IM Experts in E&P

The Case for a Vendor-Neutral Master Well Database in the Upstream E&P Oil and Gas industry

Date: 22/6/2010

Why is it - that E&P companies struggle with the quality of well data? Why is it - that business users have trouble trusting the well data they need to work with during their daily work? Why is it - that E&P companies waste money by repeatedly cleansing well data as the quality of well data degrades over time?

The answers to these questions are well known to upstream data managers, including treating data as an asset, providing sufficient investment in data management services and resources, ensuring good business engagement and direction, and strong adherence to standards and procedures, amongst others.

However, one area that has been neglected is a strategy to adopt a generic and vendor-neutral well data model and database. This strategy needs to ensure that the company's master set of well data is stored securely and the quality of data is verifiable, tightly controlled and managed over its lifecycle. This database is often referred to as the corporate database, "gold" database, master database or system of record.

Most of the common geoscience applications in use today do not provide a comprehensive ability to store and manage well data in a master well database. Arguably, this has been caused by the dominance of a few "enterprise-scale" geoscience applications within the E&P market over the last 20 years or so, where the focus has been on user functionality at the expense of managing the data.

One major consequence of being tied to a chosen application vendor is that as applications change over time and another application becomes preferred, the data has to be migrated to a different data model. Inevitably, the vendor data models do not match and data is lost in the process and the quality of data generally decreases.

Another major consequence is the difficulty in sharing and transferring data between companies. As happens when migrating data from one application to another within a company, transferring data between different data models in different companies can be time consuming, expensive and error prone.

However, larger oil companies have been able to tailor various vendor data models to achieve a master well database. This has been done at large expense and after many years of effort. Furthermore, integrating data to other applications requires expensive vendor resources and requires bespoke links between applications to be maintained.

The E&P industry needs an affordable, scalable, stable and standardised well master data model and database. Other industries have been successful in agreeing and adopting standard data models e.g. the Telecom industry's NGOSS shared information/data model - so why can't the E&P industry?

Looking back, the E&P industry has tried to adopt a standard data model; two notable initiatives being the Petroleum Open Software Corporation (POSC - now Energistics) Epicentre data model and the Public Petroleum Data Model (PPDM). 

Both organisations and their data models have been around since the 90's, but haven't been able to get a "toe-hold" in the upstream oil and gas industry - up to now. The Epicentre data model is a logical data model and requires significant effort to implement it as a physical database. In contrast, several companies have used the PPDM physical data model to successfully store well data and integrate it with other databases. So could the PPDM not for profit organisation revive interest in adopting a standard data model - the next few years may tell?

Significant benefits could be realised by E&P companies that are able to adopt a stable and industry-wide standard well data model. It will make the task of integrating different databases easier and more affordable, allowing industry wide economies of scale, bring more standardisation and efficiency across companies and enable a more efficient and cost effective transfer of data between companies, and not least ultimately improve well data quality over its lifetime.

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