Oil IT Journal Interview—Robert Graham, BHP Billiton

BHP Billiton’s GIS Data Manager describes Google Earth Enterprise deployment and integration.

Speaking at the ESRI PUG, Graham presented BHP Billiton’s Map of Maps* ArcMap document indexer (developed by Xavier Berni of Geodynamics), a geographic front end to its 4,000 plus map catalogue, comparing it to the frontispiece of an atlas. MoM makes BHPB’s catalogue accessible from BHPB’s ‘Earth Search’ application which combines Google Earth with a ‘PetroSearch,’ BHPB’s implementation of the Verity content management system. After the PUG we met with Robert Graham in BHP Billiton’s Houston visualization center.

How does the consumer version of GE compare with the Enterprise edition?

Enterprise accesses both the Google data and the BHP Billiton server with our own imagery and petroleum data like wells, fields, and leases. You can see more high resolution data on the version the GE provides for public use in most populated cities. But the Enterprise server lets you add in your own content—which is what we have done with Earth Search. Where Google Earth for public use does not have high-res or up-to-date images, we can serve out our own imagery quickly and intuitively. Data integration uses the Keyhole Markup Language (KML).

What does KML bring?

KML lets you mash-up base maps with data from various sources—with volcanoes and earthquake data from the USGS, photographs from Panoramio (e.g. of Venezuelan refineries). You can also link any well data source through its UWI so that you can fire up other viewers or data sets to retrieve information about the well. Typically these would be in-house applications like GetKnowledge, PetroSearch—or Schlumberger’s eWellFile.

What about vendor data?

BHPB has loaded its IHS Probe, WoodMac PathFinder , Fugro-Robertson Tellus, ESA Gom-Cubed vector data. Satellite images are provided from our retailer Spatial Energy. Some large feature classes like wells (800,000+) took nine days to rasterize and load into the Earth server through the Fusion interface. We also link well data to eWellFile, a DecisionPoint components that aggregates well information from Finder, OpenWorks and Enterprise Upstream. Since this goes through the web client, access respects user privileges. We also have a link to public Google text search from each feature.

How hard was it to integrate vendor data?

The pain is having to convert to data that is not delivered in shapefiles. The IHS wells layer was hard as it contains so many wells. We had to divide the IHS data into smaller chunks to load. Once under 200,000 features the wells loaded in minutes rather than days. We use the IHS Spatial Layers Manager to spatialize data from OpenWorks, Finder, Stratabugs etc. from our multiple locations. The layer is rebuilt overnight.

What is the Fusion server?

The Enterprise edition of GE comprises the Fusion Server (for data input) plus the Earth Server device. The globe is all pre-built and rasterized at 24 levels. It takes 30 hours to build once per week. And it took a significant effort to get here. Three months of development to load, tune and link the layers to other sources. The Earth server now supports 250 concurrent users all over the world from one device.

What about high-end GIS?

Well there is no geoprocessing in this environment, no complex queries. But for specific purposes you can build a kml file (we use Arc2Earth) for, say, a bid round with the relevant data. There are natural boundaries between the consumer oriented apps like GE and ArcGIS. Simple queries, printing and labeling should be done with a high-end GIS, but quick look viewing of large data volumes is easy.

How does the imagery in Enterprise GE compare with the public stuff?

That’s the strange thing! You only get the relatively low resolution data in the Enterprise edition, not the high-res public imagery. We do order higher resolution imagery for our areas of interest through the Energy Partner Program from Spatial Energy. We ordered some very high resolution satellite images from GeoEye for a geological field trip to the Grès d’Annot. At home people are spoilt with access to a lot of ‘free’ high resolution data and assume that when you buy the PRO license that the resolution and freshness of the images gets better all over the world. Some users even imagine that the data they are seeing is ‘real time’! In fact managing user expectations is an important aspect of a big deployment like this.

* Map of Maps is a free download from http://arcscripts.esri.com/details.asp?dbid=15451.

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