Our message for 2008—move up!

Oil IT Journal editor Neil McNaughton witnesses a rare moment of drama on the UK data scene, notes confusion in the tape standards department and suggests a ‘stretch goal’ for 2008.

The was a moment of drama at the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain’s biennial Data Management conference this month. To set the scene for those of you who are not familiar with the UK data scene, and to simplify the picture somewhat, there is already one commercial national E&P data repository—Common Data access (CDA) and another, the National Hydrocarbon Data Archive (NHDA) managed by the British geological Survey. If you like you can read more about the UK’s data efforts in my July 2000 editorial, ‘.com vs. .gov?’

A surprise...

But back to the PESGB conference... Protagonists from both CDA and the NHDA had finished their presentations (more of which in next month’s Oil IT Journal) and had settled down to listen to a few more talks before tea and biscuits. We were all in for a surprise.


Charlotte Norlund from Southampton University’s IT Innovation Center outlined the ‘Avatar-m’ project. This £3 ($6) million project, now running for two years, is seeking to establish a digital data repository of the UK’s seismic data set. The project promises web services-based access to a long-term archive of field and processed data. The project is also designed to support the BBC’s needs for long-term archival of its digital video library. But Avatar-m has a credible seismic partner in Ovation Data Services. How Avatar, NHDA and CDA will relate in the future is a good question. But it is probably not one that the project partners were too keen to answer when they spotted the opportunity of £3 million of UK Government largesse. One can only admire such entrepreneurial opportunism.

SEG –Y? Why not?

In case you think that such stories, from what Slashdot’s editors would call the right-hand-doesn’t-know-what-the-left- hand-is-doing department, are unusual, here is another one—also about seismic data storage by the way. I was surprised to read in the October issue of The Leading Edge of a proposed revamp of the venerable SEG-Y seismic data standard. The proposal came from Energistics and ONGC and in essence, is suggesting a re-vamp of SEG-Y to embrace XML and extend the standard to include more processing information and whatever. What was puzzling—and I have this on good authority—is that the SEG Standards committee was completely unaware of this initiative before it was published in TLE. The moral of the tale? I don’t know—maybe that if you have an idea and an audience—then go for it. Oh, and by the way, we have a more measured account of the ONGC SEG-Y proposal in our report from the Energistics Houston Standards Summit on page 7.


Talking of learned societies, I attended a very entertaining talk by Schlumberger Fellow Oliver Mullins about downhole fluid analysis. This talk is given under the auspices of the SPE’s Distinguished Lecturer Series and if you get the chance, you should definitely hear him. The subject itself is a bit off-topic for Oil IT Journal (OK, when did that ever stop us!), but Mullins is a thought provoking iconoclast. For instance, he concluded by stating that today’s standard deepwater development workflow is ‘not scientific.’ Facilities are planned and built with too few wells and there is no test of the reservoir description in the current workflow—‘You don’t assess error on a computer! You assess error by measurement—by predicting properties and running logs to check.’


On a completely different subject, like many I have been havering over a possible ‘upgrade’ to Vista and Office 2007. I used to enthusiastically upgrade with the expectation that niggling bugs in previous versions of software would be fixed and life would be easier. Some publishers would even produce a list of bugs fixed so that you could see what you were getting. But as time went on the ‘bug fix’ aspect of the upgrade has been written out of the spec sheet by the marketing department.


One bug I would like to see fixed is the ‘dialog of the deaf’ that Windows occasionally engages regarding changes to ‘normal.dot.’ ‘Do you want to save them?’ ‘No thanks, I didn’t make any.’ ‘Where do you want to save them?’ ‘I have no idea.’ And so on. Other issues which I would like to see fixed are the differences in text handling across Excel, Word, Publisher that make content management impossible. But worst are the bugs that come and go. Firefox is always fighting with Windows with embedded hotlinks—fixes are unfixed with every new version. Either the Firefox folks are very bad or Bill is very devious...


One of my favorite ‘coming and going’ bugs is the way an incoming email message occasionally combines its DNA with your nomal.dot (I guess) to produce a cute ‘invisible’ font in your reply. It would be nice to upgrade to Vista safe in the knowledge that all these bugs had been fixed. But it would be even nicer if they had been fixed a long time ago.

Move up!

I don’t want to end the year on a downbeat note. In case you get the feeling that our buggy software is getting us nowhere, I would encourage you to read our report from the 2007 EU Plant Engineering conference on page 6. Derek Middlemas was demonstrating Intergraph’s engineering design capability with a ‘move up’ command on an FPSO* model. A whole deck of the FPSO slid up and reconnected itself on the fly. How it decided what pipes connected with what I don’t know. What happens if you move the flare stack down to the bottom deck? But even if ‘move up’ is more image than reality, it’s a great concept. A ‘stretch goal’ for 2008 maybe? Move up!

* Floating production, storage and offloading.

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