Tale of two conferences—Crouse strikes back!

Phil Crouse defends his PNEC conference against the ‘dullness’ charge—and reflects on the increasing commercialization of some Society of Petroleum Engineering ‘technical’ presentations. Data management may not be ‘exiting,’ but PNEC strives to provide substance over razzmatazz.

Neil McNaughton’s May 2008 editorial compared PNEC with the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ ‘Intelligent Energy’ tradeshow. (Oil ITJ May 2008). I write to respond to the charges of ‘dullness’ and ‘tediousness’ at our PNEC data conference. PNEC works hard on delivering a quality-content driven event. For instance the conference provides a complete set of proceedings—a contrast to the recent SPE Digital Energy Conference in Houston where there were no proceedings, and most papers were commercial.

I know the SPE very well and see it as currently falling in value to its membership. In my opinion it is lacking in in-depth and non-commercial technical presentations at most of its events. This is not only the fault of the vendor/service companies, but also of the large operator companies, who have used SPE to forward ‘new technology’ when in fact they are blatantly promoted their own products.

Attendees tell us that they want to hear about solutions, developments, and best practices. They know that this sometimes involves talking about specific products. But they don’t want to hear the sales pitch they already got in their own offices!

Our data integration and management events have covered the full upstream, most of which is outside of the domain of the petroleum engineering profession. That being said, PNEC papers do come from petroleum engineers directly involved in data and information management. Recent papers have addressed the need for integration of reservoir and production data. Most engineers are just beginning to realize that they need to be part of a larger integrated effort to achieve good information and knowledge management. I agree with Neil’s analysis that the G&G community has already recognized these problems and that this is where most of the activity in data management really is. But managements tends to see data management groups as an expense without an immediate return on investment. This means that data management is experiencing rising demands and relatively little management support – although the tide is changing on this to an extent, driven by $100+ oil and $10+ natural gas. Management in every major company realizes that their tapes are in bad shape, archiving was not what it should have been (no money, no attention). Storage has been poor, and all their data can’t be accessed immediately. Now companies want to use their data to develop information and knowledge strategies for decision support. Many companies have not even looked at standards and catalog processes to the level and extent they should in the enterprise and the going will be tough!

Just this week, I was visiting with a close friend who is a PE with a major. My friend has been hunting through engineering data and analyses with very limited luck so far - wasting time looking for data and earlier engineering analyses. Such problems point to the integrated data and architecture issue. In practice, the engineering community is really at square one on this.

How does all this stack up in the face of the big ‘crew change?’ Most educated young people are great at Google, computers, PDAs, slick internet communities, and looking for ‘free’ information. They, like the rest of us, would rather do that than revive archives of paper, find tapes, etc. all the hard work that must be done. The new generation may be computer literate, but they do not like to rummage through the old stuff for information and knowledge. This is where the ‘wow’ and ‘razzmatazz’ hits the real world which could be described as ‘dull’ and certainly ‘mundane.’

Senior managements are now feeling the pain of neglected data management policies within the enterprise. Data management has targeted ‘low hanging fruit’ to cut costs and not hurt anything short term. Despite efforts by vendors who tried to sell services to provide full data management, or at least step improvement solutions to most of the operators, only ‘bandage solutions’ were implemented with significant lay off of data management personnel through 2002. All of a sudden, everyone needs people that are no longer out there. The long term cost for those actions is now viciously apparent to our industry.

From within the majors there has been a steady chorus from the front lines that things were not good. Within their own companies, data managers felt disenfranchised. Personnel coming to our events realized they were not alone. Neil is right, PNEC is a generic petroleum data managers user group with no specific agenda except to share best practices and experiences. A core group of attendees has been contributing to the PNEC effort over thirteen years – the group which forms the underpinnings of the petroleum data management community.

Recent comments from Norwegian attendees suggest that Norway has achieved the equivalent of data management’s Holy Grail. I guess if a government-run enterprise forces a single solution then you can claim this. But the reality is that Norway has the same issues on quality, data management as anyone else’s approach. Some victories can be claimed, but there are always obstacles out there. Each country has unique issues which complicate global visioning. There is no Holy Grail which makes the sharing of best practices and experiences so beneficial to the industry as a whole.

No, data management is not ‘exciting stuff,’ but it is necessary to achieve the goals of many of the ‘in’ buzzwords like ‘digital oilfield,’ ‘eField’, etc. These concepts pose some of the most complex systems problems that the industry has tried to solve. The stakes are in the multi-billion dollars to industry. Meanwhile we will continue taking the ‘petroleum data management community’ direction to help show vision and value to all the upstream oil industry. PNEC’s aim has never been ‘razzmatazz’ but providing valuable substance and yes, sometimes substance is ‘dull.’

Click here to comment on this article

Click here to view this article in context on a desktop

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.