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How to manage electronic well files

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Randy Clark, senior principal of Noah Consulting (and former CEO of Energistics) explains how to develop a structured system for managing your well data

He said that one day he opened up an accordion file that contained a paper well log. He noticed one particular log section had cigarette burns and coffee stains on the paper.

How did those get there? he wondered. Was it simply left on the corner someone's desk for so long, that it accumulated the stains and burns, or, was there something about that section that intrigued a geologist enough that he spent hours examining it?

I suppose we'll never know.

Sadly, a digitised paper well file cannot capture the thinking of the person who may have spent days examining the log section.

When it comes to well files, you can enrich it or supplement it, but you basically get what you get. If it's old and inaccurate, you'll get an old and inaccurate electronic well file.

Make it easy to find

But we all know the reasons why storing information on pieces of paper or someone's laptop is probably not a good thing.

It is not always easy to retrieve this data when it is needed. In some cases data never reaches the intended recipient because it is misfiled, or even worse, lost.

One of the worst-kept secrets in the industry is that oil and gas professionals for many years have spent more time looking for information than actually utilizing it.

A senior petroleum engineer told me when he is running simulations, although he knows where all of the data resides, but it takes him four days to find, filter and transform the data for use in his simulation model. I asked him how long it took him to run the simulation. He said, 'fifteen minutes'.

The good news is that we no longer need to use paper to capture and store well information. We can do it electronically.

Oil and gas companies are realising they can track information across the entire life cycle of a well, and they need to determine what information they want to persist across the lifecycle of the well.

Most oil and gas companies have a relatively similar lifecycle for a well. Identify Prospect, Acquire Lease, Explore, Develop, Produce, and Abandon or Dispose.

Information produced at various stages often touches or is touched by almost every other aspect of the business, including Leadership, Finance/Accounting, Engineering, Legal, Geoscience, Land, Commercial, Drilling, Completions, Production, Supply Chain, HR and HS&E.

Data can include production volumes and allocations, decline curves, lease expiration information, expenses, facilities and equipment information, personnel-on-board (POB), geological tops and picks, reportable incidents.

Well file management

There are a number of best practices emerging around electronic well file management (hat tip to my Noah colleagues, Steve Nuernberg and Steve Gardner).

The cornerstone best practice is committing to a common well file rather than having well files that are built for individual departments.

When you have multiple, department level well files, information becomes fragmented. In addition, duplication of information results because a lot of the information that is in a well file crosses discipline and department boundaries. As a result, people email copies to each other, copy them to their own department well file.

When you have more than one copy of a piece of information, it is pretty near impossible to ensure that all holders of that piece of information receive updates when changes to that information occur. As a result you end up with a mixture of current and out of date information.


To start with, we need to create a taxonomy, a simple hierarchy of terms used to classify various types of information.

The taxonomy for a core analysis of a well could include the country, area, block, field name, well name, technical discipline and data type.

This enables users to locate data and understand where it is available for consumption.

The taxonomy makes it possible to serve up data which relates to a certain geography, function, business process, and bring up the right document quickly.

The taxonomy information is applied to records as metadata.

Some fields (for example 'technical discipline') already have a pre-defined list of allowed values.

To avoid multiple entries for the same thing, it is suggested to utilize a synonym list for metadata definitions, and make a list of 'non preferred terms' including alternate spellings or slang.

File naming standards

File naming standards will enable each asset or division to better identify what data is available, while reducing data duplication due to naming inconsistencies.

Only use attributes with static information, like API Number and Data Type, which will not change or be altered in any way. Best practice file naming will only occur if the file naming conventions are applied consistently for all files and by everyone involved in file creation.

Maintaining it

The hard part is stopping it from degrading over time. You to need to develop, implement and institutionalize a rigourous program of enterprise data management including data integration, data quality, data security and data governance.

First, determine what are the business drivers for better data management, preferably with the participation of both IT and business representatives.

Second, develop a vision for what you want you want a picture of better well data management to look like, to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

Third, determine what are going to be your guiding principles, such as 'Data will only be loaded once'.

Fourth, determine your scope; operated wells, non-operated working interest wells, wells holding leases. Then determine what other information is necessary to accommodate your business drivers.

Now that you've done all of this, you're ready to build a framework for managing your well data that is aligned with and supports all of the aspects mentioned above.

Regularly measure your methodology against metrics developed to reflect its success at supporting the business drivers and the vision.

Noah Consulting helps organizations manage well file data and provides a unique combination of Upstream expertise and technical capability

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