ESRI PUG, Houston

The oil and gas geographic information systems Mecca that is the ESRI petroleum user group heard of an imminent GIS ‘tipping point,’ from Shell on the facts and FUD of the cloud and of ExxonMobil’s spatial data framework. Virtual outcrop geology, OMV’s WebGIS, navigating the Bakken and more.

Around 1,800 attended the ESRI Petroleum User Group annual conference in Houston this month. PUG chair Brian Boulmay (BP) observed that the PUG now represents over 20 years of knowledge sharing and has evolved into a true community of practice. The PUG now has over 2,000 members and a new website pugonline housing notably the PUG ‘List’ of desiderata for enhancements, bug fixes and the like.

Keynote speaker ESRI’s Clint Brown thinks that GIS is at a ‘tipping point’ thanks to the universal use of smart devices as a window to online information. ‘The ubiquitous apps that enrich your life are set to do the same for the enterprise.’ Minds used to boggle at data volumes, now all consumer data is in the cloud. Maps are the most popular smart phone app—but folks want maps that do more. On the other side of the balance, IT is suffering from ‘fatigue’ as managers look for ‘sustainable’ IT in the face of faster and faster technology churn.

ESRI’s latest contribution to the churn is ArcGIS Online where ‘the map is the app.’ AGO offers consumer-style mashups of GIS layers both on and off the premises. AGO is heralded as the tipping point for GIS and a new way to manage content.

ESRI’s Damian Spangrud was up next relating how the geospatial ‘ecosystem’ is expanding to embrace RT data, big data (UAV/LIDAR), the cloud, mobility and an increasingly geo-literate population offering ‘crowd sourcing.’ 3D and time are now integral parts of GIS. Maps can now be embedded in Excel, Sharepoint, Cognos and SalesForce and across Apple’s iOS, Qt, .NET, Java etc. A new ‘ArcGIS for Petroleum’ offering provides packaged solutions to get you going.

AGO underpinned Danny Spillmann’s demo of a fictitious oil company, ‘Clancy Energy’ whose youthful explorationists expect Facebook functionality from their enterprise apps. This is provided with ArcZone (Esri’s own social network). Maps are embedded into web pages for drill down to lease information. The new ESRI Maps for Office also ran. A time slider function allows lease maps to be viewed at different points in time—or to move forward to their expiry date. Petrel users can now access live maps from AGO instead of shapefiles. Production engineers can take information out of the office to a mobile device, work it up and then synch on their return to base. Android devices can link to a laser rangefinder with BlueTooth to capture ad hoc measurement. Another theme is the spatialization of business intelligence in ERP and asset management systems—a.k.a. ‘location analytics’ or ‘heat maps’ as opposed to ‘map maps.’

All was finally rolled into a super dashboard showing real time data of Clancy Energy vehicles, pipeline pressure valves and alerts. Components can be added to the dashboard—such as a ‘geochat’ object that localizes tweets! Instead of a company report, Clancy produces a collection of maps—with for instance, a Haynesville holdings atlas that pops up on an exec’s iPad. Just to keep things real, a crash held things up momentarily, ‘it happens every plenary’ said the ESRI demonstrator, ‘it happens every day’ said the voice off.

Keith Frayley described Shell E&P’s test of the cloud, separating ‘fact from fiction and FUD.’ Shell has been piloting Amazon web services from inside its firewall to run ArcGIS Server on an Amazon machine image. AMI provides a virtual private cloud that means there is no need for a systems administrator or even for hardware. To test the cloud’s claim to agility, Shell ran some resource hungry PalaeoGlobe plate reconstructions. The hardware was easily switched from 2 to 8 cores overnight. The cost and security claims made for the cloud seems to hold up too. Performance was more hard to evaluate—a local file geodatabase outperformed the cloud. Shell is evolving a hybrid model with data and server side components in cloud and a local file geodatabase for performance. While it will always be hard to beat a local data center, the cloud is great for satellite offices and levels the playing field for smaller operators.

Ronald Lopez outlined ExxonMobil’s spatial data framework. Exxon uses ArcGIS Server as its enterprise foundation and as a web-based mapping alternative for ‘mid to light’ GIS use cases. All this is in the face of a ‘tectonic shift’ in user expectations, going beyond pan and zoom and into geoprocessing. ArcGIS for Silverlight allowed rapid prototyping. Datasets that are identified as ‘foundational’ candidates are reviewed and may be published as a web service. GIS has enabled the consolidation of every imaginable data type from geoscience, through HSE/facilities to vendor data. There is a big buzz around business intelligence and Lopez agrees that this is an area where GIS can add value.

