Non-Disruptive, Non-Invasive Data Governance for Oil & Gas

Trading post

Establishing data governance is not a new activity. It is, at its heart, an extension of man’s desire to define the world, and to communicate these discoveries in a more efficient manner. A good data standard can be linked to the use of Latin as a lingua franca by merchants in medieval Europe. Few English merchants could speak Dutch, but most were taught Latin (and vice versa). Latin provided a set of definitions and rules understood by all, promoted by rote memorization of grammar and a large number of books, policed by data stewards in the form of tutors who rapped children’s knuckles when they got it wrong.  (ok, maybe this is a stretch a bit, but I like the story :-))

Not a Blank Slate

In Oil and Gas, I see data governance programs in many forms, from centralized formats to a completely distributed approach, and everything in between. These implementations come with varying degrees of success.

So when I came across Robert Seiner’s book “Non-Invasive Data Governance” I asked myself could this work for oil and gas? In my judgment, a distributed, organic, and non-invasive approach could be an option to deploy a data governance program in a faster, more uniform and comprehensive manner, which in turn would yield better success.

Non-invasive data governance is built around identifying already in place, de facto standards, and processes to capture and manipulate data. If there isn’t one standard, then “converging” and “formalizing” to one standard that suits is put in place. In the new world, data stewards will be recognized “formally” and will maintain “universal” standards for work they have been doing all along…

To me, this approach has far-reaching implications to raise the bar on data quality standards. This approach weaves the quality standards in the DNA and the culture of an organization.

Business Specific Pidgin

Let’s continue the historical analogy a little. Trade was still conducted without the advantage of a lingua franca, albeit with greater difficulty. Typically, this was accomplished by the evolution of pidgin languages. The first encounters, however, were most likely exercises in frustration, as both parties attempted to learn one another’s needs, defined goods and services, and the perceived value of these. In speaking a pidgin language with another merchant, if either party used a differing definition, or even presented his offer in an unfamiliar sentence structure, the business venture could go south very quickly. Similarly, within a single oil and gas organization. For each data group, there needs to be one standard for all.

The oil and gas industry would not be where it is today without some established data standards and data processes already in place. Data governance will never be a blank slate. The problem is that while standards exist that are recognized across the industry, there are many terms that differ from one team to another and are not quite formalized or fully recognized.

The non-invasive DG approach is to formalize what is currently not formal and monitor it for continuous improvement over time. For example, wellbore survey data can be captured in different ways, none of which are wrong, just different. One team would store latitude, longitude, geodetic system, Easting, Northing, and distance. Another team might use Negative and Positive to indicate directions instead of Easting and Northing. These are very subtle differences, however, when flowing data from one system to another (and data flow we do a lot) a level of accuracy is lost in the translation.

Let me know your thoughts…


Technical Documents Architecture: Separate for Sustainable Efficiency

If like many oil and gas companies, your technical documents are scattered, or buried in folders and nested folders, you have an opportunity to increase the efficiency of your petro-professionals by organizing their technical documents, speed up how they locate these documents, or better yet, do both. If you do it right, you can architect a solution that is sustainable.

Organizing electronic files for an oil and gas company is not as complex as it first may seem. It is very similar to the way you organize files and documents on your PC. The fundamental question you must ask yourself is “ How do I sustainably tag or organize my files so that I can find what I need in 5 seconds or less?”. This question guides my efforts for all designs and solutions that I help my client’s engineers and geoscientists build. The topic is big and long, but here I would like to share my thoughts on architecture.

This topic is big with many angles, for this blog I would like to share my thoughts on architecting the technical documents healthy environment.

This Valentine’s month: Separate for Sustainability

Many oil and gas companies do not distinguish between the active work area and a long-term final-version area for their electronic files. What we find instead is one environment with ALL technical files in one place. This repository often contains both active and long-gone projects, including files for divested wells. Attempts to organize this chaotic mess happen every other year. This kind of architecture requires organizing these files every few years, with a hefty price tag!


In my opinion, for an oil and gas company to have a sustainable documents management practice, there should be at least 4 working areas within your environment (see diagram below).

