PESGB Data Management SIG 2007, London

The Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain’s biennial data management conference heard of a new oilfield history project from Aberdeen University, of the pros and cons of Web 2.0 from Tribal Tech, of a new ‘business and IT’ modeling tool from Stroma Software, of the Avatar-m project for long term archival of seismics and more from Exprodat on the ‘GIS in E&P’ study.

Siobhan Convery (Aberdeen University) introduced the ‘Capturing the Energy’ (CTE) project which follows along the lines of the Norwegian State Archive (Statsarkivet—see Oil IT Journal September 2007). The aim is to preserve what may become historically significant records of business decisions taken in the development of the UK’s oil and gas fields. Aberdeen University, with support from Total E&P UK and Business Archive Scotland will host the resulting industry archive.


The Frigg Field, which spans the UK and Norwegian boundary, was developed in the 1970s following a landmark international legal agreement. Aberdeen University approached the operator, Total, with regards to documenting UK-specific parts of the field including the MCP01 gas compression platform. This is to include information on machines, equipment, engineering and the 32” gas pipeline to St. Fergus. The resulting Frigg Archive is the first CTE project (sponsored by Total and Gassled) and includes engineering drawings, photographs and reports. These have been captured with Ex Libris’ ‘DigiTool’ digital asset management package. A related ‘Lives in the Oil Industry’ project is to capture oral history. More from

Web 2.0

Paul Duller’s (Tribal Technology) talk on the hardcopy ‘nightmare’ was subtitled ‘from Gutenberg to an e-mess!’ How can organizations dispersed around the world get people to work together as though they are in the same location? For Duller, the answer lies in ‘Web 2.0’ with its social networking tools. Bulletin boards provide answers to simple questions, social networking can be used to locate skills and blogs to publish material. Wikis have been used in-house for electronic communication policy development. Tagging has its role as shown by Flickr’s user-generated tags—and the tools that scan tags and create tag clouds or ‘folksonomies.’ Google Blog Search was recommended as a high quality search engine. RSS offers automated update—unfortunately, ‘most in oil and gas don’t know about RSS and constantly go back and check websites.’ Other Web 2.0 tools offer ‘zero footprint’ on the user’s PC—no local software or storage—which can cause headaches for IT managers. Should they ban Web 2 tools or perhaps study why they are so popular? Microsoft has been a bit slow with Web 2.0 but now offers a more integrated system—a ‘transformed’ Office with SharePoint and Groove for project planning.

Workforce planning

Tim Doel described a project that Venture Information Management conducted for an unnamed client which was finding it hard to manage its business critical Excel spreadsheets in a multi-user environment. These were used for workforce planning and touched on business issues such as HR, skills, aging workforce, local/expatriate mix and so on. The project presented multiple data management challenges as roles and skills changed over time. Some 4,500 roles, 2000 staff/contractors and multiple projects were involved. Consolidating to Excel was ‘a nightmare,’ with intermediate output of around 500,000 rows before pivoting on time. Excel was cumbersome, slow and causing data loss. Venture’s ‘pragmatic solution’ to the Excel hell was ... an Access database with workforce plans exported to Excel for ‘instant analysis.’ Contrary to popular belief, Access is good for a network database on a shared drive—and without IT involvement! The result was ‘network-enabled’ spreadsheets. Some issues remain—it easy to corrupt data with remote synchronization, especially on wireless networks.


Charlotte Norlund, (University of Southampton IT Innovation Centre) presented the Avatar-m project that is investigating ways of storing digital audio/visual and seismic data. The project sets out to address some of the ‘interesting challenges’ that archivists will face in the next 10-20 years: growing data sizes, disruptive technologies, storage obsolescence, economic and ecological issues. The project has support from the BBC and UK DTI. Seismics and video share common issues such as obsolete media, lost assets and compliance (data must be keep for perpetuity). Data management for field and stack data is generally satisfactory but intermediate stage processing data capture (management of processing parameters) ‘could be improved.’ Processing knowledge is not ‘actively managed.’ Looking to the future, ‘market forces are driving seismic data on line.’ Governments are pushing for centralized archiving of seismic. The future is a services-oriented architecture, and a ‘workflow engine.’ Avatar-m sees the future for seismics as online services. There was considerable interest and not a little surprise from the audience regarding the £3 million awarded to the project partners which include Ovation Data. A straw poll established that no one present had been asked to tender on the DTI’s data archival project.

