Recently Katalyst Data Management announced that it has acquired the Perth-based oil and gas data management division of SpectrumData Pty. Ltd., a leading provider of data management, tape transcription and scanning services for the geoscience industry in the Asia-Pacifi c region. This is not an earth-shattering announcement, just a move to broaden Katalyst’s global footprint.

But in a conversation with Katalyst President and CEO Steve Darnell, I learned a few things about the data management business that I didn’t know. And I think the biggest thing is how much more the oil and gas industry is trusting third-party companies to store and manage their data.

Ever since the concept of the cloud arose, the industry has been struggling with the pros and cons. Yes, it’s nice to have access to data 24/7 without investing in IT infrastructure. But companies spend millions of dollars on proprietary subsurface datasets and don’t want that information compromised. Companies like Katalyst are offering an alternative.

Katalyst offers the hosting service as well as the “heavy lifting,” which is the actual process of preparing data and information to be loaded in a digital form from reading tapes, scanning documents, metadata indexing and quality control. The data are prepared to be loaded and organized so that any company using the service can access them quickly and easily at any time.

The company also offers a service called SeismicZone, which allows oil companies to license their own proprietary data. “If a company acquires data in the Denver-Julesburg Basin and then decides they’re no longer core to its business, it can put those data to market via the SeismicZone online portal and sell a license just like a geophysical contractor sells a license,” he said. “Our goal is to provide signifi cant additional value for data we store for our customers. We want data to be active.”

Having written about this industry for 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of these solutions come and go. Darnell said that the industry’s mindset had to change. Kelman, the forerunner of Katalyst, started offering these types of services in the mid-‘90s and had some success in Calgary in Alberta, Canada, he said. “But to try to take that and expand it, there was some pushback,” he said.

Initially there were several issues that made hosted data management unpalatable to oil companies. One was cost.

“Costs have come down,” Darnell said. “There’s been a transition away from licensing technology to accessing technology.”

He added that iGlass, the data hosting service, is similar to a Google search. “You can go in, you can see the data and you can access them, but you don’t have to have everything behind your firewall,” he said.

“I think the mindset has changed, and cost has been a big factor,” he continued.

Darnell added that the shale boom has created an appetite for legacy data, and this has made information management and data mining so integral to a company’s success that large oil companies are now creating career paths for data management professionals.

Darnell said the ultimate goal is to be able to store and manage all types of subsurface data that a company might have. “We are [developing] and will continue to develop our platform,” he said.