TDRM architecture

An Amicable Separation

Area #1 Team work area

By establishing a day-to-day work area that can by definition be an organic mess coordinated by those who know exactly what everything is, your team can collaborate in whatever method works best for them. This area is usually cluttered with analyses files, multiple versions of a document, manuals, research material, cost proposals from vendors, and more.

This flexibility is key to a productive, happy work environment. It only becomes a problem when others are exposed to a ‘mess’ that is not of their own making. For this reason, each team should have their own defined work area.

(Yes, I hear some of you say today’s technology are designed curtail this mess and no need to have a separate work environment. I think that may be possible if the technology is used by a homogenous skilled staff.  Oil and gas staff are of all ages and at different levels of software savviness)

Area #2 Final versions area

Separating your final-versions area from the working area has two immediate benefits

1) Efficiently and effectively declare and distribute the final version to the enterprise

2) Allows the removal of inactive files from work area (declutter).

Your final versions area should provide access to (and the easy identification of) the latest version of a report in a timely manner and without delays. Unfortunately,  this area is often not formalized (it is not separated from area #1), causing delays for other teams who need access to a given file – they need to notify your team, have a member of your team identify the correct file, and then possibly to send them the file.

Often, distribution of final versions is a complex dance of requests and delivery between multiple teams or individuals. By separating the archival/final versions area, and providing access to authorized resources, this jitterbug contest can become a synchronized line dance. If all parties that need a file can identify the right file on their own, and retrieve it themselves, significant delays can be avoided.

Furthermore, by separating the final-version area from a work area, you have a chance to sustain the serenity and completeness of technical well files and specifically well files and records (most important assets you can have). Allowing any company to easily open a data room when and if needed.

Areas # 3 and 4: External Collaboration and Access

When considering work areas and final versions, it is important to consider accessibility, external as well as internal. Providing data to JV partners bases on their WI and JOV data requirements and collaborating with vendors during well directional design or completion treatment is essential to keeping the technical documents preserved and not lost in a web of email attachments.

To me, this architecture is non-invasive or intrusive to engineers and geoscientists workflow.

Summary: Separate, but don’t go far

Separating final-version area from work area can have an immediate and strong benefit to productivity, balancing team flexibility with the requirements of other teams in the organization. While the day-to-day work area should be organic and flexible, it is important that the Archival/Final Version repository is defined. This is because it is not serving just one team, but the needs of an organization as a whole. This separation of working area and final versions/archival area provides a sustainable solution that meets the 5-second accessibility requirement outlined above.

Having outlined the benefits of this simple change in a complex working environment, we’d love to hear from the community. Do you have a better approach? Questions regarding implementation? Have you implemented something like this, and if so, what was your experience? Whatever the input, we would love to hear from you.

Coming Current with E&P Data Management Efforts

During the PNEC 2015 conference last week, we managed to entice some of the attendees, passing by our booth, to take part in a short survey. As an incentive we offered a chance to win a prize and made the survey brief, we could’t make it too long and risk getting little or no intelligence.

I’m not sure if any of you will find the results to be a revelation or offer anything new that you already did not know anecdotally. But if nothing else, they may substantiate “feelings” with some numbers.

You will be pleased to know that more than 60% of the replies are from operators or NOC.  In this week’s blog I share the results  and offer my thoughts on the first survey question.


In the above question and graph “Which data projects are of high priority in your mind?”, it appears the industry continues to pursue data integration projects and the majority of the participants (73%) consider them to be the highest priority. Followed closely on the priority list were “data quality” projects (data governance and legacy data cleaning), 65% consider these a priority.


Integration will always be at the top of the priority list in the E&P world until we truly connect the surface measurements with the subsurface data in real time. Also, given that data integration cannot be achieved without pristine data, it is no surprise that data quality follows integration as a close second.

Because many “data cleaning” projects are driven by the need to integrate, data quality efforts are still focused on incoming data and mostly on “identification” data, such is the case in MDM projects.

Nonetheless, how a well was configured 20 years earlier and what failures (or not) were encountered during those 20 years are telling facts to engineers. Therefore, the quality of “legacy” technical data is just as important as of new incoming data.

