The Management of Oil Industry Exploration & Production Data

Who are we? Purchase Options - B&W USA/World - B&W UK - B&W Germany - B&W France - Color USA/World - Color UK - Color Germany - Color France
1 Introduction 12 Physical data
2 Value of data 13 Documents
3 Subsurface data 14 Auditing
4 Current practice 15 Quality
5 DMBoK 16 Other elements
6 Governance 17 Assessing
7 Architecture 18 Glossary
8 Development 19 Figures
9 Operations 20 Bibliography
10 Security 21 Index
11 Corporate data 22 Further info
Upcoming events New articles Extra material Links
Sample chapter Figures Bibliography Extra material Historical Papers

by Steve Hawtin
11 Jan 2014

Convergent Explanations

Farmed Bluefin Tuna

Everyone knows that the reason why sharks, dolphins and tuna fish have similar shapes is because they all need to travel as fast as they can through a resistant fluid without using too much energy. If they weren't that shape they wouldn't be able to live the life that they lead. Solutions converge on similar answers where they press hardest against imposed constraints. There are plenty of marine creatures that don't depend on rapid movement, starfish, crabs and sea horses all have distinct body shapes to match their preferred habitats and habits.

In order to locate and exploit subsurface resources oil companies employ a wide range of different specialists, each with their own way of seeing the world, their own tools and tricks. Within each discipline there is a fairly free flow of discussion about the advantages and drawbacks of different tools, both from personal discussion and personnel movement. Innovations that have benefits so clear that even corporate management can see it are rapidly adopted across the whole industry. For example Landmark's workstations in the 1980s so completely changed the application of seismic that any company that didn't switch to them (or their imitators) ended up on the scrap heap of history. It seems to me that the way that the work is done inside each specialisation is, like the shape of fast marine animals, driven towards conformity. There are only so many ways that production measurements can be analysed, the features of the "best" structural modelling packages find their ways into other software, and the best schools learn (and teach) all the new tricks.

There may be consensus within each topic but my experience is that there is much less consistency in the way that these specialisms are coordinated. The interactions between domains change from one oil company to the next, even while the ways that each individual group of specialists works has become more uniform. There are some consistent features, for example, every expert knows that the data they are forced to rely on is badly documented and of dubious quality, but despite this the results they deliver are trustworthy and so easy to understand that they don't need documentation. These types of undocumented (and mutually contradictory) assumptions actually drive the real business processes, and while many of them are uniform there is enough variation to ensure every oil company's activities have their own unique interactions.

Consider the tuna as an example. To move as fast as it does it must, of course, be streamlined, but that's not enough, it also needs muscles to push it through the water and those require a specialised respiration and circulatory system to power them. It is the context, the availability of a high energy food supply (such as pilchards, anchovies and sardines) that both keeps the tuna going, and ensures that the ability to swim fast is crucial for the tuna's survival. Thinking about the interactions is more challenging than considering each of the elements in isolation, but it is also much more interesting (and potentially rewarding).

prev icon
Article 27
paper icon
rss icon
RSS Feed
news icon
home icon
toc icon
Book Contents
figure icon
All Figures
biblio icon
download icon
website icon
buy icon
contact icon
Contact Us
next icon
Article 29

Comment on the contents of the 'Convergent Explanations' page
Subject: Email to Reply To (optional):