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March 24th, 2009
Petroleum Experts Weigh Advantages of Web GIS Technology

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Web GIS technology was the hot topic at the nineteenth ESRI Petroleum
User Group (PUG) conference in Houston, Texas. Attendees discussed ways
the evolution of geographic information system (GIS) server technology
and Internet capabilities provides oil, gas, and pipeline companies
with a means to aggregate, access, and publish information. GIS experts
presented ways to get greater value from the data businesses already
have by improving accessibility to it across the company.

"Since we last convened one year ago, oil prices have fluctuated dramatically," said Charles Fried, BP geologist and PUG chair. "We need to work smarter, and gain greater efficiency through the use of various technologies."  In his opening remarks to an audience of 1,350 energy industry people from 22 countries, Fried set the tone for the conference. "Some of the most highly knowledgeable and influential people working in the oil, gas, and pipeline industries have gathered at this conference to deal with spatial challenges particular to our needs."

During the plenary, a panel of petroleum geologists and engineers representing different companies discussed the geospatial concepts of the digital oil field that enables their companies to visualize and analyze field data. GIS intersects with field data, equipment, well schematics information, and more. Panelists agreed that it offers a temporal basis for a snapshot in time of field operations. It also promotes the collaboration across disciplines and locations offering information and visualization that support decision making.

One panelist who works with a Texas-based operation noted that GIS is an essential element in running a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. It generates schematics needed by the SCADA user group, creates records and visualizations of the control system, and offers a means of reference. GIS for SCADA is essential for safety, regulatory compliance, and emergency response.

"Is GIS the center of the digital oil field universe?" inquired an audience member. Panelists responded, saying that all the assets an oil company has and all the operations it performs are spatial, so GIS is the fundamental information technology for managing these activities. The GIS department needs to support all the oil company’s departments including environmental assessment, right-of-way (ROW) management, property management, and tax accounting.

Via a video presentation, ESRI President Jack Dangermond said, "Web GIS applications create a new frontier area for our work. We are committed to providing our oil and gas GIS users with technology that helps them succeed at their jobs. In this time of economic challenge, ESRI is financially solvent and remains debt free. In 2009, we are investing heavily in our development program. We continue to evolve our products to meet the technology needs of our customers."

Clint Brown, ESRI’s director of software products, noted, "Consumer mapping is changing the way people expect to use information in a shared environment. Using ArcGIS Server, ESRI customers will create focused applications using these consumer mapping patterns to deliver content to their end users. This means that many people within these organizations will begin to use important geographic information in their daily operations."

"But more than this," Brown continued, "the quiet revolution of Web technologies—specifically REST, SOAP, and XML—provides a means for anyone to script on the Web. Using GIS, companies can create their own Web maps and Web map layers. These GIS-based layers make it possible to reach through the map and access GIS tools and information for performing sophisticated analysis. This means the company’s GIS can make geographic information more usable. The day-to-day work performed by GIS practitioners can be deployed on the Web for easy consumption."

ESRI’s technical experts demonstrated three trends in GIS: Web GIS, mobile technologies, and cloud-based computing. They also presented a sneak peek at ESRI’s ArcGIS Explorer 900 product, which supports layer packages so users can leverage all of the ArcGIS Desktop cartographic capabilities. Presenters also previewed product innovations coming in ESRI’s soon-to-be-released ArcGIS 9.3.1. Design enhancements support enterprise and Web GIS goals, provide shared content methods, and offer fast dynamic map services.
About ESRI
Since 1969, ESRI has been giving customers around the world the power to think and plan geographically. The market leader in GIS, ESRI software is used in more than 300,000 organizations worldwide including each of the 200 largest cities in the United States, most national governments, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, and more than 7,000 colleges and universities. ESRI applications, running on more than one million desktops and thousands of Web and enterprise servers, provide the backbone for the world’s mapping and spatial analysis. ESRI is the only vendor that provides complete technical solutions for desktop, mobile, server, and Internet platforms. Visit us at

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