2015 Esri EU Petroleum User Group, London

New Esri ‘Platform’ game changing geo-information server. Apache trials GIS on Hadoop. Engie on enterprise GIS in the downturn. Tullow’s African Story map. BP reports serendipitous spin-off from One Map portal. Voyager for BG’s GeoPortal. Halliburton struggles with massive editing job.

Some 240 delegates from 107 companies attended the 2015 Esri EU Petroleum GIS conference held in London last month. While down on last year’s peak, the headcount is pretty good for crisis times. Speaking of which, Esri has introduced a ‘Fellows’ program offering free access to its software to developers laid off in the downturn. Fellows can join a mentoring program to teach young professionals about the desktop and maybe learn something about Facebook themselves!

Esri’s Petroleum users group (PUG) is celebrating its 25th anniversary and now claims 4,000 plus members. Danny Spillman kicked off the plenary with a spin through Esri’s latest technology offering, the Platform, billed as a ‘dramatic change for ArcGIS.’ The three tiered offering spans a ‘geoinformation’ server providing access to multiple-data types (full motion drone video feeds, Hadoop, 3D, database, real time and image). A portal provides security and access control for ‘apps’ running on various endpoints. A short video showed poster child Shell’s deployment of the platform as used in its common operating picture for operations and oil spill response. On the desktop, ArcGIS Pro heralds a new multi threaded 64 bit edition. An ArcGIS Earth app, to be released real soon, now offers Google Earth like viewing of 3D* data. Esri is offering Windows developers a route to cross platform support with a Xamarin-powered WebApp Builder. This was used by the UK DECC regulator to develop an off-the shelf app showing expiring licenses and summary production data. The tool is also used by Exprodat in its Exploration Analyst Online. Spillman opined that development should be ‘configure first and customize later if needed.’

In a video reprise of his presentation to the US PUG earlier this year, Bruce Sanderson described Apache Corp.’s trial combination of big data and GIS. Apache was having trouble with the ‘old recipe’ for GIS whereby data is assembled for an analysis and then (maybe) stored as a flat file. A couple of years ago, Apache began using the ArcGIS GeoEvent processor to track vehicles during well servicing operations. While the results were promising, it was proving difficult to retrieve historical data streams. Apache decided to checkout Hadoop’s potential and, with help from Esri’s big data specialist Mansour Raad and consultants ITNexus. A petabyte of data was migrated to an in-house Hadoop cluster and stored as CSV files. Various open source tools (Hive, Sqoop, Spark) were used under control from ArcGIS. Esri’s Python interface ArcPy was used as the glue to link the Hadoop big data store with the GIS system. Some of the code is available on Esri’s GIS tools for Hadoop GitHub repository. The project was so successful that Sanderson started looking for big GIS data and found that by analyzing its vehicle tracks, it could identify wells that were in the wrong place or which were not being serviced. Sanderson believes that as sensors multiply, this data will swamp traditional GIS solutions. Esri’s Danny Spillman added that today, we make maps about the past, but that soon, big data analytics will let us ‘make maps about the future.’ Other big data types are exemplified by satellite and AIS ship tracking data.

Meanwhile, traditional GIS is consolidating its position at the core of upstream IT. As GIS folks like to remind us, pretty well all data has some spatial component. But, as Engie’s (formerly GDF Suez) Grahame Blakey observed, there is a non-negligible effort involved in managing it as such. There are many others in the subsurface ‘playground,’ Petrel, Petrosys, Kingdom, ArcGIS, Prosource (with its own ‘weird’ flavor of SDE) and others to consider. The Engie SharePoint portal is used to keep license related information. The key here is integration via GIS that is woven into an existing IT landscape. Along with the Esri tools, Safe Software’s FME and Geocortex Essentials (see below) were used. The solution now provides web maps ‘that look like maps,’ from Engie’s Gas Maps tool. This uses Oracle views on ProSource data. Engie is also building a digital atlas of interpretations. Maps can be generated on the fly and embedded in SharePoint. ‘LinkToAsset,’ Engie’s operations dashboard adds ‘self-service’ business analytics with the Logi Info tool. The Bootstrap cross platform development tool also ran. The business benefits were clear, notably the ability to draft maps in-house. But with the downturn, there are far fewer wells, down from 5-6 to one per year. There are fewer exploration areas and fewer maps and the company is in hunkering down mode, ‘things are tricky.’

