In the world of product design and manufacture, the 3D product image created by computer-aided design (CAD) systems has come to act as an intuitive interface and gateway to all kinds of information sought by designers, engineers, and journeymen of diverse types. In much the same way, in upstream and midstream oil and gas, another kind of spatial representation, a map generated using a geographic information system (GIS), is increasingly seen as the widest-serving interface and information gateway for all things wells and pipelines. Besides establishing exactly where something is, as difficult as that may be in itself, GIS can prove instrumental in meeting regulatory requirements, allowing cross-functional integrated collaboration, and establishing a single source of truth. Speaking at the recently held GeoGathering 2009, Michael Harris, engineering manager in the midstream division of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., said, “How do we access the data stuck in our pipelines? What we need is complete, online, easily retrievable information about our horizontal infrastructure that includes a visual interface and that takes an integrated, holistic approach to the data lifecycle.” According to Steve Cooper, chief communications officer with the Professional Petroleum Data Management (PPDM) association, to date about 4.5 million oil and gas wells have been drilled worldwide; about 3.5 million of those are in the US. Cooper says the power of GIS to enhance data presentation, visualization, and analysis has taken it from being a niche tool to become a ubiquitous technology and the basis for a wide range of decision making. “Visualization allows you to intuitively assimilate information in a way not possible when working with spreadsheets. Animation makes visualizations interactive,” he said. The role of GIS technology, according to Cooper, includes the following: • Inventory – to answer questions such as what do I have, where, who owns it, who can use, and what is its history? • Integration – of information related to production, cost, and revenues per well, reservoir, and field, accessed by means of a map. Data types include financial, operational, technical, and various types of unstructured data that may be indexed and located using search technology. • Quality – while poor quality data can lead to bad decisions, the establishment of business rules as to what information is brought into the holistic mapping system can help establish what data to trust. • Workflow – can provide the focal point for initiation of processes and decision tracking. • Interoperability – with the need to be able to run analytical applications against current data, a map-based interface is ideal for selecting data and can act as a kind of information portal. Mark Shetzer, GIS manager, Petroleum Field Services, and Glen Vlass, president, CartoPac Field Solutions, presented a case study on how field data collection and GIS are being used to help operators meet new regulations for well permitting from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that include filing detailed information on geographic details to a 400 ft radius from the proposed well, and for water bodies a 1,000 ft radius from the proposed well. While anxieties were widespread that the new regulations would prove extremely burdensome, Shetzer and Vlass maintained that use of field data collection and GIS were being used to automate the permitting process for some operators to the point where no measureable increase in how long it took to execute the process was noticed. One problem facing pipeline companies is that they may not have a good handle on information about acquired assets. Required information can include access rules, leasing, population, structures, performance, and financial data. According to Anadarko’s Harris, using a model-based approach that includes use of PODS, CartoPac field solutions, and solutions from New Century Software, his company has gone a long way toward having the data collection processes; viewing and access tools; integration and work flows; and map-based interfaces needed to have one definitive source for pipeline data. The GeoGathering event’s keynote speaker, Dewitt Burdeaux, a pipeline safety specialist with the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) summed up the situation when he said, “There is no requirement that companies use geographic information systems, but how can you do business without them?