Web technology enables seamless data integration and display

Data management is fast arising as the most pervasive and limiting challenge facing upstream petroleum companies today. The industry is grappling to find a seamless method for integrating, displaying, and sharing the data that drive industry operations worldwide.

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Robert Graebner, Barry Irani
The Information Store

Data management is fast arising as the most pervasive and limiting challenge facing upstream petroleum companies today. The industry is grappling to find a seamless method for integrating, display-ing, and sharing the data that drive industry operations worldwide. By exploiting today's pow-erful and convenient Web technology, operators and suppliers simultaneously can access large volumes of data directly from multiple and disparate data sources without going through the cost, time, and disruption of moving or migrating data. And they can retrieve this information in forms that are easily recognizable and that support industry workflow processes.

Nowhere is this problem more prominent than in the seismic exploration sector, an industry niche that generates and comprises most of the information asset teams that depend on large data sets to get their jobs done efficiently and cost effectively. Consider further the industry's data management problem from three distinct perspectives: scope, scale, and complexity.

Scope

The scope of the seismic data management challenge begins in petroleum industry executive suites. Oil company leaders make critical decisions every day with insufficient or incorrect information. The cost to these companies is estimated to run in the billions of dollars.

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Web systems respond to diverse user requests, delivering information in context.
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The scope is exacerbated by historical industry practices of hoarding and protecting infor-mation. In most cases, stored information brings no competitive advantage because working teams can neither access nor integrate it in meaningful ways.

Scale

The scale of today's data management challenge is even more mind-boggling. Volumes of data in the petroleum industry are mushrooming at an unbelievable pace.

The growth of data volumes over time is compounded by strides in technology that have created an explosion in the magnitude of information generated in the industry. Innovations in acquisition, processing, visualization, and interpretation now generate more information in a single year than was created in the first century of drilling altogether. Nowhere is this more evident than in the seismic world.

Complexity

Finally, complexity plays a role in sustaining the petroleum industry's inability to manage the data it generates and so vitally needs. Within companies and industry teams, this complexity manifests itself in the multiple, diverse, and disparate databases where valuable information often is locked away and inaccessible. As difficult as it is for teams of people within a company to retrieve and share information, the complexity of today's merger and acquisition and joint venture environments makes it almost impossible for these teams to work together efficiently and seamlessly.

There have been industry efforts to migrate data stored over time in multiple databases into a single and standard platform. These efforts, while well intentioned, have often resulted in disappointing results. Companies continue to enc-ounter incompatibility among systems that prevents or complicates the data-sharing process.

Web technology holds the key to these complexities, but the sharing of information digitally over the public Internet or even via private intranets creates the final complexity for data management efforts – security. It is a solvable, but highly complex, challenge.

A seismic solution

What the petroleum industry in general, and the seismic sector in particular, seeks today is a seamless method for integrating and displaying great volumes of seismic and essential collateral data. This needs to be done in such a way that it allows the simultaneous sharing of that informa-tion among entitled team members in forms that are recognizable and supportive of common work flow processes.

Today's powerful and effective Web technology offers the key. Internet technology allows the digital storage, access, retrieval, and sharing of vital industry information without the need to move or migrate that information from location to location. Web tools exist that can be easily implemented, easily learned, and easily used to open data flow in a highly cost-effective and efficient manner.

Cataloging of historic and current data can happen without building massive databases to store and maintain information. Using Web technology and intelligent software connectors, information of all ages and types can remain where it is, cataloged for easy retrieval by entitled system users without further downloading and storage.

Accessing data also becomes manageable using Web technology. Individual users can access the information they need from wherever they are working at any time, day or night. This almost instantaneous access to vital information frees work teams to spend more time on solving the exploration or production challenges at hand, and less time waiting in line for information, or making decisions using limited and incomplete information.

Configured properly, Web-based information retrieval systems can deliver information not only as raw data, but also in forms that are inherently useful and meaningful to the user.

These systems can also respond to user requests, delivering information in context to allow meaningful use. Non-specialists can view seismic information already interpreted by specialists familiar with the work in progress.

This results in a shift from the "just-in-case" mentality, where team members order vast volumes of data in hopes of retrieving what they need, to the more efficient "just-in-time" thinking.

This fast and efficient sharing of information is in place now. Major petroleum companies from the United States to Mexico to Nigeria are today making better-informed decisions quicker as a result. It is undeniable that the seamless integration and display of great volumes of data brings results:

•In ways that allow the simultaneous sharing of that information among entitled team members

•In forms that are recognizable and supportive of common work flow processes.

Key among these results are improved productivity, faster cycle time, lower costs, and ultimately increased net present value for upstream petroleum companies around the globe.

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