Esri supports field working as Tullow’s Adam Smith described. Tullow operates in Kenya where rig moves have proved problematical. Field workers use the Garmin Virb to capture images and full-motion video which can later be embedded in a Story Map. Reconnaissance of the Lake Turkana area used in-vehicle video and drones for risk assessment and in the search for water for drilling. Cellular coverage is absent so all work is performed off-line and synched later. Elsewhere, a mobile app, Collector for ArcGIS can be used to put mapping into the hands of field workforce. The Collector can also be used to capture accurate GNSS data with high-end devices such as the Leica Zeno 20. A Navigator for ArcGIS app provides turn by turn navigation from road data collections ‘your own StreetMap.’ Also in the ‘real soon now’ category is Workforce for ArcGIS for field workforce optimization. This supplies operators with a task list, allowing for navigation to the next location and the use in context any of the above tools. A ‘big brother’ function tracks operator location and activity. Another mobile app, Explorer for ArcGIS allows mobile workers to sketch maps and to share maps for offline use.

Brian Boulmay related that when BP surveyed its user base, it was surprised to find four times as many users of Google Earth than any ‘official’ mapping package. Why? Because Google is easy to use! BP One Map set out to replicate this ease of use by exposing GIS functionality to all while hiding its complexity and arcane data management. First developed for the US onshore unit, One Map is now being rolled-out globally. Now that One Map has been rolled-out, BP is finding serendipitous synergies such as that between risk mappers and procurement. Another unexpected result was when the Castrol lubricant unit repurposed GIS-based competitor analysis to analyze its customer base. All thanks to the BP Portal. One outstanding issue is the multiplicity of ‘postage stamp’ interpretations that are generated by geoscience interpretation systems. While these can be brought into the GIS system, true integration remains elusive.

Neil Frewin (BG Group) and Ian Peebles (Exprodat) presented on the GeoPortal, a tool BG has developed to manage its knowledge and opportunities portfolio. The GeoPortal provides rapid access to raw (not interpreted) data for use in basin and play evaluation, play statistics and ‘yet to find’ estimation. Originally developed around SDE and ArcGIS Server, the system is currently being refreshed with the new Portal architecture. Voyager Search provides data discovery across BG’s structured and unstructured data resources. Frewin demoed the map’s time sliders to see ‘where was Shell re BG in the past?’ which got a laugh. The system is now being extended to capture key decisions in email and elsewhere and to integrate with SharePoint and Jive, a Facebook-like tool to record conversations and decision making history.

A strength of the PUG is that information is shared warts and all. Oliver Morris described the ‘trials and tribulations’ of Halliburton/Landmark’s migration of its Neftex/Exploration Insights service to digital mapping. Neftex makes digital maps of prospectivity and depositional facies which are delivered in ArcGIS. Previously regional maps were hand drafted and digitized causing edge effects. Neftex put a 60 person team on the editing job. A workflow transformation involved a £100k spend on ArcEditor licenses. Initially this was too slow so a further £8k went on a new SQL server machine and 10 Gig Ethernet switches. The SDE databases required considerable tuning to accommodate the intense editing process, some 2,000 feature classes have to be managed and captured to the SDE. Active edits on SDEs are vulnerable to accidental modification. The conflict resolution tool is ‘clunky,’ regular backups are crucial.

* Although Esri’s current 3D offering looks more like 2D with Google Earth-like representations of buildings.

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