Friday, 25 September 2009


I followed UK's premier GIS meeting hosted this week by AGI in Stratford-upon-Avon UK, on its excellent website and twitter (#geocom and other attendees). You can read there that the debate over FOSS vs. COTS is morphing into GIS vs. neo-geography. But I found the following to be very a-propos for petroleum: Yahoo!Geo Technologies' Gary Gale explains in his blog the importance of a global geographic ontology - that is identifying not only by location, but also by metadata and by topology.

Location identifiers are not a new theme in petroleum, as operators, vendors and standards bodies have addressed it jointly and severally since the dawn of exploration and production. Yahoo!Maps' WOEIDs (Where On Earth ID) is not unlike a GUWI (Global Unique Well Identifier) proposed by Energistics and IHS Energy. What may be new, however, is the topological ramification.

Gale's blog starts with the example of the London UK tube (underground, metro) map, and its history from a sketchy geographic representation, to its current topological representation. Beck in 1932 recognised that under the ground, riders didn't care about exact location as much as clear realtionships among lines, and how to get to stations and from one to another. Didn't you wish sometimes that in oilfield maps, where for example pipelines crowd each other on maps even at large scale, you could simply post them in relation to valves and connections rather that geography? That would make them clearer in what matters,that is oil or gas flow!

[By-line: I moved to Alberta, Canada from S France in 1976, and when I first saw the highway map of Alberta I thought it was a toplogical map too - I soon learned that roads follow township and section lines, and they do consist of many more straight segments and angular turns than in European maps:

Calgary CDN and Cambridge UK, from Wikimapia ]

Then Gale's blog goes onto topology, distinguishing for example the town of Stratford-upon-Avon from its surrounding district Stratford-on-Avon. That is evidenly what GIS does best, to map topological relationships! And then he explains how WOEID and associated applications allow to "parse structured and unstructured content and to identify the places referenced". GUWID concentrates on rationalising well IDs in a global master data framework. Petroleum standards also address via, say, the PPDM Lite spatial extension to the core data mode. Neither the spatial extension nor the unstructured data are, however, integral to these initiatives.

Would petroleum operators, vendors and standards therefore not benefit from some cross-pollination? Energistics and PPDM have various working groups, and they liaise with the Open Geospatial Consortium. I plan to foster such exchanges, since my business partner has quite some experience in unstructured data from document management repositories. As the say in the media, watch this space for further developments... I also invite any additions and corrections, or ideas and opinions that will foster this discussion!

photo azolnai