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

Part 4 of 4

The early work of some engineering teams is more about financial and economic analysis than sub-surface reservoir characterization and mechanics.

I have mentioned that some engineers function more like accountants or financial analysts, than engineers, and location is not so much in their minds at those financial viability stages of work – at least not until some risk analysis comes into the picture that requires more understanding of the geography and inherent risks of the asset being evaluated.  They may more often entrust the geologists and the landmen to look after the “location” aspects through the early stages of the life-cycle leading up to selecting the well location.

As we mentioned, we have seen some great examples of people using GIS for risk segmentation mapping, and composite risk analysis, especially when they had crunched numbers first in economic evaluation software, and wanted to see how these applied to the formations in the fields that they were considering by a map visualization.  We have also seen GIS used as part of the toolset for strategic portfolio planning at the highest levels of the organization.

Landmen think that this capability is important, as do geologists, as they recognize that reservoirs know no human imposed boundaries, and location analysis is necessary to understand the structure and where it sits in relation to who owns it, who has authority over it, who must be negotiated with, and so forth, in order to drill, complete, and produce successfully.

Much of this goes back to our life cycle of oilfield assets, and the people, processes, and technology that must interact together well, in order to deliver good results.  GIS is one technology that can enable the full visualization and further the value realization of oilfield assets, cradle to grave.

Failure to visualize can cause issues down the road

We know from the driller’s perspective that accuracy and precision are of extreme importance to locating a well, and planning the path of the well ahead of drilling.  Ask a surveyor if he or she cares about mapping and geospatial.  They may not sign on for a particular flavor of GIS, but geospatial correctness and aligning with the property boundaries of the minerals under lease is the number one priority.

Drilling engineers care very deeply about characteristics of a target reservoir into which they are drilling.  Pressure pockets, corrosive composition of rocks, heat, drilling into existing infrastructure, and all of the other sub-surface dynamics, if well understood and visualized, can make for a safer, less risky E&P project in terms of lives and assets.  Benefits can be derived well after the well, if commercial, goes on production.

Often the line of sight is not strategic – particularly at the beginning of the life-cycle when many team members care more about the potential return on investment for the given budget year, than they care about using location-related data visualization and analysis for the long run.  Accounting + GIS does not make sense to some people, at first.  Some simply cannot see the point in joining together these functions as a “family of capabilities” that can help them model and envision future outcomes.  It takes analogies that tell the stories of how other sectors and industries have leveraged GIS to do greatly enhanced business intelligence and strategic planning, as well as managing their operations.  If you can settle people down to hear the story, then they may listen and get the insight.  Only if

Should people embrace GIS as a ubiquitous part of managing the petroleum industry?

We will leave that question open and ask you to discuss.

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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