PPDM at 30

The Professional Petroleum Data Managers Association held an online celebration for its 30th birthday. PPDM luminaries trace the association’s history from the early days when Gulf Canada moved its mainframe Oracle upstream database to a workstation, and opened up the code to third parties. In the 1990s, PPDM saw-off the competing POSC Epicentredata model. Today, PPDM is jockeying for position in the face of new competition from OSDU.

Allan Huber, current Chairman of the PPDM Association, opened the proceedings recalling an ‘amazingly successful’ 30 years of PPDM*, founded as a community around a data model, a ‘consistent way of capture and sharing petroleum data’. Over time, activity has expanded under the umbrella of IPDS, the International Petroleum Data Standards. Huber acknowledged Trudy Curtis and her staff ‘for making all this possible’.

Melvin Huszti looked back over the early days of PPDM. At the time he was working for Gulf Canada and was fascinated by computers in the oil industry. In the late 1980s, an oil price collapse meant ‘getting rid of the costly mainframe’ and moving the company’s Oracle database to a Spark workstation. Gulf was looking for other willing companies to share development and provide users and testers for the migration effort. The legal department OK’d the move to the public domain and the creation of an association to look after the model. Thus was PPDM born.

Yogi Schulz took up the story. Before PPDM, companies operated mainframes with separate databases for seismic, land and mapping. Each company developed its own software in-house and ran its own unique database. Applications were few and far between and datasets were sparse. The cost-cutting of the late 80s coincided with the emerging technology, notably the Oracle RDBMS. Gulf Canada was ‘thinking outside of the box’, along with other companies like Finder Graphics, Applied Terravision and Digitec Info Services. The original PPDM data model was unveiled at the May 1990 AAPG convention and published in Geobyte in October 1990. At the time the model was distributed for $100. Shortly afterward PPDM was incorporated in Alberta as a not-for-profit. The first Houston meet was held in 1991. In 1993, the model (PPDM 3.0) was delivered in an Oracle Case tool.

Later in the 1990s, PPDM faced some competition. From the IBM Mercury petroleum data model and from Epicentre, a new data model from the Petroleum Open Software Consortium (POSC, now Energistics). PPDM tried to collaborate with POSC but the effort failed because of different views on model technology and because of culture. PPDM focused on current technology whereas POSC was more interested in future technology wherever that might be going**. PPDM then refocused on developing a ‘business-driven’ data model and saw industry adoption increase.

2008 saw the name change to Professional Petroleum Data Management Association, and a shift to a wider vision of data management and an expansion to oil and gas semantics, education and professional development with ongoing commitment from workgroups and community. The move to semantics saw the start of the What is a Well? What is a Completion? And What is a Facility? projects. Education and training led to the creation of the Certified Petroleum Data Analyst qualification. PPDM has been and is still a ‘great, continuing story’.

PPDM CEO Trudy Curtis then introduced a round-the-world tour of the videos produced by the volunteer committees, many of which will soon be available on the PPDM YouTube Channel.

Allan Huber returned to present PPDM’s new strategic plan. This is to track oil and gas companies’ transformation into energy companies and their need to reduce or eliminate emissions and align with the Paris agreement. This will mean, increased sensor data, cloud computing and represents a tremendous opportunity for PPDM in the form of the nascent data management needs of new energy. The What is a Facility semantics work needs to expand into environmental standards to embrace emissions, geothermal wells, CCS alongside ‘legacy’ oil and gas. For all these domains there is a need for ‘technology agnostic’ data objects’ derived from the model. PPDM intends to stay at the forefront of digital and data.

Today, PPDM is facing another ‘competitor’ in the form of OSDU, the open software data universe. Currently, PPDM is working hand in hand with OSDU, with participation in various OSDU programs. A division of labors has been mooted where OSDU certifies technology and PPDM certifies people. Many PPDM definitions have fed into the OSDU work. More of these will be required as new data definitions are needed for greenhouse gasses and mining ‘all areas for PPDM members and standards’.

Bill Whitelaw, from sponsor company geoLOGIC systems, wound up the proceedings recognizing PPDM’s data quality work which has ‘fed into credible corporate ESG’. Whitelaw also acknowledged PPDM’s contribution to geoLOGIC’s success, ‘We are Western Canada’s subsurface data leader thanks to PPDM’.

* PPDM was founded as the ‘Public Petroleum Data Model’ association. In 2008, it changed its name to the ‘Professional Petroleum Data Management Association.’ At the time, PPDM CEO Trudy Curtis explained, ‘Industry now looks to the PPDM for leadership in data management and governance, business knowledge and master data management. PPDM’s activity now includes best practices, certification and training’.

** For more on the failed PPDM/POSC collaboration, read the article ‘Discovery, what did they find?’ that appeared in Oil IT Journal’s very first issue, back in 1996.

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