Oil IT Journal interview—Richard Pang, ISS Group

Richard Pang is CEO and MD of ISS Group, developer of the BabelFish platform and solutions for well testing, production loss accounting and more. Pang covers successes with BP and Hess, its deal with Schlumberger, MURA and offers his take on the digital oilfield and production optimization.

How did BabelFish1 originate?

ISS started 16 years ago with a process industry orientation, working for refiners, particularly at BP’s Kwinana, Western Australia refinery where BabelFish originated. The technology later found application in the upstream with the development of oil and gas specific applications. These later became the Oil and Gas Suite—our production data management system (PDMS). Key early clients were Petronas Carigali and Hess in Asia. We also work with the mining, water and consumer goods verticals—making chocolate is a process industry too!

What sort of applications are we talking about?

Production loss accounting, well testing, gas nomination systems and a plethora of data to visualization and reporting applications. We also provide solutions to major LNG projects from wellhead to ship. In mining these are dubbed ‘pit to port.’ One significant recent sale was to Hess Corp. which piloted our production loss accounting system ‘A-Plus’ on its Pangkah, East Java site. A-Plus was used to model capacity and track and report losses. This has led Hess to develop a standard capacity model and loss accounting methodology across all its assets. Loss accounting is now performed consistently across all assets with the flexibility to cater for local asset-specific operational requirements.

Do you operate up or downstream of the data historian?

We capture data that does not exist and validate what does. Our ‘Verify’ application does limit checking, eliminates multiple instances of data and captures data manually—for well tests, loss and operator logs at shift handover. The cleansed data is published to another repository—either our own or, for example SAP-BI.

You announced a major deal with Schlumberger in 2008. Is that still active?

Yes for next few years anyway. This is a global agreement. Schlumberger is a distributor for BabelFish, but not for the Oil & Gas Suite which we still sell direct.

Have you got much mileage from your OpenSpirit/BabelFish adapter?

Not really - especially since they were bought by Tibco and now have a similar data bus...

And the deal with Aveva?

No. We have drifted away from engineering. We did the Woodside project with Aveva. They do have some great tools like Aveva’s Smart P&ID.

So engineering and upstream remain worlds apart?

Yes there is a big gap. But it is one that we and others are interested in trying to fill even if the situation is not changing much. A lot of money is still wasted when engineering hands over to operations.

What’s your take on the ‘digital oilfield?’

We learned a lot from one ‘full blown’ digital oilfield tender from an Asian independent. The company terminated the tender when they saw the price folks were asking! For them, and us, the ‘digital oilfield’ is, more pragmatically, the PDMS rather than the utopian vision being advocated by some of the majors. This may sound great, but in general, the value proposition of down hole smart meters and other high end stuff is unclear. The client, by the way, calls the solution a ‘digital oilfield,’ but it is really our PDMS!

You announced a pilot with Saudi Aramco in 2007. How has that panned out?

The deal fell apart. Maybe we should have opened an office there. Aramco’s 77 gas oil separation plants are now monitored with Siemens’ XHQ solution.

How does a client decide between your PDMS, XHQ and say OSIsoft’s PI ProcessBook?

Verify, BabelFish and the other PDMS components offer a modular solution that integrates with the heterogeneous environments that prevail in most companies today—tools like Merrick, Halliburton’s TOW. ProcessBook is tied to PI System data.

What do you make of interoperability initiatives and standards?

For sure there is a lot of redundant data out there and we need agreement with WITSML, PRODML and so on. But there is still an issue with real world data. A well test for instance uses tubing head pressure and there is the assumption that this number is available somewhere. It is not hard to align such data with a given standard. But the problem is that there may be 100 ‘standard’ attributes per well every 5 seconds. They may include the one you need or maybe they won’t! There will be even more data flowing from ‘smart’ wells. The truth is that most people are not interested in most attributes...

Is the Microsoft upstream reference architecture (MURA) for real?

We’ve attended the MURA meetings. There is some interesting stuff there even if it is not moving very quickly. But it is generally a good idea to fit with Microsoft’s SharePoint architecture. All our solutions all operate within the Microsoft platform.

So MURA equates to ‘it runs in SharePoint?’

If you like (laughs).

What about production optimization?

If you mean stuff like GAP, ISM, Production Universe and neural nets, no. The idea of pressing a button and getting more oil sounds great. But with these model based approaches, model upkeep is a big overhead. It’s not really our focus. We are more concerned with presenting relevant information to operators and other stakeholders. One of our major clients defines ‘production optimization’ as its program of work. Our approach in both refining and the upstream is to provide information visualization. If you see when a well is acting differently, it could just mean that a model is at fault - or it could represent an opportunity. More from sales@issgroup.com.au.

1 ISS’ flagship framework for data capture from field equipment, process control and management systems.

Click here to comment on this article

Click here to view this article in context on a desktop

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.