Business and IT mapping

Fergus Cloughley (Stroma Software) unveiled a new modeling tool that creates ‘Business and IT’ (B&IT) diagrams that serve as a ‘common language’ for engineers and IT. Stroma was developed for BP’s Grangemouth refinery. During the Y2K period, BP discovered a communications gap between IT and business. There was no ‘big picture’ of business information flows. BP asked Stroma to build a link between information models and CAD, LIMS, PI, optimization and simulation. The result is a ‘dynamic view’ of process and IT infrastructure. Stroma’s B&IT diagrams show the relationship between pumps and the IT systems that look after the plant. B&IT shows data flows from tank through various business processes and owners into a spreadsheet in the accounts dept. Recent developments include ‘swim lane’ diagrams (beyond Excel and Visio) that are inventing ‘new ways to relate to information.’

GIS in E&P

Chris Jepps presented the results from Exprodat’s multi client survey of the Role of Geographical Information Systems in E&P (OITJ Dec. 07). High end GIS holds out the promise of competitive analysis—although the data management required to achieve this can be hard to realize. Although GIS has been around for a while, it is a ‘young’ business in oil and gas. Some 70% of GIS workers have only been in the business since 2000. A migration of GIS was observed—from geotechnical support to IT. Usage has risen significantly in the last three years and GIS usage is expanding across the organization. Most GIS use is in ‘business services’ (data management), new ventures and exploration—less in development. The report found a ‘sweet spot’ of support to staff ratios of 10:1 or less. No companies used a formal system of metrics to measure GIS service quality. The main GIS support issue was poor integration with other systems (ironic as GIS is marketed as an integrator). 90% of GIS users have not built basic data management structures—this is ‘surprising.’ Standards used were PPDM (36%), PODS (9%) and APDM (9%) with little other standards use reported. 82% of respondents were ESRI users. In general, E&P companies do not use geospatial IT standards. This means they are missing out on systems and data interoperability and fail to ‘unlock spatial data from isolated GIS applications and leverage IT investment in unforeseen and effective ways.’

Records management

Veronica Gordon (Iron Mountain) reminded those present that in US legislations you must comply with records management, ‘or you will go to jail.’ Sarbanes-Oxley is driving record keeping even though many organizations are still ‘in denial.’ Some use ‘arbitrary’ destruction programs—for instance, everything over five years old is trashed. The information management playing field is particularly uneven when it comes to digital records. These are ‘C-level’ issues. The American Records Management Association’s (ARMA) list server has an ongoing debate on topics like ‘what is a record?’ ‘What is a vital record?’ No firm conclusions have been reached to date. But there is a financial carrot to good records management—one Iron Mountain client implemented an RM policy including destruction and reported a 43% ROI over a 3 year period.

Legacy data management

Tarun Chandrasekar (Neuralog) believes that both ‘corporate’ and ‘project’ database paradigms have been shown to work. Issues remain with legacy unstructured data such as paper, image, reports and rasters. Neuralog has been working with Pemex, ‘cleaning gunk off Mylars’ prior to scan. This enables ‘hybrid’ data analysis as available in NeuraSection—allowing for interpretation of calibrated raster logs. Log data management can be complex—requiring interoperability with industry and horizontal applications such as SharePoint, WebParts and Informatica. Chandrasekar distinguishes two cultures—‘enterprise’ data management and ‘Google’ usability. The ideal is a blend of both with added security serving Web 2.0-ish apps. Pemex uses a quality/certification process for approved data. SQL Server Express is deployed for remote workers—a ‘mini me’ database that can be disconnected for field work and synched on return.

This article is based on a longer report from The Data Room. More from

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