Interview - Ross Philo, Energistics CEO

Energistics’ CEO’s message is that standards can drive out ‘data friction’ and cut costs. But how is this going down in the current climate of belt tightening? Philo is out to convince the industry that increased efficiencies easily justify membership and will help keep subject matter expertise alive.

How is Energistics holding up in the current climate?

Energistics recognizes the pressure on companies to cut costs following the rapid decline in the oil price mid 2014. Our message is that, at times like this, Energistics’ standards can help drive out data friction and reduce the cost of operating.

How is the message being received?

It is resonating with some. Others may see membership as unnecessary. We are very grateful to those individuals who defend the use of standards as a component of industry leadership. Companies can’t work efficiently with proprietary technology.

Who is defending the cause, oils or service companies?

We have broad cross industry support from 110 member companies, including all but one of the super majors, many independents and NOCs, the major service companies, systems integrators, developers and regulators. Membership also confers structure and recognition.

But the support – is that mostly from the majors?

Support from the majors is of course critical. But this is a symbiotic relationship as majors use both internal resources and external partners. For service companies, standards allow for competition without having to support a myriad of different formats. The trusted data that results is in the interest of industry and eliminates lost time and inefficiencies.

We see Witsml as having significant take-up in Energistics line-up with Prodml and Resqml as having yet to prove their worth. Is this fair?

Energistics does nothing in a vacuum. What we produce is done by and for the industry. Projects are run by special interest groups and the work is done by members who are passionate about data standards. These folks know what they need and work for compromise in a non-competitive environment. Energistics’ role is to lead and steer the SIGs and when a standard is agreed, to publish and evangelize. For sure, Witsml has the largest penetration today. It is also the oldest, Witsml predates Energistics. Witsml has the biggest penetration because it is the most straightforward to implement. Prodml is the most comprehensive and complex, with data objects across the whole environment. It is a ‘soup to nuts’ solution. Resqml is used to move earth models between different interpretation systems and has many potential uses.

Such as?

Total is using Resqml to move earth model data from structural modeling through facies analysis, petrophysics and on to gridding. Resqml is Total’s data transfer mechanism of choice in its interpretation workflow. And one other supermajor is using Resqml to capture and archive interpretations made with legacy systems for long term archival.

What is your relationship with PPDM these days?

Very good. We have established the division of labors as follows. PPDM handles data at rest and we do data in motion. PPDM is also looking at professional development requirements.

Actually the archival example you gave above sounds like data at rest to me…

OK but we really are focused on the I/O side of the equation – which we see as data in motion.

And the Standards Leadership Council, is that still alive?

Very much so! The SLC has a coordinating role – it does not have any additional budget and there are no separately-funded projects. The idea is to help member bodies plug perceived gaps in coverage and avoid overlap. We also avoid ‘Energistics vs. PPDM’ conflicts via conversations at the SLC level.

What overlaps have been avoided?

Our units of measure work has been adopted by PPDM to make its stuff more consistent. We have also collaborated on a raster log object, now part of Witsml.

What of seismic standards?

Energistics does not do seismics which is owned by the SEG, itself a member of the SLC. There was a MicroseismicML project but this is standing fallow at the present time. We are waiting for some test data sets and legal permission for release. Maybe there will be something next year.

How big is Energistics?

Today there are seven of us doing all the coordinating work of the SIGs, working with virtual teams comprising some 250 volunteers from member companies. We hope that this will be maintained despite the downturn because, as I said above, now is the right time for standards. But it is clear than many companies are tightening their belts and we will likely see some defectors and will have to tighten our belts further too.

It would seem likely that there will be some cutbacks in your 250 strong cohort of volunteers…

Unfortunately yes. There will be losses and worse, we will be losing some subject matter experts who will likely be assigned other rôles or who may be leaving the industry. Some will carry on into retirement – those who are passionate about standards and who have a desire to see things through.

The key message is one of increased efficiency through standards. This easily justifies the cost of membership. Folks used to say that a geoscientist spends 60% of his/her time looking for data. It is probably more accurate to say today that they can find the data, but far too much time is wasted in correcting or matching data. Energistics standards eliminate this waste and let folks get on with interpreting.

What’s on the horizon for Energistics?

We are very excited about the new ETP protocol for real time data streaming. This uses a dedicated port to stream data at TCP/IP speeds. Likewise ETP can allow Prodml and Resqml data to stream from one application to another. There is a lot of interest in this approach. All three MLs now sit on the common ETP platform and we will see the distinction between Wits/Prod/Resq MLs dissolve over time.

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