Reaching deeper than identification and header data to ensure technical information is complete and accurate is not only important for decision making, but as my friend at a major company would say: it is important firstly for safety reasons, then for removing waste (lean principle) and then for decisions.  Of course chipping away slowly at the large mountain of data is a grueling task and can be demotivating if there are only limited results.

To get them done right with impactful E&P business results, these projects should be tackled with a clear vision and a holistic approach. As an industry we need to think about  legacy data preparation strategically, do them once and be done with it.

Legacy data cleanup projects are temporary (with a start and an end date), experience tells me they are best accomplished by outsourcing them to professional data cleaning firms that fully understand E&P data.

This blog is getting too long, I’d better cover the results of the rest of the survey in the next one.

Please share your thoughts and correct me where you feel I got it wrong….


Part 3 of 3: Are we progressing? Oil & Gas Data Management Journey the 2000s

The 1990’s shopping spree for applications produced a spaghetti of links between databases and applications while also chipping away the petro professional’s effective time with manual data entry. Then, a wave of mega M&As hit the industry in late 90s early part of the 2000s.

Mega M&As (mergers and acquisitions) continued into the first part of the 2000s, bringing with them—at least for those on the acquiring side – a new level of data management complexity.

With mega M&As, the acquiring companies inherit more databases and systems, and many physical boxes upon boxes of data. This influx of information proved to be too much at the outset and companies struggled – and continue to struggle – to check the quality of the technical data they’d inherited. Unknown at the time, the data quality issues present at the outset of these M&As would have lasting effects on current and future data management efforts. In some cases it gave rise to law suites that were settled in millions of dollars. 

Early 2000s

Companies started to experiment with the Internet.  At that time, that meant experimenting with simple reporting and limited intelligence on the intranet.  Reports were still mostly distributed via email attachments and/or posted in a centralized network folder.

I am convinced that it was the Internet that  necessitated cleaning technical data and key header information for two reasons: 1) Web reports forced the integration between systems as business users wanted data from multiple silo databases on one page. Often times than not, real-time integration could not be realized without cleaning the data first 2)  Reports on the web linked directly to databases exposed more “holes” and multiple “versions for the same data”;  it revealed how necessary it was to have only ONE VERSION of information, and that  had better be the truth.

The majors were further ahead but for many other E&P companies, Engineers were still integrating technical information manually, taking a day or more to get a complete view and understanding of their wells, excel was the tool moslty. Theoretically, with these new technologies, it should be possible to automate and instantaneously give a 360 degree-view of a well, field, basin and what have you. However, in practice it was a different story because of poor data quality.  Many companies started data cleaning projects, some efforts were massive, in tens of millions of dollars, and involved merging systems from many past acquisitions.

In the USA, in addition to the internet, the collapse of Enron in October 2001 and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act enacted in July 30, 2002, forced publicly traded oil and gas companies to document and get better transparency into operations and finances. Data management professionals were busy implementing their understanding of SOX in the USA. This required tightener definitions and processes around data.

Mid 2000s

By mid-2000s, many companies started looking into data governance. Sustaining data quality was now in the forefront.  The need for both sustainable quality data and data integration gave rise to Well Master Data Management initiatives. Projects on well hierarchy, data definitions, data standards, data processes and more were all evolving around reporting and data cleaning projects. Each company working on its own standards, sharing success stories from time to time.  Energetics, PPDM and DAMA organizations came in handy but not fully relied on.

Late 2000s

When working on sustaining data quality, one runs into the much-debated subject of who owns the data?  While for years, the IT department tried to lead the “data management” efforts, they were not fit to clean technical oil and gas data alone; they needed heavy support from the business. However the engineers and geoscientists did not feel it was their priority to clean “company-wide” data.

CIOs and CEOs started realizing that separating data from systems is a better proposition for E&P.  Data lives forever while systems come and go. We started seeing a movement towards a data management department, separate and independent from IT, but working close together. Few majors made this move in mid 2000s with good success stories others are started in late 2000s. First by having a Data Management Manager reporting to the CIO (and maybe dotted line to report to a business VP) then reporting directly to the business.

Who would staff a separate data management department?  You guessed it; resources came from both the business and IT.  In the past each department or asset had its own team of technical assistants “Techs” who would support their data needs (purchase, clean, load, massage…etc.) Now many companies are seeing a consolidation of “Techs” in one data management department supporting many departments.

