Friday, October 26, 2007

Joint Industry Project: Geospatial Integrity of Geoscience Software

Devon Energy, Shell, and ExxonMobil and several other major oil companies have started a Joint Industry Project (JIP) entitled "Geospatial Integrity of Geoscience Software".

This project is being financed by the oil majors and is being undertaken with the support and co-operation of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP).

As professionals involved mapping, software development, positioning, often the co-ordinate reference systems in the code are taken for granted. This happens in the oil industry in geoscience applications and interpretation packages.

In the past, software provided defaults (such as Clarke 1866 or NAD27 - as it was software developed in North America), but with the movement into global geodetic reference systems (such as WGS84), and many local datum's still being used, software may or may not be upgraded (for various reasons) or further modified (feel that it is working fine), etc., etc., there is the distinct possibility and fact that mistakes have been made due to software errors. The errors may have occurred because of the following reasons:

  • improperly coded or cartographic algorithms

  • wrong values for embedded geodetic parameters

  • poor presentation of user input requirements by software applications

  • incorrect defaults settings (as mentioned above)

  • software processes not working as specified (take a look at the Robinson projection discussion and cs2cs and the various work-arounds to account for a spherical representation)

  • confusing or imprecise terminology (take co-ordinate reference frames and datum transformations for example)

  • lack of error trapping for user errors

  • lack of an audit trail

  • inadequate metadata

  • inadequate training and documentation for users and of users

There are three main objectives of this Joint Industry Project, and they are:

  • To transform the management of geospatial data in geoscience software applications to benefit JIP members and improve products and competencies

  • To develop and disseminate best practice tools for current software applications and future software development

  • To create a sustainable improvement process in geoscience software applications based on sound geospatial management

By the end of 2007, the JIP has already begun to take a look at Blue Marble's GeoGraphic Calculator. This application and libraries is used in commercial code (such as Oracle) and many oil and gas companies use it on a daily basis.

An example of a possible wrong vertical co-ordinate system happened November, 1999 to Chevron. The article can be found here. I've also included it below:

Chevron Mulls Options After Platform Sinks, Friday, November 12, 1999

Chevron Corp. is assessing the impact on the development timetable of its North Nemba oilfield off the Angola coast after the sinking of the production platform on route from South Korea. The $175 million dollar structure was being shipped by the vessel Mighty Servant 2 early last week when it capsized near the Indonesian island of Singkep with the loss of four crew members. The so-called topside production platform is 230 ft. long, 105 ft. wide, 150 ft. tall and took 24 months to design and build. The vessel was enroute from the South Korean port of Okpo to Angola, having fueled in Singapore, when it began taking on water and sank. Chevron spokesman Fred Gorrell said the company was fully covered by insurance to replace the platform. The vessel was lying in 35 m of water with about 5 m sticking above the surface so recovery was still being assessed. Gorrell pointed out that even if it needed to be rebuilt it would not take as long as the original because design and engineering work was already done. The North Nemba field in the prodigious Block O offshore Angola was due to come into production in the first quarter of 2000. Block O, in which Chevron has a 39 percent interest, produced 510,000 bpd in 1998. Gorrell said he wasn't sure how much North Nemba was due to add to this. Chevron owns 39.2 percent of North Nemba, while the state Angola National Oil Co. owns 41 percent, with Italy's Agip owning 9.8 percent and France's Elf Aquitaine with 10 percent.

Co-ordinates, the software we use, whether in mapping or geoscience software plays a role in many of our decisions.

This Joint Industry Project is a good start and the people involved are knowledgeable in the field (many I've worked with when I was in Houston) and through this project we can hopefully know at the end, that the software we are using is providing accurate information and maintains geospatial integrity.

More details can be found at this website.