ESRI Petroleum User Group 2008

With around 1800 registered, ESRI’s Petroleum User Group is on a roll. We report on how Google Earth is spreading the GIS ‘word,’ on ESRI’s own Arc Explorer spinning globe app, on mashups and a ‘magic pen’ for field workers. Company presentations include Chevron Angola’s ‘turtle’ GIS study, Shell on hydrology and bar coded well heads, Shell’s global GIS and Anadarko’s hardware tests. Pipeline GIS usage is rising—as witnessed by papers from NiSource and BP. We also report on refinery GIS, Python GIS programming and on ESRI’s geological mapping developments.

Clint Brown, ESRI’s head of software, believes GIS is evolving from its project focus to cut across the entire organization—even though integration is still ‘a goal.’ Brown sees GIS as ‘strategic IT, a window into the database.’ Which implies that all feature collections (pipelines etc), image data (rasters) and attribute data is georeferenced. According to a Gartner study, ‘GIS is now as ubiquitous as the database or as ERP.’

Google Earth

To date there have been 350 million downloads of Google Earth (GE). The GE phenomenon has brought ‘consumer mapping’ to a larger audience and has raised the bar for ease of use. GE’s KML (Keyhole markup language) lets users add properties to map layers. But ‘true’ GIS is a lot more than this. Brown’s examples included information deployment across multiple mapping applications, custom maps and mobile applications for field workers. A key trend in ArcGIS 9.3 is the ability to ‘mash up’ information. ArcGIS 9.3 exposes a REST API that ‘turns every web service into a URL for easy, programmable assembly.’ Everything you can do with a desktop GIS application can now be served leveraging the ESRI Web Application Development Framework.

Workflow management

The ESRI Job Tracking Extension (JTX) allows a workflow to be captured and distributed to colleagues. A demo showed JTX use in pipeline construction. The JTX Desktop application integrates with GIS and non GIS applications and provides a list of job IDs with spatial references. A flow chart shows connected jobs that are stored in a central database. JTX manages preliminary CAD design, database setup and high consequence analysis (HCA) with ArcMap fired-up in context and with instructions. The workflow then moves on to the regulatory approval stage with generation of a PDF document.


Dale Hunter demoed ESRI’s ‘mashup’ offering (a.k.a. map services). A map service is created that generates KML. Manager is used to add queries (on wells from drop down list) and then the .NET code is generated for the web map application. On the user’s browser a map appears with a tree view—layers can be turned on and off. Web map layers can be viewed in Microsoft Virtual Earth. REST is used to make calls back into ArcGIS Server to load layers from ArcGIS Online. Any Geodatabase along with its business logic can be published as a service. The PostGres PostGIS extension format is also supported. Mashups integrate GIS with SharePoint with, for instance, OSIsoft’s PI Web Parts linked to maps for real time data analysis and reporting. Brown claimed that it was these windows into real data (as opposed to just ‘a picture’) that distinguished web GIS and ‘consumer mapping.’

Mobile workforce

Mashups for iPhones or higher end devices let you take ‘smart technology’ to the field. ArcGIS Mobile is used in the pipeline industry. Mxd files can be deployed on a field device and drop down lists for pipeline types/materials are populated from the geodatabase to assure consistency. A field worker spots a new housing estate with a playground and can add a new feature on the spot. EnCana helped out with this workflow and demo.

Magic pen

Field workers with no fancy handhelds—or who prefer dealing with pen and paper might like the ‘magic’ pen from Adapx and its companion Capturx for ArcGIS software. The device lets you annotate maps, adding pipelines, wells, whatever from a printed legend. Back in the office the pen docks and data is uploaded. Special paper with a discreet pseudo-random background of dots allows the video camera in the pen to ‘know’ exactly where on the sheet it is.

ArcGIS Explorer

ESRI’s answer to Google Earth is ArcgGIS Explorer (AGE). AGE connects to the ESRI-backed Geography Network for soils, landmasses and high resolution US topographic maps from ArcGIS Online. AGE ‘does a better job of connecting to your internal base maps than Google Earth or Visual Earth.’ On startup, AGE looks for the ESRI home server, or it can be pointed at a user’s home server. Explorer can spider the network looking for other data sources like Shapefiles, KML and imagery. AGE provides server side caching, pre-rendering maps on the server and presenting them to AGE. It is possible to disconnect from the server and work on the cache. An Explorer SDK is available for extending and customizing. Any url can be accessed and drill-down through popups to other urls—for well information, core slab photos etc. Tasks have a ‘send to’ function for driving directions, weather finder or Wikipedia search. The Geonames web service ( provides a lexicon of place names. ESRI plans to offer high quality international data from Digital Globe as a premium service. But while Google can afford to ‘dump’ this data, ‘we have to stay in business!’

Chevron Angola

Greg Slutz described Chevron’s ArcGIS-based map of its Malongo base in Angola. The mapping project includes an environmental facet as there are some 200 turtle nests along the beach. GIS is also applied to facilities, field outlines and bathymetry. Imagery has been acquired along the Cabinda coast for turtles and seismic planning. The mapping system provides access to a workforce spread between San Ramon, Houston and Cabinda. Chevron’s Project Development and Execution Process was used, a phased approach to deployment with standard tools and an executive review process. The system is built atop an ArcSDE database and data is loaded from IHS and other vendors. ArcGIS 9.2 has been deployed for its replication features. Maps are generated as PMFs or GeoPDFs. In the future Chevron is to offer GoCAD to GIS data conversion.