Depending on how the DM department is run, this can be a powerful model if it is truly run as a service organization with the matching sense of urgency that E&P operations see. In my opinion, this could result in cheaper, faster and better data services for the company, and a more rewarding career path for those who are passionate about data.

Late 2008 and throughout 2009 the gas prices started to fall, more so in the USA than in other parts of the world. Shale Natural Gas has caught up with the demand and was exceeding it.  In April 2010, we woke up to witness one of the largest offshore oil spill disasters in history. A BP well, Macondo, exploded and was gushing oil.

For companies that put all their bets on gas fields or offshore fields, they did not have appetite for data management projects. For those well diversified or more focused on onshore liquids, data management projects were either full speed or business as usual.

 2010 to 2015 ….

Companies that had enjoyed the high oil prices since the 2007 started investing heavily in “digital” oilfields.  More than 20 years had passed since the majors started this initiative (I was on this type of project with Schlumberger for one of the majors back in 1998). But now it is more justifiable than ever. Technology prices have come down, systems capacities are up, network reliability is strong, wireless-connections are reasonably steady and more. All have come together like a prefect storm to resurrect the “smart” field initiatives like-never before. Even the small independents were now investing in this initiative. High oil prices were justifying the price tag (multiple millions of dollars) on these projects. A good part of these projects is in managing and integrating real time data steams and intelligent calculations.

Two more trends appeared in the first half of the 2010s:

  • Professionalizing the petroleum data management. Seemed like a natural progression now data management departments are in every company. The PPDM organization has a competency model that is worth looking into. Some of the majors have their own models that are tied to their HR structure. The goal is to reward a DM professional’s contribution to business’ assets. (Also please see my blog on MSc in Petroleum DM)
  • Larger companies are starting to experiment and harness the power of Big Data, and the integration of structured with unstructured data. Meta data and managing unstructured has become more important than ever.

Both trends have tremendous contributions that are yet to be fully harnessed.  The Big Data trend in particular is nudging data managers to start thinking of more sophisticated “analysis” than they did before .  Albeit one could argue that Technical Assistants that helped engineers with some analysis, were also nudging towards data analytics initiatives.

In December 2015, the oil price collapses more than 60% from its peak

But to my friends’ disappointment, standards are still being defined. Well hierarchy, while is seems simple to the business folks, getting it all automated and running smoothly across all types and locations of assets  will require the intervention of the UN.  With the data quality commotion some data management departments are a bit detached from the operations reality and take too long to deliver.

This concludes my series on the history of Petroleum Data Management. Please add your thoughts would love to hear your views.

For Data Nerds

  1. Data ownership has now come full circle, from the business to IT and back to business.
  2. The rise of Shale and Coal-bed Methane properties, fast evolution of field technologies are introducing new data needs. Data management systems and services need to stay nimble and agile. The old ways of taking years to come up with a usable system is too slow.
  3. Data cleaning projects are costly, especially when cleaning legacy data, so prioritizing and having a complete strategy that aligns with the business’ goals are key to success. Starting with well-header data is a very good start, aligning with what operations really need will require paying attention to many other data types, including mealtime measurements.
  4. When instituting governance programs, having a sustainable, agile and robust quality program is more important than temporarily patching problems based on a specific system.
  5. Tying data rules to business processes while starting from the wellspring of the data is prudent to sustainable solutions.
  6. Consider outsourcing all your legacy data cleanups if it takes resources away from supporting day to day business needs. Legacy data cleaning outsources to specialized companies will always be faster, cheaper and more accurate.
  7. Consider leveraging standardized data rules from organizations like PPDM instead of building them from scratch. Consider adding to the PPDM rules database as you define new ones. When rules are standardized data, sharing exchanging data becomes easier and cost effective.  

Part 2: Are we progressing? Oil & Gas Data Management Journey

In my previous blog, I looked back to the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and how E&P technical data was generated and stored. For those three decades, data management was predominantly and virtually exclusively on paper. As I looked to the 90s, I found them packed with events that affected all areas of data value chain, from generation to consumption to archival.

