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National Data Repositories for Subsurface E&P Data in the Oil and Gas Industry

National Data Repositories (NDR) for the oil and gas industry contain the broad scope of data volumes that are acquired to aid in decision-making in each phase of the business, from upstream to midstream to downstream. For upstream, the subsurface data used for exploration and production (E&P) comprises of multiple disciplines of science and engineering, such as geology, geochemistry, geophysics, geomatics, geomechanics and geoengineering, petroleum engineering, reservoir engineering and well engineering. Managing these various data types is challenging and requires subject matter experts who understand the work flow, data storage, integration and data accessibility.

National Data Repositories in the E&P world are collections of data consisting of raw data, processed data, interpreted data, support documents and reports within an organization with the intent to preserve and promote a country’s natural resources.

Resource Preservation

Since the early days of reconnaissance studies in exploration, data have been collected and preserved to ensure that it can be revisited for study and analysis. The amount of data collected is substantial and should be managed systematically and efficiently for future reference. In the old days, physical data was collected, tagged and stored in warehouses as physical storage and retrieved manually. With today’s technology and low disk cost, most of these data can be digitized and ingested into disk storage, making it available online. This digital transformation (digitization and ingestion) provides evergreen data preservation and accessibility. The digital transformation of E&P data can eventually provide a platform for data analytics.

Hydrocarbon Promotion

In order for a country to grow and obtain E&P technical experience, foreign investment and participation are essential to develop the hydrocarbon reserves in the country. Huge capital investment is required to develop these hydrocarbon potentials.  With contract terms such as production sharing or leases, the huge financial investment exposure can be avoided and risk can be reduced. Hence, countries with the hydrocarbon potential reserves need to actively promote their natural resources through marketing and block promotion. Data preparation requires advance planning and requires many resources. With the establishment of an NDR, data can be made available online and potentially be accessed in a virtual data room. The accessible, digital data, if managed properly, can provide more investors an opportunity to access the data online and utilize the data room without having to travel.

Establishing a National Data Repository

Establishing an NDR requires a solid data management framework, consistent data governance practices and commitment to subsurface data integrity from higher management. Several models of NDR have been established across the globe, either outsourced, insourced or a hybrid version of the two. The outsource model completely transfers the establishment of the NDR to a third party vendor, with the host authority managing the project. The insource model uses internal talent within the organization to set up the data management for the subsurface data repository. The hybrid model is combination of both outsourcing and insourcing models.

National Data Repository Models

The outsource model can be a cost effective NDR, but one critical factor in successful execution is to have a well written outsource contract. The NDR framework, governance, roles and responsibilities must be established upfront. The scope of work and pricing model requires special attention so the operating cost does not exceed the proposed contract budget. Personnel in the host authority need to be very well versed in all aspects of subsurface data management and organization. Good communication between the host and vendor, especially in the planning and implementation phases, is also key to ensuring an effective NDR.

The insource model uses internal talent and, depending on the scale of the NDR, could rely heavily on human resources. The benefit of insourcing is the knowledge transfer within the organization, and operating cost can be managed as there is not a contractual obligation with a third party. Some of the challenges, however, could be the cost of rapid technology refresh, hardware and software maintenance, training to upskill human resources and speed in project execution.

The hybrid model combines the benefits of both the insourcing and outsourcing models. This model works well when internal human resources are limited. The host authority can focus on the NDR roadmap execution, work processes, administration and perhaps data analytics.  Some work scopes which are normally outsourced are:

Life of Field in Upstream Oil & Gas

Subsurface data generated in the E&P activities, are broad and encompass multiple disciplines. Understanding the life of field (LOF) in the upstream workflow can provide a better understanding on how data are generated in each stage of the phases. In addition, this helps the organization better understand which data are generated most frequently and determine the order of importance in terms of data management and business requirements. The stages in LOF consist of:

  • Acquisition
  • Exploration
  • Development
  • Production
  • Abandonment

A typical conventional LOF can last from 30-50 years, while with unconventional oil (such as oil sands, tight oil and oil shale) the LOF is a much shorter duration.

In new frontier areas, data are normally limited to 2D seismic lines, gravity & magnetic data, aerial photo, Lidar and geological reports. Once the company enters the exploration phase, even more data will be acquired and generated to obtain better understanding of the area and to do prospect evaluations. Seismic data will be acquired and reprocessed, and perhaps some wells will be drilled to test the play or prospect. In the event of successful exploration with commercial discoveries (after appraisal wells are drilled), the field will enter into the next phase of development and subsequently production. In each of these phases, more data will be acquired and generated to firm up the field development. The final phase is abandonment, where all infrastructures (such as platforms and pipelines) for the field will be removed and all wells will be plugged and abandoned. All data pertaining to the abandoned field will still be maintained in the repository for future reference.

Developing a Successful National Data Repository

To develop a successful NDR, there are organizations that focus on data management, promote technical knowledge and develop industry standards that can be used as references and guidelines.  Some examples are DAMA International, Professional Petroleum Data Management (PPDM), Energistics, Society of Exploration Geophysics (SEG), American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and Open Group. Katalyst Data Management (Katalyst) actively participates and contributes to each of these organizations. Katalyst’s iGlass data model is one of the first subsurface data management platforms to achieve PPDM Gold Certification.

Katalyst Data Management has the experience, expertise and certified personnel in providing consultancy to help national oil and gas companies establish an NDR for their subsurface data volumes. If you would like additional information or have questions regarding your NDR, please give us a call.

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