The use of GIS in petroleum reservoir engineering – is there uptake? If not, what’s the problem?

Part 2 of 4

Demographics in the industry – where people are in their career path may affect the adoption of the use of GIS in engineering workflows

For those who have had more years of experience in petroleum, it took a huge leap of faith to adopt GIS as a normal part of their “working toolbox”, especially senior-level engineers and geologists who grew up on paper maps, hand written spreadsheets, and TI calculators – they were less likely to migrate to the newer ways of doing work via integrated geospatial mapping and analysis tools.  Some who were early adopters, took to GIS early, and pushed the technology envelope, encouraging innovative use of the GIS tools and its capabilities for ingesting more volumes and higher resolution data, as well as commanding that accuracy and precision in geodetics be improved.

For those in the age range of Millenials and younger, GIS use is more ubiquitous – it is actually expected to be within a company’s software offerings available to all employees who undertake the work of reservoir analysis and development.

Many engineers have always been very partial to spreadsheets and the entire Microsoft suite, plus specialty data visualization tools, if available, for advanced analytics (Spotfire, Tableau, etc.).  As a first choice, engineers tend to favor other advanced, fit for purpose engineering software tools that are in wide use in the industry.  Some of these applications do have mapping functions, but not so much the true “GIS” capability.  When these fall short, especially when ad hoc data integration and visualization is desired, often engineers come seeking the help of GIS tools to fill the gaps.  Location analysis requirements eventually drive the need for GIS.

Also, the need for “collaboration with data” in teams is a factor that drives the use of GIS in workflows where various data types need to appear all together in the same location frame of reference, for evaluation and interpretation.  The business needs for integration without undue delay in a “map enhanced” view drive the adoption of GIS for bringing data together.  Teams often cannot wait on custom IT solutions and do not want to bear the cost of custom software when using GIS can provide the solution.

Working with data visually and interactively

The ability to zoom in and zoom out is one function in GIS that most people leverage when evaluating prospects and projects, as this gives context to their analysis, a functional view that is sorely lacking in spreadsheets.  Using just spreadsheets, you lack the ability to integrate and view at the same time.

Within GIS, most calculations can be modeled – it just takes understanding how to do it, or else getting help from support people who can make “widgets” that do it for people who do not know how to or can’t learn.

Managing multiple spreadsheets of disparate data eventually drives people to need a GIS.  Back in the day, GIS was invented by Dr. Roger Tomlinson, the “Father of GIS”, because of the need for better data visualization.  The quality of analysis that contains a location component, can be adversely impacted without adequate visualization of the information and the flexibility to see different vantage points.  This type of analysis capability is enhanced using GIS tools.

How else might you be able to envision the effects of corrosive reservoir characteristics in a field such that you “see” the footprint through the display of wells that have undergone repairs or pipe replacements due to corrosion – noticing that these are all producing from the same formation within the same field, and within the same reservoir?  The answer literally “pops” out on the screen.  The overlays of the field outline, the reservoir outline, and seeing the wells producing from certain depths may illuminate the problem to be solved.  The modeling of materials, costs of replacements, and work program magnitude can be visualized to enable effective decision making using GIS.

Picture credits: 

1920’s Oil Field Planning and Derricks on Fire – by J.K. Wallingford 1921, owned by the author – ellenspictures © all rights reserved

Paleo-technic Engineer – by Callum Shand – used with permission;

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