Shell hydrology

Keith Fraley’s presentation outlined Shell’s data cleanup project in support of hydrological studies in the Piceance basin oil shale play. The project involved a move from ‘convoluted’ well names and ‘Excel hell’ to a standardized hydrological database. A well identification program was initiated to clean up well headers in OpenWorks and environmental data in Earth Soft’s EQuIS. Data verification was performed with photos and field videos of each pad. DuraLabel vinyl ‘2D QR Barcode’ stickers were placed on each well. Now field crews visit wells with ArcGIS Explorer on Panasonic Toughbooks and rugged bluetooth barcode readers. GPS Navigation is performed with a free application, EarthBridge—this takes GPS and turns it into KML on the fly. Fraley liked ArcGIS Explorer and its API—AGE is ‘the only spinning earth application that does subsurface.’ There is also ‘good support for ESRI data—geodatabases and shapefiles.’

NiSource Gas

NiSource’s GIS Portal supports a diverse user community in 17 states according to Debra Rohrer. It was developed with ESRI GIS Portal Toolkit. The rationale behind NiSource’s Portal is that while ‘pipeline is our passion, others do endangered species, land etc. better than we can.’ GIS is considered as a ‘breaker-down of silos.’ A demo showed drill down from the map of pipeline system for a project—including drilling new wells, workovers and or acquisition and bringing in new production to the pipe network. Portal acceptance is now ‘very high.’

Python and GIS

Chad Cooper (Southwestern Energy) got a good turn out for his introduction to GIS programming in Python. Python is fast, reading a 100,000 line text file into memory easily. The CeODBC third party module is used to connect to a database. The smtplib offers easy emailing and Wget offers a command line interface for file, http or ftp retrieval. This can easily download data from sources such as the (US Quad data.) Third party modules support Excel read/write, mySQL database access and geocoders for GE, Yahoo and more.


Peter Moreau offered an under the hood look at Anadarko’s ArcGIS deployment (co-developed with Geodynamic Solutions). Early tests on a virtual machine failed. System design used Dave Peters’ capacity planning tool and ended up with two quad core dual socket servers with 16GB RAM running 64 bit Windows 2003 Server. Anadarko’s main use is web map publishing from ArcGIS Server Manager. Data packages include Geologic Data Systems which comes packaged as ArcGIS projects. These were getting light use before this project. ArcGIS Server offers simple list-based access to data and publishes the full functionality of packaged products. A production surveillance application displays variance on the last two days of production—this is easy map view and print to PDF.

GIS and the ASME B31.8S

John Lineham (Enbridge) described the book ‘American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) B31.8S’ a.k.a. ‘Managing system integrity of gas pipelines’ as ‘great value at $110.’ The 2001 standard covers integrity management planning, detection, prevention and mitigation. Risk is defined as the product of the probability of failure and its consequences (to service, humans and environment). GIS is used for threat analysis, maintenance, communications (who to call), reporting (maps and documents) and data storage.

BP’s refinery GIS

Boris Kowalewski’s company, ViaSecure, has developed a GIS solution for BP’s German refining unit. A ‘comprehensive data model’ covers facilities, tasks, network analysis, cost and reporting and supports construction, monitoring, networks, warehouse logistics, safety, fire brigade activity and maintenance. The solution had to be ‘no hassle’ for refiners with no GIS experience. The system is built around an ArcGISServer, and an ArcGIS Desktop extended by Plant Data Model and standard tasks. The geodatabase runs on SQL Server (BP policy) to ArcGIS and out via an RSA Server to login from a geobrowser.


Berik Davies presented Shell’s Global GIS, built atop SDE on Oracle and AIMS clients. Data is replicated from the Amsterdam master out to Shell’s worldwide units with NetApp’s ‘Snap Mirror’ on a monthly basis. Usage monitoring with Nagios open source monitoring software allows for scripting for fancy monitoring of servers, SDE performance and drill down into users, warnings etc. This information lets Shell go back to IT with documented service level agreement issues and helps pinpoint problems. SnapMirror operates at the block level so only changed blocks are replicated. In 2008 ArcGIS Server is to replace ArcIMS. Data KPIs are captured via crawlers and show on a standard dashboard. Shell data quality KPIs include broken links, data with no CRS, duplicates, unused data, stale data deprecated. Exprodat’s IQM is ‘pervasive in Shell’.

BP’s offshore pipelines

New Century Software, working for BP’s Gulf of Mexico unit, has extended the PODS base with offshore components. These have been returned to PODS and are now in the 3.2 model. Additions include physical inspection, cathodic protection and online video. BP’s Gulf of Mexico pipeline management system includes hot links to BP’s Deepwater Documentum EDMS for engineering documents and links between GIS and streaming video sources. This includes ROV surveys of subsea pipes. Sidescan sonar is displayed as a backdrop. Search is possible from IMS across map features and the database. The yearly Oceaneering/Fugro ROV surveys create a huge dataset. Data is time stamped for comparison with ‘as built.’ BP has a lot of reporting requirements to fulfill.

Geological mapping

Steve Grisé presented ESRI’s work on cartographic representations of geological maps, linking GeoScienceML to the Geodatabase. Challenges include the ‘complex and interpretive’ nature of geology and its multiple lists of descriptions and a ‘disconnected’ between map and data views. The GeoSciML prototype is designed to get GeoSciML content in and out of a geodatabase. XSLT is used to go from GSML to the geodatabase then ETL to get back to XML of web services. A demo involved data from USGS NGMDB and OneGeology (for mineral exploration and geohazards.) A geological map was made showing the name of a formation and its dominant lithology—with data extracted from a labyrinth of GSML formation identity data. Tools used in development include Stylus Studio Enterprise XML editor and Microsoft Vision to browse the geodatabase.

This article is taken from a longer, illustrated report produced as part of The Data Room’s subscription-based Technology Watch Service. More from

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