry. Today, ESRI’s products support only 2 D – i.e. they can model simple, vertically extruded shapes like buildings. Current thinking is that ESRI will not hold the master copy of a 3D model. Linkage could be via Open Spirit, Petrosys tools or using ESRI/Safe Software’s ArcGIS Data Interop plug-in. Boulmay described Shell’s workflows as ‘huge processes’ involving spatializing OpenWorks data, loading to ArcScene and archiving in SDE. The possibility of Landmark and Schlumberger storing data in SDE was raised, but it would seem that ‘neither want to store data in a proprietary [ESRI] data model.’ Hence the desire for an ‘open’ 3D model. The working group’s goal is to ‘influence ESRI’s future development, not to create solutions’.


Petris’ Robert Maggio’s paper on the Digital Pipeline traced the history of pipeline GIS from the alignment sheets of the 1980s to SCADA/GIS Integration of the 1990s. Today, the pipeline world is moving on to automated one-call processing, field data recording and pipeline databases. On the topic of which, the ‘pipeline database wars’ have been rekindled somewhat with ESRI’s APDM spatial pipeline data model. This endorses the MJ Harden-backed ISAT data model – and leaves the more ‘open’ PODS community out in the cold. The reality is though that many PODS members make a living moving data around from one format to another. In a sense, the more models the merrier—bring ’em on!

Gas Leak Detection

Darryl Murdock, ITT Industries, used Visual Basic and ESRI tools to develop its ANGEL airborne leak inspection system. Twin data streams allow for plane routing and targeting of sensors. Tortuousity parameters and ‘wifferdils’ tune the flight path. An extended ArcGIS tool bar allows for post flight data analysis, with videos linked to maps of pipe routes. Leaks are detected using a Laser by measuring minute changes in ground reflectivity. The US DOT sponsored a test at Rocky Mountain Test center over a simulated, leaky pipeline.

This article has been taken from a longer, illustrated report produced as part of The Data Room’s Technology Watch Reporting Service. More from

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