Shell’s Lionel White showed how large, high resolution photorealistic geological outcrop models can be captured in Arc Scene and viewed in EON’s Reality Viewer. Some 106 photos were assembled over a LIDAR scan for study with GHVM’s GeoAnalysis tools. These allow the virtual structural geologist to measure in strike dip, trend plunge, axial plane and more. The technique was used to analyse a multi kilometre outcrop of the Eagle Ford shale.

A more conventional deployment was presented by OMV’s Chris Smolka who had developed a WebGIS G&G archive for production unit maps. OMV’s PU maps are a minimal representation of a field for use in peer reviews and reserves audits. OMV has established a single environment for archiving and searching G&G data across its EDMS, GeoFrame, Petrel. The Petrosys plug-in for Petrel is used to create Shape files and to export to Petrosys map. Backend is ArcSDE with a searchable meta data catalog. SynerGIS Web Office also ran.

No PUG would be complete without its share of geodetical health warnings. TGS’ James Stolle used the example of multiple deviated wells beneath a Beverly Hills high school to stress the importance of getting the deviation survey done right. Interpreters, well planners and drillers all need to pay attention to the accuracy of geospatial data. Scare stories abound—from a last minute change to the surface location to mix ups between true and grid north. Unfortunately there are few to zero standards for directional surveys in the US. This is a sensitive issue in areas of intense horizontal drilling like the Barnett shale. Datum shifts from NAD 27 to NAD 83 mean that some Bakken wells are hundreds of feet off target. Perhaps as many as17% of Barnett have this sort of problem.

Tim Downing showed how to bridge the gap between a PPDM-based data model and GIS, sharing findings from Geologic Systems’ new website development. Now all searches combine ArcObjects with PPDM-stored data. This initially gave very poor performance. Various combinations of SDE, ArcObjects and SQL were tried. In the end SQL ‘ST_’ functions and SDE registered views were used in Geologic’s light weight solution.

Tracy Thorleifson (Eagle Information Mapping) noted that current pipeline models assume stationing, something foreign to many upstream operators. As GPS has displaced conventional survey, stationing is now an anachronism that ‘places an undue burden on many operators.’ Thorleifson suggests a work-around, concentrating on geodatabase-based models and shapes which are ‘easier to manipulate than tables of coordinates.’ Stationing can be bypassed by associate events directly with a line. In the Q&A, a PODS representative advised that an alternative referencing workgroup has just started.

Peter Veenstra (Willbros Engineering) likewise revisited the pipeline data model situation, tracing their history from ISAT, PODS, APDM (with its geodatabase) and on to PODS ESRI Spatial, PPDM and ISO 15926. Data models tend to be large and all-encompassing while remaining country-specific. Their use requires much training.

Veenstra recommends the ESRI geodatabase as an enterprise solution for data management that sits on top of a relational database, adding geometry in standard database tables. The geodatabase supports versioning, archive, replication, network topologies, dataset aggregation. An open design makes it easy to enter data. Validation is done after the fact. The geodatabase trade-off is that there are few constraints and no referential integrity checks. This can make for mayhem! Scrip-based post processing is required for referential integrity. Veenstra suggests nine changes to the data model that will make your life easier (some are already in PODS ESRI geospatial). These have ben posted to Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect got a plug as Veentsra’s modelling tool of choice.

Stephen Richard told how the Arizona Geological Survey is offering geological survey data as ‘ready-made’ services. These leverage ArcGIS to serve geologic data for the DOE national geothermal data system, part of the national geoscience information network, USGIN. GML simple features are used to capture formation name, age and rock type. This approach was preferred over the GeoSciML standards—deemed ‘too complicated.’ GeoSciML however has seen take-up in the EU OneGeology. A new OneGeology US has been proposed, leveraging GeoSciML V2.0 to provide geological vector data harmonized with a national age schema but with preferred local legends.

It’s been a couple of years since we covered the PUG. It seems like while the technology evolves, the issues stay the same while the. The most obvious change was that back in the day, folks looked askance if you said ‘esri’—spelling it out as ‘E.S.R.I’ used to be de rigeur. Nowadays, everyone says ‘esri.’ More from the ESRI PUG.

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