Energistics Summit charts slow progress for E&P data standards, despite pressing need Jim Crompton, Chevron fellow, didn’t pull any punches as he expressed his views on why the upstream oil & gas industry has been slower than others at adopting industry-specific, XML-based data-management standards. In E&P, “what makes us good is what makes us ornery,” said Crompton. “Chevron values the independence of its business units. There is value in that because it allows quick response to changing business conditions. But when it comes to standards the question then becomes, ‘who owns it?’ The result is many pilots, but poor adoption.” Thus, as industry data volumes grow, information becomes increasingly difficult to locate. On the other hand, with standards adoption and a degree of data cleansing and system interoperability, search engines would become increasingly efficacious. Reliance on spreadsheets to cobble together data from disparate systems would decrease. Energistics’ Third Annual Standards Summit, held September 23 in Houston, was a forum for interested parties to speak to the challenges and opportunities they see in particular for the WITSML and PRODML data standards. Discussions, however, ranged more widely to include the management concepts related to standards use and attitudes toward information technology use in E&P. Energistics is a not-for-profit membership organization and a global consortium meant to facilitate E&P information sharing and business process integration. It has custody and manages the evolution of these open data standards. WITSML, used for drilling-data exchange, includes data, process, and infrastructure standards that facilitate movement of drilling data from well sites; completion standards that meet operators’ visualization needs; and capabilities for representing well paths beyond simply raw data collected, including calculated, planned, and hybrid well paths. PRODML, for production data exchange, facilitates cross-vendor plug-and-play in configuration and conducting production optimization activities. It includes a uniform way to record distributed temperature surveys, a relatively new field technology coming into broader use. Its fluid properties standards are based on an adaptation of WITSML, and was developed and deployed by ExxonMobil. Other challenges to standards adoption called out by Crompton in his presentation included the following: • Who owns the standard? Is it central headquarters, the business units, a business function, or the IT department? • Who pays for the change? This is a thorny issue when sticking with the legacy way of doing things entails no additional cost. • Who benefits? The value is strategic, but the costs potentially impact tactical operations. Even business partners can be end up paying. • Where do you start? Data volumes are growing everywhere. • Will it last? Standards adoption isn’t an event; it requires sustained support. “As much as data management, integration is the challenge and interoperability the goal,” said Crompton. “Google would be great [as an enterprise search engine] if you could get systems talking to each other. We’re taking initial steps toward having a services-oriented architecture.” The event’s keynote speaker, Stephen Munden, managing director, Business Keys Ltd., addressed the management concepts related to standards promulgation, which, if one stops to consider, will be seen as impacting almost all walks of life, from standardized machine parts to franchise restaurants and hotels, not to mention annual employee performance reviews. In the discussion that followed, panelists and audience members gave their views on the positive and negative impacts of standards on, for example, innovation. Some have noted the deleterious impact standards can potentially have on driving needed change. To the extent conclusions were drawn, the panelists were of a mind that standards were much like regulatory environments in general. In other words, it wasn’t a question of them being wholly positive or negative in their effect. What mattered was that they be suitably crafted for their designated arena. Returning to the oil & gas industry, panelist Arshad Matin, president and CEO of SMT, an industry provider of seismic interpretation software, concluded, “Despite all the technology investment, this is still a skills-based industry. And that resource is getting scarce. The question is how do you use standards and technology to allow the individual to focus on a core competency?”