Early 90s: Driving Productivity Forward

The early 90s continued one dominant theme from the late 1980s: the relentless drive for increased productivity throughout the business. This productivity focus coincided with three technological advancements that made their way into the industry. First of all, dropping costs of hardware with their growing capacity meant that computers became part of each office with meaningful scientific programs on them. Second, the increased capabilities of “networks” and “server/client” opened up new possibilities by centralizing and sharing one source of data. Third, proven success of relational databases and the SQL offered sophisticated ways to access and manipulate more data.

All this meant that, by the early 90s, engineers and the majority of geoscientists were able to do an increasing portion of their work on their own computers. At that time, the world of computer was divided into two; UNIX for G&G professionals and PC for the rest. Despite the divide of technologies, increases in productivity were tangible. Technology had proven itself useful and helpful to the cause, and was here to stay.

Petroleum Geoscience- and Engineering- specific software applications started springing up in the market like Texas wild flowers in March. Although some companies built seismic and log interpretation software back in the 70s using Cray super computers and on DEC mini computers, not many could afford an $800,000 computer (yes, one computer that is) with limited capacity. “I remember selling software on time share for CGG back in the 80s” my friend commented, “companies had to connect to expensive super computers on extremely slow connections” he adds.  So when the computer became affordable and with the right power for E&P technical applications, the software market flourished.

The industry was thirsty for software and absorbed all of what was produced on the market and then some; operators who could afford it created their own. The big service companies decided they were not going to miss out. Schlumberger acquired Geoquest in 1992 for its seismic data processing services and tools, then also acquired Finder, Eclipse and a long string of other applications.

The only problem with all these different software applications was that they existed standalone; each application had its own database and did not communicate with another. As a result, working on each hydrocarbon asset meant multiple data entry points or multiple reformatting and re-loading. This informational and collaborative disconnect between the different E&P applications was chipping away the very productivity and efficiency the industry was desperate to harness.

Nevertheless, the standardization of defining, capturing, storing and exchanging E&P data was starting to be of interest to many organizations. PPDM in Canada and later POSC in the USA (now Energetics) were formed in 1988 and 1990 respectively. PPDM’s mission at the time was focused on creating an upstream data model that could be utilized by different applications. POSC’s mission was broader; to develop a standardized E&P data model and data exchange standards.

Schlumberger had a solution for its own suite of applications; it offered both Geoframe and Finder as answers to the data mess with Finder being the master database that fed Geoframe with information, and Geoframe integrated the various software applications together.

Mid-90s: Making Connections

In the mid-90s, Halliburton acquired Landmark Graphics and unveiled the OpenWorks platform for its suites of applications in April 1997 at the AAPG. Their market positioning? Integrated reservoir management and a data management solutions. OpenWorks offered similar data integration to GeoFrame but with its own set of scientific software. Geoframe and OpenWorks would butt heads for years to come, both promoting their vision of data management and integrated workflows. It seemed that the larger companies were either a Schlumberger or Landmark shop.

In 1997, the Open Spirit Alliance funded by a consortium (Schlumberger, Shell and Chevron) was born and interoperability was its mission. PrismTech was to develop and market an application integration framework that any company could utilize, it was to be open. Open Spirit platform was officially launched at the SEG in 1998.

Late 90s: Big Industry Changes

Come the late 90s, another drop in oil prices combined with other macroeconomics appeared to trigger a surge in “mega” M&A activities starting with Exxon acquiring Mobil in 1998, BP acquiring Amoco in 1999, and then Conoco acquiring Philips in 2000, these mega acquisitions continued through early 2000s.

All this M&A in the 90s added complexity to what was already a complex technical dataflow environment.

