GIS Data – the Value and the Associated Costs

Spatial Data – the Associated Costs

The last twelve months have brought a lot of pain to the oil and gas industry – friends and companies alike. During this time, we’ve seen layoffs and cost reduction affect almost everyone. For us, it’s been especially hard to watch companies layoff individuals at this time of year while still overspending in more obvious areas, third party areas.

Spatial data, GIS data, data in general, is a firm contributor to this overspending.

First and foremost, we’re not saying that data accuracy and integrity is not as important in these lean times. Far from it… having a firm understanding of your data integrity and accuracy is more important than ever (mistakes can be a lot more costly now).

Land grid data and the associated costs is a prime example. Many GIS folks have no idea as to the source of the land grid data they use. Unfortunately, without knowing the source, you can’t know the accuracy and the value your company is receiving from that land grid.

Below are some of the costly land grid mistakes we see folks making even in today’s current market.

  • Not knowing the source the land grid product you are using (a vendor name is not the source)
    • Land Grid “Survey” does not mean it is survey grade data – it is a marketing term – don’t make the mistake of making drilling decisions based off of land grid data.
    • The source of most land grid is the USGS 1:24k topographic maps. The best way to check the accuracy of your grid is to compare it to the topo maps.
  • Paying for updates when you or the vendor never update the land grid
    • Updates are a good thing.. as long as you use them and as long as they happen.
  • Paying a yearly rental or lease is only a good thing if you are receiving value
    • In most cases, paying the same amount each year is a way for the vendor to keep you locked into a yearly contract.
    • The same amount of money each year for the same data. Updates are one thing… paying for the same thing each year is another.
    • Auto-renewal clauses. Some vendors in our industry have aggressive 90 day auto-renew clauses that have trapped some customers into paying for data that they no longer want.
    • Remove the data. Another vendor trick, even if you can get out of that legally questionable auto-renewing contract, the vendor will probably ask you to remove all rented and leased data dating back in time from when you first became their customer.

Spatial Data – the Value

What are you getting in return for your data spend? It’s an important question that has a greater need to be answered in today’s economic climate. The land grid example holds true here as well, as there can be many differences on that delivered value. Below are some questions you may want to ask when it comes to your land grid.

  • Are we getting all the layers?
    • Land grid generally means section, township, range data. However, there are more layers to the land grid canvas. Make sure you are getting all the land grid layers, including quarters, lots, boundaries, etc. Many vendors will double dip by asking you to pay for the other land grid layers once you notice that you need them.
  • Frequency of updates?
    • How often is the land grid updated and for what reasons? Does it affect your areas of interest?
    • Is it easy to differentiate between attribute updates and polygon updates? This may be important when it comes to making decisions on whether or not to update.
    • Will my land grid vendor be able to help me upgrade on my systems? Many vendors will make your job much easier if you provide them with your schema or data model.
  • Does it take effort to make it right for your company?
    • Are you having to fix land grid errors? Will your vendor fix them for you?
    • Do your township boundaries match the section boundaries? If they don’t, they should.
    • Are there missing areas or holes? Why?
    • What percent of leases can be automapped to the land grid? If it is less than 90%, there could be a problem.
    • Do you need multiple formats and schemas? If so, will your land grid vendor provide you with what you need?

Time is money. Remember, however, you are paying for a product and service. My hope is that by reading this we’ve helped you reaffirm the value that you are getting from your data. If you’re finding that you’re spending time on data challenges, know that there is a company out there that can help you, and that we do it every day. If you think that we might be able to bring you cost savings and greater value during these tough times, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Regards and thanks,

Anthony Ford – Vice President