You are Home   »   News   »   View Article

PPDM - professionalising data management

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Professional Petroleum Data Management Association (PPDM) is developing ways to improve the professionalism of data management - and continuing to develop its standards.

The Professional Petroleum Data Management Association (PPDM) wants to see oil and gas data managers recognized within the industry as professionals, said Trudy Curtis, CEO of the Professional Petroleum Data Management Association (PPDM), speaking at a PPDM lunch in London in September.

Too often data managers are like the 'mums of the industry - we keep it all running and we never get any recognition,' she said.

Data managers should be seen, and should see themselves, as strategic resources who solve business problems, rather than as tactical resources, such as 'people who load well logs day after week after year,' she said.

The society was originally formed as the 'Public Petroleum Data Model Association' in 1991, but changed its name in 2008 to reflect the growing industry recognition of data as a strategic resource, and the need for professional data managers to steward the data through its use by many groups and processes.

The formal purpose is 'to create a global professional community of practice for those who manage oil and gas data and information as an essential asset using a collectively developed body of knowledge.'

PPDM also organises events, publishes a magazine, and organises professional development programs. It has lunches, workshops and conferences planned in Calgary, Dallas, Oklahoma, Denver, Perth and Houston over October to December this year, and a 2 day 'Data Expo' planned for Houston in April 2018.

Ms Curtis quoted a CDA study which stated that data contributes 25 to 35 per cent of the business value of an E+P company. But in practise nobody ever sees this number. Data data is usually either a big asset, when it helps to do something, or a big liability, when it means big costs and effort to manage or clean up.

The 'Me' Approach

Many of the problems with corporate data management could simply be described as the 'Me' approach, or people putting their personal interests, or their department's interests, in front of the interests of the whole community, she said.

For example, a data manager might be asked to do only what their immediate internal client needs, not what other people in the company or even outside stakeholders might need. This means data is prepared to meet the needs of the internal client but may not left in the best condition for anyone else who might need it in future.

'The 'me' world sacrifices efficiency for individuality,' she said. 'The 'We' approach that PPDM is building with its members, balances the need for consistency and individuality', adding that a strategic data asset should be received in trusted form, and ready for use in advanced analytics or business intelligence tools.

'In this [oil] economy we can't afford the waste that proprietary standards demand anymore.'

A similar scenario is seen in government data repositories, where one department may be in charge of receiving and approving data, and another department who needs to work with it. If data has been accepted but then proves not fit for purpose, the accepting department is sometimes powerless, to do anything to improve the situation, she said.


PPDM's other purpose is to develop international data standards that the oil and gas industry can use.

Data standards govern the content, quality and format of data, and are designed so that if the standards are followed, everybody can work with it.

Today, data gets a lot of 'massaging,' where everybody reviews and amends the data they receive before they can do their work with it. Then the data is passed on to another department, and the 'massaging' continues. It is a lot of work, and you end up with multiple versions of the data being circulated around the company. Data standards are intended to ensure that high quality data is available to all, fit for purpose.

The problem also occurs in the operator / regulator interface, where different regulators want data in different ways, so operators are constantly massaging data for all the regulators they work with.

PPDM defines a standard as a 'tool which is useful in a specific situation'. For example, if you are building a data repository, you may find the PPDM data model useful.

This is different to 'best practises', which could be defined as a 'core of industry developed methods and expectations.' These represent knowledge and skills that every data management professional should master. Professionalism is achieved through properly applying a mixture of standards and best practises, Ms Curtis says.

Agreeing on standards, and then deploying standards consistently pose different challenges. During deployment, some may revise the standard to meet their internal beliefs, while others simply want to develop their own standards. A proprietary product with a thin 'standards veneer' on it is unlikely to deliver the standards promise of interoperability, accessibility and trust.

As an illustration, you can see the story of international accounting standards. The first standard, the 'Generally Accepted Accounting Principles' or GAAP, was developed in the US in the 1930s. But over the decades, different versions of GAAP emerged from different countries, so we got GAAP USA, GAAP France and so on. A subsequent effort started in the 1970s to develop new International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS); consistent implementation is a requirement for IFRS.

The data model

PPDM's flagship standard is a 'data model' for exploration and production, showing how a relational database, with multiple tables, can be constructed to handle the different types of data which oil companies work with. The organisation was originally formed in 1991 to develop a standard data model for the industry.

Ms Curtis notes that the data model should not be seen as an answer to every problem, and not all PPDM members use it. 'It proves to be useful in many situations,' she says.

Some people do not believe that the future of data storage is in relational databases at all, she said, encouraging data managers to understand the model as a collection of data rules, terminology and relationships that reflect the needs of business, rather than a software application.

PPDM is currently developing a new version of the data model, which will be called PPDM 3.10. It will include standards for water management and support for hydraulically fractured wells, which tend to generate much more data than conventional onshore wells.

It will also incorporate a standard 'units of measure' data set, which was agreed by the Standards Leadership Council, an 'Uber' body for oil and gas standards bodies.

It will support the 'EPSG' Coordinate Reference System, which is defined by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (iOGP).

Standard definitions

Another big area of PPDM's work is trying to develop Rosetta Stones for common industry terms such as well, completion and kick-off. Curtis made it clear that significant change management is required to adopt a new vocabulary. PPDM's vocabularies are simple to use, easy to understand, and support a staged approach to adoption that recognizes the effort needed.

Unless the industry defines foundational terms in the same way, the data generated around it, such as 'well kickoff date', will not be interoperable.

PPDM conducted a survey and found that the 'well kick off date' is understood to mean just about anything from the date you start well planning to the date you start well production, and everything in between, such as when the drill bit first rotates to create the well.

When you use terms which mean different things in the industry, 'you think you're being clear, but you're not,' she said.

In the US, a well is identified by the well head (at the surface) - one well head means one well. In Alberta, Canada, a well is identified by the place a wellbore connects with a reservoir, so if a wellbore connects with several reservoirs, it can count as a several 'wells'.

There is also no industry agreed definition of when exactly a well's status is 'producing' or 'abandoned', and no agreed definition on what a 'well formed' well directional survey looks like.

There have been well collisions, where a well is drilled into the side of another one, where subsequent investigations showed that bad data practises were the cause, she said.

'Completion' is another term with different definitions in the industry - some people see it as related to the reservoir, others to a drilled wellbore, others to the equipment in the well, while others are more concerned with the obligations generated or outcomes of operations.

PPDM is developing a publication called 'What is a Completion' to try to resolve these mixed definitions for completions.

It also has an 'open data rules depository' with over 3,000 rules which can be used to ensure data quality.


PPDM committees have developed a certification program for data managers, and have been working toward additional certifications. The data management certification programs cover ongoing professional development, and methods for verification of knowledge and skills.

This means that companies hiring data managers will have more certainty that the person they are hiring will start with a baseline of knowledge and skills appropriate for the oil and gas industry. This is particularly important, says Curtis, when consulting companies work in many disciplines and regions around the world.

Another PPDM Committee has developed methods to publish information about data management training classes that have been developed by industry.
PPDM is continuing to develop a qualification system for training providers, so people taking courses can know what they can expect from it. At the moment, learning objectives from the class can be mapped to the competency areas for certification.

Associated Companies
» Digital Energy Journal
comments powered by Disqus


To attend our free events, receive our newsletter, and receive the free colour Digital Energy Journal.


Implementing an Enterprise Data Management strategy in Oil and Gas
Jane McConnell
from Teradata


Latest Edition Nov Dec 18
Nov 2018

Download latest and back issues


Learn more about supporting Digital Energy Journal