ESRI Petroleum User Group 2009, Houston

PUG aficionados heard of new developments in ESRI’s product line-up, panel discussion debates role of GIS in the digital oilfield. CygNet technology and Job Tracking Extension enables real-time on maps. Anadarko’s iMaps leverage OpenSpirit GIS tools, regulators excel in geoprocessing.

PUG chairman Charles Fried (BP) noted that the drop in attendance, down from 1600 in 2008 to 1350 this year, was a long way short of the fall in the oil price in the same period.

ESRI showed off the 900 build of ArcGIS Explorer (AGE), a spinning globe front end for data served in-house or from ESRI’s own ArcGIS Online service. AGE, with its Presentation Tools is now sold as a ‘better PowerPoint,’ with its Google Earth type interface augmented with pop-outs of oilfield outlines, extruded to show production rates.

The new ‘optimized’ map services in ArcMap got a round of applause for much improved map load and faster zoom. Map services can be the basis of ‘mash ups’ as illustrated with a drill down into the IHS data set. The IHS web services ‘REST’ endpoint was queried for leases that expire in 2009 and displayed statistics on expiry dates and ownership for an area of interest.

A panel session moderated by Oil IT Journal editor Neil McNaughton debated GIS’ role in the ‘digital oilfield.’ McNaughton noted the strategic position of GIS at the ‘intersection’ of subsurface, facility engineering, monitoring and control, the ‘C’ in SCADA. Tom Anderson (Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center) described how GIS is extensively used to integrate results from partners and testing programs. Anderson’s vision is for the RMOTC to act as ‘a microcosm of digital oilfield technology and a showcase for real-time data feeds.’ RMOTC plans to instrument its Teapot Dome field to facilitate this. Jim Brink stated that Chevron’s i-Field is ‘all about integration.’ It involves a holistic approach, going beyond SCADA plus visualization to involve an inter-disciplinary approach to better decision making. GIS is central to daily operations on Chevron’s Kern River (8,000 wells). PetroWeb’s Gateway client is used for GIS integration and Matrikon’s ProcessNet displays SCADA data and KPI ‘traffic lights.’ Infor’s Datastream is used in maintenance. Crews used to plan their routes with magnets on a map – this has new been replaced with a 16 x 9 ft. back-projected screen showing crew movements in real-time. David Nemeth (Panhandle Energy) spoke from the standpoint of a gas transmission company. Panhandle takes a subset of SCADA feeds from its 150 compressor stations, blends this with ERP data and updates a geodatabase via an enterprise service bus. A big effort has been put into data clean-up to ‘make sure we are talking about the same valve!’ Tommy Thomas (DCP Midstream) told a similar tale of real-time operations in this Spectra/ConocoPhillips joint venture. In DCP, ‘everything revolves around GIS.’ The company has an enterprise GIS database that serves all users. In the ensuing discussion, it emerged that the GIS/SCADA combo was used in a decision support role rather than in a control mode. GIS-based systems are sometimes seen as an antidote to Excel, the engineers’ ‘tool of predilection,’ an idea that was met with laughter and applause. Brink noted that the ‘i-Field’ push on Chevron’s San Joaquin valley business unit now has a $2 million annual budget and is keeping a ‘value register’ to capture what has been accomplished. This has won support from senior management with the realization that it is as important to keep base business up, to arrest decline, as it is to drill new wells. Thomas put GIS at the center of enterprise IT saying, ‘When you think about it, well data, pumps, even taxes delineated by county boundaries all go back to GIS. In fact there is not much information that isn’t related to GIS in some way.’ PUG luminary Bill Wally asked what happened to cost benefit analysis GIS. For some, the analysis takes place at the project level – with GIS as a sub component. For others, GIS was a sunk cost that could now be leveraged. Thomas did venture that adding tax data to DCP’s ESRI/PODS reference data set led to a $1 million per year saving, ‘You can’t do GIS just because you want to!

A joint ESRI/Cygnet presentation showed how the ArcGIS Job Tracking Extension (JTX) can be used to update ArcGIS Schematics and corporate GIS data stores for cross-domain use of SCADA data. The software understands valves and connectors—rather like a geographic version of Microsoft Visio. Schematics are converted to features for mapping in the new ‘SCADA to visual environment.’ This leverages CygNet’s new Enterprise Operations Platform. The CygNet hub splits incoming data from operations and redirects to GIS and SCADA systems. These are re-combined according to workflow/business rules and QC into the JTX-based EOP. The EOP eliminates data copy between systems and exposes filtered and QC’d data to a wider user base. Pop ups display meters and trend screens.

Tim Donovan showed Anadarko’s ‘iMaps’ development. This uses OpenSpirit’s ArcGIS Extension in automated scans across Anadarko’s G&G projects to keep the enterprise SDE database current. ArcGIS is used as a spatial data management tool used to populate corporate well and seismic data stores. Interpreted data can be sent back to ArcGIS for incorporation into maps. The technology has solved many of the multi-vendor and ‘multi-heritage,’ post acquisition, issues faced by Anadarko. The overall solution combines technology from OpenSpirit, Volant, Petris and GSI/Landworks.

Richard Watson of the Bureau of Land Management showed a fascinating ‘mashup’ of Minerals Management Service and BLM data, creating a huge dataset of undiscovered reserves in the USA. The study has shown potential resources (excluding non conventionals) of 93 billion barrels offshore (although 30% of the oil is ‘off limits.’) A proposal for new leasing in the Atlantic and Pacific was made in the last days of the Bush administration – but this is ‘going nowhere’ today, despite Salazar’s ‘moonshot to energy!’

David Gisclair of the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office stated that FDGC metadata is key to government GIS data but is lacking in lots of stuff of interest to oil and gas. Addressing this issue is a necessity, not a theoretical exercise. Gisclair went on to show some interesting if scary simulations of storm surge modeling. ArcTools and spatial joins show protected and unprotected areas. This has exposed some significant risks, particularly in Lafourche Parish, where a critical levee system has just been decertified by the federal Government! Gisclair recommends that operators take a look at this publicly available data with regard to their tank farms. He also advises that if you are caught out in another Katrina-type surge, you need to run for the ‘sliver by the river,’ that’s where the high ground is!

This article is an abstract from The Data Room’s Technology Watch report from the ESRI PUG. More from and

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