For the data nerds

  • In the 90s, the industry rapidly evolved from hand-written scout tickets, and hand-drawn maps to electronic data.
  • The “E&P software spring” produced many silo databases. These databases often overlapped in what they stored creating multiple versions of the same data.
  • The IT department’s circle of influence was slowly but surely expanding to include managing E&P data. IT was building data systems, supporting them, uploading data to them and generating reports.
  • Engineers and Geoscientist still kept their own versions of data, but in MANY locations now. While hardcopies were the most trusted form (perceived to be the most reliable), technical data was also stored in disks, network drives, personal drives and in various applications’ databases and flat files. It compounded the data management problems of the years prior to computerization of processes.
  • Relational databases and SQL proved to be valuable to the industry. But it was expensive to support a variety of databases; many operators standardized and requested systems on Oracle (or SQLServer later).
  • Systems not on relational databases either faded away to the background or converted to relational databases that were accepted by operators.
  • Two standard data models emerged PPDM and POSC (now Energetics) and one data integration platform from the OpenSpirit (now part of the Tibco suite).
  • Geos and engineers validated and cleaned their own data (sometimes with the help of Geotechs or technical assistants) prior to their analyses.

 Stay tuned for the Millennium, and please add your own memories (and of course please correct me for what is not accurate ….)

Are we progressing? Oil & Gas Data Management Journey…

Last month, I had dinner with a long-term friend who is now part of a team that sets strategic technical plans for his E&P employer. Setting strategies requires a standardized view of technical & financial data across all assets, in this case, multinational assets around the world. This data is required at both granular and helicopter level.  One of the things he mentioned was “I have to start by fixing data standards. I am surprised how little progress data-management standards have made since the POSC days in the mid 90s.”

How did Data Management evolve in oil & gas? Are we repeating mistakes? Are we making any progress? Here is what my oil and gas friends and I remember in this first part of a three-part series.  Please join me on this journey down memory lane and add your own thoughts.

The 1960s & 70s

Perhaps we can call these times, mainframe times.  Mainframes started to make their way into our industry around the mid-60s. At that time, they were mostly used to maintain accounting data. Like most data at this time, E&P accounting data was manually entered into systems, and companies employed large data-entry staff to input. Any computational requirement of the data was through feeding  programs through “punch cards”.

Wireline logs (together with Seismic data) were one of the very first technical data that required the use of computers, mainly at the service provider’s Computer Centers and then at the large offices of the largest major operators. A friend of mine at Schlumberger remembers the first log data processing center in Houston opening about 1970. In the mid-70’s more oil city offices (Midland, Oklahoma City, etc.) established regional computing centers. Here, wireline log data, including petrophysical and geological processing, was “translated” from films into paper log graphics for clients.

A geophysicist friend remembers using mainframe computers to read seismic tapes in the mid-70s. He said, “Everything was scheduled. I would submit my job, consisting of data and many Punch Cards, into boxes to get the output I needed to start my interpretation. That output could be anything from big roll of papers for seismic sections to an assemblage of data that could then be plotted. Jobs that took 4 hours  to process on a mainframe in the 70’s are instantaneous today”

The Society of Exploration Geophysicist (SEG) introduced and published data formatting standard SEG_Y in 1975.  SEG-Y formats are still utilized today.

The need to use a standard, well number identification process became apparent as early as 1956. Regulatory agencies started assigning API numbers to wells in the late 60s in the USA. The concept of developing world wide global well ID numbers is still being discussed today with some organizations making good progress.

The 2nd half of the 70s, pocket calculators and mini computers made their way to the industry. With that some computations could be done at the office or on the logging truck at the field without the need for Mainframes.

The 1980s

Early 80s. With the proven success of 3D seismic introduced by ExxonMobil, large and special projects started heavily processing 3D seismic on Mainframes. However, the majority of technical data was still mainly on paper. Wireline logs were still printed on paper for petrophysicists  to add their handwritten interpretations. Subsurface maps were still drawn, contoured and colored by hand. Engineering data came in from the field on paper and was then recorded on a running paper table. A reservoir engineer remembers   “We hired data clerks to read field paper forms and write the data in table (also on paper)”.

As personal computers  (PCs) made their way into the industry, some large companies started experimenting,  albeit they lacked the personal side since PCs were numbered and located in a common area. Employees were only given occasional access to them. These were also standalone computers, not networked. Data transfer from one PC to another happened via floppy disk. It was during this time that engineers were first exposed to spreadsheets (boy did they love those spreadsheets! I know I do)

Mid-80s. March 1986, oil prices crashed, a 55% drop over few days. In the three years following the crash, the industry shed staff the way cats shed hair. The number of petroleum staff dropped from approximately 1,000,000 employed staff to approximately 500,000 in three years.

oil price

Late 80s. But what seemed bad for the industry, may have also done the industry a favor. The oil price crash may have actually accelerated the adoption of technology. With a lot less staff, companies were looking for ways to accomplish more with less staff.

