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GIS to manage exploration risk

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A Geographical Information System is ideally suited to manage many of the risks associated with exploration and oilfield activities. Risks such as, but not limited to

– Accidents, dangerous roads, steep inclines and slopes

– In project execution, doing something you were not supposed to do and not knowing you did it

– Having to answer the question quickly about the operation and accusations that you appear to have caused damage to x.

Geodetics and projections

But GIS as an information tool has the potential to scare off non-technical users with geodetics and projection systems. If you cannot get the information located in the right place, then that information is valueless; I’d go further and say it’s dangerous. If you don’t trust the location of your data, then you will never use a GIS system. And if you don’t use a GIS system then you are losing out on a powerful tool that can help you manage the risk of a field operation.

The IOGP has a “Geodetic awareness guidance note” which also contains a table outlining examples of business impact by poor positioning practices. Exprodat has written a comprehensive blog about this. If you have ArcGIS then check out their geodetic assistant tool (10.2 & 10.1 supported, care to be taken for later versions). I don’t want to trivialise geodetic issues, and the worst thing to do is to ignore them. Btw do you want to know more about what an offshore surveyor does?

Maintenance of data

In field operations, if a GIS is going to be used as an information system then someone has to own the data. Often the person on a seismic crew who has responsibility for the management of risk is the Party Manager. This is a typical crew model in its basic/simplified form.


All the functions would have an input into a GIS system, whether it be mapping of features in the field, marking the actual crews progress vs expected, identification of dangerous events through reporting or updating permits. In short, there is plenty of information. The dilemma is who owns this data and maintains it? Because of the expertise in geodetics and, in some case the huge amount of mapping that has to happen, the survey department tends to be the natural home for this data. Information may have to be gathered from other departments, causing extra work.

Setting up a GIS Server within the crew’s network might be a solution, but this could be costly in terms of hardware/software and time to support; it would mean having several users of GIS on a crew, contributing data (remember to use the local projection please). Best then to have a technical person responsible for logistics / information and crew production that can connect all these users to enable everyone to access one central repository of data about the project.


Who is best suited to this position? Someone with technical skills, someone with good knowledge of geodetics (at least someone who knows that errors cannot be ignored), someone who can present the information in a useable way? This is a position with a strong need for GIS skills.

What happens to risk when someone is responsible for all the data?

–         Accidents, dangerous roads, steep inclines and slopes – These will already be identified and plotted. Anticipated risk is better than unknown risk.

–         In project execution doing something you were not supposed to do and not knowing you did it – This risk will be mitigated and managed by sharing information proactively.

–         Having to answer the question quickly about the operation and accusations that you appear to have caused damage to x – This information can be retrieved in seconds, data can be archived and the story of the operation (traditionally told in a report) can be further supported and strengthened by a GIS.

A properly constructed GIS database can reduce risk on a seismic survey and it will mean ultimately the project is better managed.

Want to learn more about GIS and EO for Oil and Gas? Then my page contains all my blogs, plus case studies and links

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