On standards, take-up and data ‘initiatives’

Editor Neil McNaughton introduces an engineering data issue of Oil IT Journal, reflects on 20 years of data standards and reports on ‘imminent’ deployment and take-up. He also looks at some of the ‘politicking’ that is taking place between the .orgs, conference organizers and standards bodies.

This month’s issue has a distinctly engineering flavor with a lead on the Dow/Saudi Aramco Ras Tanura ‘giga project’ and a report from the 2010 Fiatech conference. Fiatech and its Norwegian analog, the POSC-Caesar Association (PCA), seem to have drunk the ‘semantic web’ Kool-Aid to the full. The latest manifestation of the ISO 15926 engineering data standard has been used in several flagship offshore projects such as BP’s $4 billion Greater Plutonia development, Chevron’s Agbami FPSO, Petronas Carigali’s Information Management system and Woodside’s ALIS. What stands out from the 2010 Fiatech meet is the fact that semantic web technology has been applied to a major engineering problem—interoperability and handover. But as the Ras Tanura experience shows, it’s proving hard to wean engineers from Excel. There is however a lot of interest in data sharing between owner operators and engineering contractors and this collaboration is probably more important than the protocol.


When I first started out writing about data management, someone observed that this was not likely to be a very interesting topic since, at the time (1996), E&P data management was pretty much a done deal—notably with the then new and authoritative POSC Epicentre data model. This did give me cause for thought—those embarking on a new venture are particularly sensitive to suggestions that their ideas or business models are anything but brilliant! But the topic seemed worthy of pursuit in a journalistic way if only because there was, at the time, a lot of politics involved, with competing data models from POSC and PPDM and vendor solutions—Landmark’s Petrobank and Schlumberger’s Finder were battling for world dominance. Plugging on and publishing the newsletter turned out to be a good call because, although data models may come and go, the vendors are still slugging it out and politics is alive and well as I will now relate.

The PNEC conferences (report on the recent 2010 edition next month) started back in 1998. Historically, PNEC has been an unofficial meeting point for the upstream standards organizations. It started out as the Geoshare user group and conference and has had a long time close relationship with PPDM and POSC (now Energistics). But Energistics was conspicuously absent from the 2010 PNEC and appears to be backing an ‘upstart’ data management event organized by the ‘World Research Group’ in September. While competition is a great thing, you have to ask whether the industry really needs yet another data show.

Getting back to the Journal, I like to think that our reports from PNEC (along with other significant conferences organized by SMi and IQPC) constitute something of a data management body of knowledge—most of which is in the public domain (all Oil IT Journal issues over a year old are freely available on oilit.com.)

I use the wording ‘data management body of knowledge’ advisedly. At the 2010 PNEC, Schlumberger’s Steve Hawtin introduced the Data Management Association (DAMA) to the upstream community. As assiduous readers of Oil IT Journal will know, we have been following DAMA since 2003, particularly when it mooted an E&P SIG (March 2008). DAMA’s current claim to fame is its Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBoK) published last year—and which we will review in the near future. Hawtin revealed that the Society of Petroleum Engineers is getting exercised about data management too, and is setting up to create, ex-nihilo, an E&P DMBoK. We hope that we will be invited to contribute to this effort and are putting our ‘back catalog’ at the DMBok’s disposal.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, more E&P data politicking is going on in respect of the PESGB’s Data Management initiative. This has been kept aloft by one enthusiastic PESGB member, Paul Duller, who had the temerity to create a PESGB Data Management group on LinkedIn. Well the powers that be did not like this and Paul has had to pull the PESGB tag from his group.

These goings on suggest to me that there is a goldilocks phenomenon that affects the relationship between the Societies and their members. If you do very little, then, surprise, surprise, nothing gets done. If you do a lot, it seems like the Societies get a bit iffy about what is perceived as ‘commercialism’ with consequences such as the above! Having been personally involved in a couple of Society-sponsored initiatives I have to say that in general, the effort that goes into them is a lot less that that which is put into your average ‘commercial’ venture. There is nothing quite like the thought of a meal at the end of the day to drive initiative—and there is nothing quite like a loosely assembled committee of folks with a daytime job to suck it out of the air!

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention ECIM—the Norwegian E&P data management body. ECIM is different. It is Norwegian after all. In Norway, if you need data you go to DISKOS. If you need data management, you go to ECIM. Simple isn’t it. Well almost, except that if you want subsurface data management it’s ECIM. If you want the topside data then you will have to check in with PCA!

Is E&P data management is a ‘done deal?’ In the May 2010 issue of E&P Magazine, Energistics CEO Randy Clark states ‘The E&P industry is still at the early stage of common standards development.’ This, 20 years after POSC’s founding. PCA’s ISO 15926 is likewise reported as being on the verge of at-scale deployment, 20 years after its predecessor, the Caesar Offshore Program kicked-off.


Like everyone, I’ve been following events in the Gulf of Mexico, in particular the live feed from the sea bed. The silent ballet of the ROV’s with their Black and Deckers hacking away at the riser is mesmerizing. It is curious to think that on the surface the recriminations fly while on the seabed, robotic heros are acting out a reprise of Apollo 13.

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