SPE Information Technology Technical Section

Integration and IT/engineering ‘hybrids’ a.k.a. ‘digital engineers’ discussed by SPE luminaries.

Yanni Charalambous (Oxy), who chairs the SPE oilfield integration workgroup, described the multiple integration opportunities that exist across data, process, asset, people systems integration. The intent is to facilitate the development of integration solutions through organizations such as Energistics and PPDM. An online library of use cases is being developed in conjunction with the University of Houston.

Bertrand du Castel (Schlumberger) wondered why computing in oil was so separate from rest of the IT universe. du Castel believes that Berners-Lee’s Semantic Web is going to take us to a ‘contextual and intelligent’ web where we can ‘look for meaning rather than key words.’ The World Wide Web Consortium got in touch with du Castel a year ago and the kick-off Semantic Web in Oil and Gas conference will be held later this year.

Kamel Bennaceur (Schlumberger and SPE IM Director) believes that information dissemination is both a key role for the SPE and a significant IM enabler. The SPE spends a lot on dissemination. The spe.org website has seen a major revamp, with the ‘OnePetrol’ e-Library. A new review process is accelerating the time from presentations to publication and the ‘Petabytes for Asset Management’ forum has been kicked off. A new journal on ‘decision making’ is mooted.

Peter Breunig (Chevron) asked if integration was an obvious target for the SPE? du Castel questioned the premises of this meeting – today we can build systems that automate entire oilfield systems. We should be looking less to integrate systems, rather to automate human processes. Ron Cramer (Shell) expressed concern over the enormous scope of what was being discussed—suggesting homing in on an ‘80/20’ solution. Matthew Kirkman (BP) suggested a focus on IT infrastructure/framework was required saying that ‘We are realistically still 5 years away from SOA and still need standards to support this. Kirkman also questioned why the industry was so far behind retail asking, ‘Why is there no barcode on my 9 5/8th casing?

A second panel, of Don Paul (Chevron), Herb Yuan (Shell), Don Moore (Oxy) and Iraj Ershaghi (CiSoft) deliberated on the concept of a ‘Digital Petroleum Engineer.’ Paul noted that IT is engaged and ‘blended’ into the upstream. Managing upstream information systems increasingly involves domain knowledge and business content. Historically, people involved in this activity were ‘raised’ internally—engineers became IT folks. But it is now necessary to look outside of the organization.

Yuan is a petroleum engineer by training and is now an IT manager. Yuan thinks that industry has ‘tolerated’ IT amateurs and vice versa. But today we need a new generation that can combine both IT and domain skills. The problem is that in Shell, people can make career progress either as an engineering or IT professional—but not as a ‘hybrid.’ Ershagi described the Chevron-supported USC/CiSoft ‘experiment’ of bringing IT and petroleum engineering students together to create a ‘renaissance’ or ‘hybrid’ engineer. But do you take engineers and teach them IT or take IT students (who couldn’t do physics) and teach them engineering? Ershagi’s answer is unequivocal, ‘Do the former—teach domain specialists the IT they need. Youngsters may be great on an Xbox, or with Excel but this is not enough—which is why we have a degree program combining engineering with IT.’

The ensuing debate ranged widely around the subject. One major reported ‘losing control’ when it went over to full IT supported projects—IT should be an enabler. Another ‘hybrid’ reported that HR couldn’t track his move from IT to drilling. This can adversely affect one’s career prospects. It’s preferable to be in drilling, production or subsurface—especially in a downturn! An IT specialist offered that ‘you can’t turn an engineering prototype into an enterprise system in six weeks.’ There is a problem of mutual recognition of competencies.

Click here to comment on this article

Click here to view this article in context on a desktop

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.