Thoughts On The 2010 ESRI PUG Conference
Last month, I attended the annual meeting of the ESRI Petroleum User Group (PUG) in Houston, Texas. This is the conference where oil and gas companies’ GIS professionals learn the latest applications of ArcGIS and geospatial technology to the exploration and production workflow.
It was my first time at ESRI PUG, having worked as a geologist and geophysical interpreter, i.e. the end customer, until 2009. Viewing the world of petroleum data management and analysis from the technology vendor/contractor side is a fresh, challenging flip on the same question all of us in the geo-industry ask: How can we push the limits of data access, analysis, visualization and scientific understanding using tech solutions, in this case GIS? This requires technological innovation, but, most crucially, a strong focus on the customer’s problem and closing the interpretation-GIS gap. This last theme came up over and over again, even if not explicitly stated always, during the three days of the conference.
I’ll put the concept in context as I run down key conference proceedings.
1. Keynote Address given by ESRI’s Clint Brown, Product Director, and Damian Spangrud, ArcGIS Platform Manager. After a few obligatory minutes on the hydrocarbon exploration and production (expro) lifecycle, Brown and Spangrud tag-teamed an hour-long talk and demo of the ArcGIS Explorer operational dashboard. Two items of note: a) Bing Maps as part of basemap library, which means viewing well location in birds’ eye view along with well and company-specific lease information, and b) ESRI in the cloud (I hate that word “cloud” – all we need is more marketing-speak) – more specifically ArcGIS Server on Amazon to use geoprocessing tools directly, presented by Lawrie Sims, ERDAS founder and ESRI’s current director of imagery enterprise solutions.Tom Bell, Shell’s head of GIS services, talked briefly about CAD integration into ArcGIS (more on this later).
2. Unveiling ArcGIS 10: A mix of tech and sales folks from ESRI showed key UI changes, editing tools and geoprocessing in ArcGIS 10 with slides and live demos. (I have a feeling these same guys gave the same demo at the Federal UC the previous week because they had their lines and stage movements down pat.) A really cool use case was the display of wind energy potential and stream network on a DEM, with some image analysis and write-out to geoprocessing model. The end result was then displayed with a time slider and in 3DAnalyst, which only goes to show Interpretation-GIS Gap #1: That we 3D evangelists still have a long way to go in convincing GIS workers and interpreters that analysis of inherently 3D data can and ought to be done in 3D with time-aware functionality; it’s not just for final show-and-tell.
Given the demo’s focus on ArcLogistics and mobile services, I was surprised that the reaction of the audience around me was the exact opposite of what James Fee encountered at FedUC. While I wondered why the demo wasn’t being conducted live on an iPhone, everyone immediately around me ooh-aahed at the geoprocessing model and 3D. Then again, this is the portion of the ESRI market that will continue to use ArcMap from teetering towers of disk drives long after “desktop is dead.”
3. Operations Database Panel Discussion – Then And Now My favorite part of any sci-tech gathering is when the old geezers grand viziers tell stories from what Charles Fried terms the Paleo-Technic Era. Jay Leonard, Charles Fried, Bill Burroughs, Mike Grieco and John Calkins gave talks on the evolution of GIS for petroleum and the GeoByte magazine with tips for the future. Kirk Kuykendall brings up GIS-Interpretation Gap #2 in his conference post, “[the panel identified] the gap between geologic Interpretation and GIS as being one of the big challenges for developers of software tools … and offered this advice for those seeking GIS rock star status: provide data through web services instead of CDs.”
As someone who has used almost every 2D and 3D interpretation software out there, what interpreters need is not new software in which to analyze and visualize, but an ArcGIS or similar plugin to that software which efficiently and centrally manages all the data required for said interpretation and related database functions. Discover 3D comes the closest to addressing these needs while still being a standalone package. The question is how it fits into the expro workflow of essential geologic and geophysical interpretation in SeisWorks, Petrel, proprietary software, etc. followed by dynamic well planning and drilltime model refinement. Chris Jepps and I tweeted back and forth on the form and role of such a GIS-heavy interpretation platform; he seemed to champion GIS as the basis, while I always recommend keeping the action rooted in the customer’s business and fitting a GIS solution to an existing interpretation engine via plugins and services. Check out Chris’s Exprodat site and his writings on GIS for Petroleum.
ESRI’s John Calkins then brought the vendor perspective. According to him, the geological community has the same problems as the intelligence community. Very true, intelligence pattern analysis and geologic interpretation are all about finding anomalies in a timely fashion. Calkins advised PUG to model itself after the intelligence community not just in timely data collection, planning and execution but also in being prepared by having all data, all base maps ready and automating as much as possible to save time and to reduce knowledge loss.
1. SAAS – Keith Fraley talked on how Shell is exploring Software As A Service, i.e. companies access vendor data/software without having to manage it in-house.
2. Early Development Cost Scoping Analysis Using GIS – BP has pioneered in GIS since it acquired ARCO and has since made great strides in automating geospatial analysis with reservoir economics using a variety of COTS tools. “Quantitative results are stored in database tables for query and sorting. With this approach, multiple development options are iterated for multiple prospects for comparison and ranking.”
3. Extraction to Injection – Using GIS for Carbon Sequestration This is a rather dull title for a very general and riveting interpretation-GIS-integration talk by Jess Kozman. ArcGIS 10, with its temporal map and mobile services, is the perfect tool in which to manage the spatio-temporal aspects of carbon sequestration. While I don’t recommend ArcGIS ever becoming the central interpretation tool, interpretation software still has a lot to learn and absorb from GIS and the lifecycle management of not just oilfields, but DATA. Interpretation-GIS Gap #3: There is huge scope for really robust earth data schema, a good serviceable set of geo tools, encoding for unstructured data and Building Information Modeling (BIM).
CAD/GIS INTEGRATION IN ARCGIS 10
ESRI’s Don Kuehne demoed new ArcGIS 10 CAD features: CAD data, which has attribution, symbology, coordinate systems and raster data, can be added to Map and then resymbolized, queried, etc. without conversion. Then, a few of us got into a discussion with Don about the I word – interoperability, in this case of the CAD-GIS and BIM-GIS varieties. The answer lies somewhere on Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), the basis of BIM, and writing information exchange standards through web services. Kuehne talks about both CAD-GIS and BIM-GIS interoperability ideas at his blog.
The industry I’ve come from has made great advances in incorporating and innovating in geospatial technology and is beginning to warm up to new concepts like web and mobile services. Scientists are interested in exchanging ideas and information, not about the business models whereby that happens. Hope ESRI PUG conferences to come supports this sentiment more and more.