The land survey or cadastral layer. If this data is imprecise or inaccurate, every parcel built on top of it will be inaccurate as well.
Get Answers to your Mapping Questions
Robert C. White, Jr. is a third generation geologist with over 20 years of Geospatial Wisdom. His industry insight and practical expertise in the data development field are valuable assets to the serious explorer looking to increase the return on investment for his/her organization.
Every month, Robert shares his answers to some of the more pertinent data implementation and management questions facing the energy industry. Do you have a question you would like The Expert to address? Email your cartographic data questions to AskTheExpert@whitestar.com. Watch this column each month for Robert's expert advice!
Knowing exactly what you have - having all variables documented either by a specific quantity or an acceptable range. Without a clear understanding of the quality and characteristics of your data, you leave yourself open to introducing error, which can propagate exponentially into highly expensive mistakes.
As a general rule, you should conflate (fit) the poorer quality data set to the data set of higher quality. There are instances where this should NOT be done - particularly if data accuracy varies with time. It's a judgment call where the more you know about your data, the better a decision you can make.
Only if you're willing to roll the dice on your project.
Yes, and for a very simple reason: "Open Source" databases are free and in 2010 extremely functional. Some products such as PostgreSQL have GIS-aware add-ons available such as PostGIS that can be used to spatially query the data. Alternatively, data can be prepared using commercial GIS systems and then shared to open source databases allowing a lot more stakeholders in an organization to simultaneously query, view, and comment on the data. Organizations tend to avoid large license agreements for software licenses that may only be used for a particular project.
Digging deeper into the WhiteStar Exploration Cube, what trends are you seeing nationwide in the oil patch?
There is a strong trend toward centralized data management for exploration using ArcGIS Server technology with SDE. Customers want to use data on a turnkey, nationwide basis limited only by their own creativity, not data availability.
Collaboration among departments sounds great, but doesn't the risk of data inconsistency increase dramatically when so many groups can edit existing data or contribute their own data layers?
Just because a collaborative tool exists doesn't mean that everyone in the department can go "hog wild." Trusted work flows must still exist in each department, however the benefit is that data can be compiled, changed, and edited parallel to the functions taking place simultaneously in other departments. Right now work flows are somewhat contingent upon each other and bottlenecks abound.
You should be able to select (or expand) an area of interest, select the data layers for it (i.e. wellspots, city boundaries, land survey), download it in an appropriate format and upload it into your system in preparation for map plotting in at most 30 minutes for a five county area or smaller area.
With everything going digital, have any states made it possible to submit well drilling permits online?
There have been some efforts federally and in a few states BLM (Federal lands), Texas, and Michigan. South Dakota supplies forms for download.
Internal cultural differences among departments resulting in a failure to collaborate.
Yes, technologies such as WMS and GIS Map Servers provide a framework for multi disciplinary map and idea data integration.
The BLM is the official maintainer and ultimate authority for the Public Land Survey System in the United States including government lots and tracts. Some of these documents are hundreds of years old and many exist as sketches and field notes. The oil and gas industry has used a version of this data drafted onto the USGS topographic maps and the confusion relates to the differences between the two data sources. The USGS has the only consistent seamless nationwide data available and it too ultimate derives from BLM records.
In their public records, which States offer the most- and least- detailed well production information?
Some States don't offer or collect production data at all, as is the example in Illinois. Other States such as Texas collect collective data on a lease basis for oil wells, but individually on gas wells. Some States like North Dakota have the production for each well regardless of type. This makes for a challenge in putting together information for each State in a consistent way.
With further investment in shared mapping technologies. If the geology department had a better idea of the corporate (and competitive) land positions, they could focus their efforts more effectively.
You've often made the point that free data usually costs more in the long run. Which free Internet data sets, in your experience, provide the least added value to oil and gas mapping projects?
The ones that cause the most trouble are the free/unmaintained land grid data sets of any sort. They don't edge-match evenly township-to-township or across river boundaries and state lines. Sometimes the data are incomplete, and often more than one version is floating around on the Internet making it extremely difficult to know you have the latest. Also, your project will not fit on any industry standard base.
What sorts of provisions should be included in data licensing agreements to make them more collaboration-friendly?
At the enterprise level, data should be sharable among different departments and even among different divisions, if so desired. Departments can also share the licensing and subscription costs. The nightmare scenario could mean that your Geology department licenses Texas data and the Land department licenses Oklahoma data from a vendor, only to discover they can't both be used legally to map projects spanning multiple states or counties. Our agreement can eliminate these sorts of problems.