A geologist friend remembers using Zmap as early as 1988, which was the beginning of the move towards predominantly computer-based maps and technical data.

For data nerds: 

  • Engineers and geo professionals were responsible for maintaining their own data in their offices.
  • Although not very formal, copies of the data were maintained in centralized “physical” libraries. Data was very important in the “heat of the moment” after the project is complete, that data is someone else’s issue. Except there was no “someone else” yet.
  • This system produced many, many versions of the same data (or a little variation of it) all over. This data was predominantly kept on physical media and some kept on floppy disks which were mostly maintained by individuals.
  • From the 60s through to the end of the 80s, we can say there were mostly two global standards, one for the seismic data formatting – SEG-Y – and the other for log data – LAS (Log Ascii Standard). Any other standards were country- or company-specific.

I would love to hear from you if you feel I have missed anything or if you can add to our knowledge of how technical E&P data was managed during the above period.

Stay tuned for the 90s …

Data and Processes are your two friends in fat or skinny margin times – Some tools and ideas to weather low oil-prices

well;  2014 is ending with oil prices down and an upward trend on M&A activities. For those that are nearing retirement age, this is not all bad news. For those of us that are still building our careers and companies, well, we have uncertain times ahead of us. This got me asking: is it a double whammy to have most knowledgeable staff retiring when oil prices are low? I think it is.

At the very least, companies will no longer have the “fat margins” to forgive errors or to sweep costly mistakes under the rug! While costs must be watched closely, with the right experience some costs can be avoided all together. This experience is about to retire.

For those E&P companies that have already invested (or are investing) in putting in place, the right data and processes that captured knowledge into their analysis and opportunity prioritization, will be better equipped to weather low prices.  On the other hand, companies that have been making money “despite themselves” will be living on their savings hoping to weather the storm. If the storm stays too long or is too strong they will not survive.

Controlling cost the right way

Blanket cost cutting, across all projects is not good business. For example some wells do not withstand shutting down or differing repairs, you would risk losing the wells altogether. Selectively prioritizing capital and operational costs with higher margins and controllable risks, however, is good business. To support this good business practice is a robust foundation of systems, processes and data practices that empower a company to watch important matrices and act fast!

We also argue that without relevant experience some opportunities may not be recognized or fully realized.

Here are some good tools to weather these low prices:

Note that this is a quick list of things that you can do “NOW” for just few tens or few hundred thousand dollars (rather than the million dollar projects that may not be agile at these times)

  •  If you do not have this already, consider implementing a system that will give you a 360 degree view of your operations and capital projects. Systems like these need to have the capability to bring data from various data systems, including spreadsheets. We love the OVS solutions ( ). It is lean, comes with good processes right out of the box and can be implanted to get you up and running within 90 days.
  • When integrating systems you may need some data cleaning. Don’t let that deter you; in less than few weeks you can get some data cleaned. Companies like us,, will take thousands of records validate, de-duplicate, correct errors, complete what is missing and give you a pristine set. So consider outsourcing data cleaning efforts. By outsourcing you can have 20 maybe 40 data admins to go through thousands of records in a matter of a few days.
  • Weave the about-to-retire knowledge into your processes before it is too late. Basically understand their workflow and decision making process, take what is good, and implement it into systems, processes and automated workflows. It takes a bit of time to discover them and put them in place. But now is the time to do it. Examples are: ESP surveillance, Well failure diagnosis, identifying sweet frac’ing spots…etc. There are thousands upon thousands of workflows that can be implemented to forge almost error proof procedures for  “new-on-the job” staff
  • Many of your resources are retiring, consider hiring retirees, but if they would rather be on the beach than sitting around the office after 35+ years of work; then leverage systems like OGmentorsTM ( ).

In short, the importance of timely and efficient access to right & complete data, and the right knowledge weaved into systems and processes are just as important, if not more important, during skinny margin times.

Good luck. I wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy 2015.