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Entitlements and Cataloging: The Challenges of Managing Seismic Data

Seismic data management can be a minefield for operating companies. Not only is it expensive to acquire and license, companies can incur significant costs in having data it is not supposed to have. There is a need for making data more easily accessible by designing management systems that can effectively store, govern, blend, and provide quality control for the data that it acquires. However, in designing those systems, companies sometimes overlook, or even minimize, the importance of tracking the sources of various types of data and verifying the entitlements it may or may not have with that data.

“This is something that we get blindsided over a lot of times because we’re looking at things and databases and how to manage data that we can manipulate. So, a lot of times, we don’t pay attention to the stuff that’s coming in through our warehouses, just sitting in boxes,” said Marty Davis, exploration and production manager at Anadarko.

Davis outlined the challenges in developing that system at a presentation held by the Professional Petroleum Data Management Association (PPDM). The talk covered the lessons learned from Anadarko’s past efforts at data remediation, as well as the entitlement concerns companies may have with seismic data.

One of the key lessons Davis discussed was that a data remediation project will lead a company to find significant amounts of data it may not realize it has possession of, and much of that data goes beyond the standard file formats such as SegY and Navigation Data Standard (NDS). Seismic data could include contracts, entitlements, and support data such as field reports, observer reports, final reports, and processing reports. There are also questions of proprietary rights: A company may have seismic data in which it was not a full partner, or there may be depth restrictions. Some of the data may be transferrable, and some of it may not be. Davis said companies need to know exactly what they can and cannot do with the data in their possession. However, sorting through seismic data can be a nightmare, particularly if that data originally came in nondigital legacy formats such as on tapes and floppy disks.

Davis said another problem that comes up is the accurate cataloging of incoming data, particularly data received during a merger or acquisition. Warehouse management systems, he said, are not adequate for managing the data coming in.

“You’ve got these 30-something tractor trailers coming in with hundreds of thousands of boxes, and all you can really do is just scan those things, get them on a shelf, and do whatever you need to do to know where it is,” Davis said. “You have some kind of catalog of information on a generic level that might tell you what’s in that box, but you don’t know for sure. You’re just taking their word as to what’s in there.”

Davis said Anadarko’s primary objective with its remediation project was to establish delivery and cataloging standards and processes for new data, which includes the verification of entitlement for all of its data. Equally important was linking support documentation to the seismic data, enhancing navigation data quality control, and moving the data in the warehouse to a digital format, which Davis said was a necessity as the company’s older interpreters leave the workforce.

“As we get younger interpreters, we have found that they are less likely to have the ambition to get up, go to the warehouse, and look through boxes of data. If it’s not online, it might as well not exist,” he said.

Moving legacy data to digital formats becomes more vital as legacy media formats become less supported, and the media itself can be difficult to maintain over a lengthy period of time. Davis described the frustration of lifting a box with tape media and seeing “your data dripping out of the bottom of the box” after degrading and dissolving. On top of that, warehouse management systems are inadequate for managing the massive amounts of seismic data and well data available.

“You have people saying, ‘Hey, I’m looking for data on this well,’ and they send a request in and get back a group of boxes,” Davis said when describing Anadarko’s data management system. “The data you’re looking for is probably in one of those boxes, but you can’t narrow it down any more than that. So, we also need to upgrade our legacy well data management system, move beyond the warehouse tracking system, and into something similar to what we did with seismic data.”

Davis recommended that companies evaluate and audit their seismic data management process, evaluate their records center data management system, and investigate their seismic data management systems. They should also budget for a pilot remediation project with skilled personnel savvy in interpreting geological and geophysical data.

“Don’t use warehouse personnel to do it unless they are well trained to know what they are looking at,” he said. “The people going through these boxes and looking at this data need to understand what the different types of data are and how to manage it.”


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