With data management continuing to be a major source of stress for the industry, several companies are coming to the rescue with user-friendly solutions.

Recently I wrote about Landmark and Spotfire teaming up to incorporate Spotfire's DecisionSite into Landmark's DecisionSpace. The Spotfire solution enables the user to sift through disparate types of data quickly to find relationships that might not otherwise be obvious, thereby leading, hopefully, to better decision-making.

Other companies are also offering products that make the laborious task of sifting through data quicker and more intuitive. One such product is MetaCarta. Anyone who's done an Internet search for documents related to a specific topic is aware of some of the pitfalls. While today's sophisticated search engines attempt to high-grade the most likely matches, they can still provide inexhaustible lists of virtually unrelated hits that the user must sift through to find the one or two items of importance. MetaCarta streamlines this process by putting more intelligence behind the search engine.

Founded by a team of MIT researchers in 1999, MetaCarta was formed to provide technology that bridges the gap between geographic information systems (GIS) and text searches. The oil and gas-related offering is partially funded by Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of ChevronTexaco.

The product, called geOdrive, is a geographic text search solution designed for oil and gas workers to help locate unstructured text documents stored on a shared drive, the company Intranet or corporate portal by using geographic locations, keywords and time parameters as search filters. Once located, geOdrive places the documents on a GIS map according to their geographic reference.

The application uses a "geoparsing" engine to rapidly determine the spatial location of documents on maps. It does this by using natural language processing to identify words and phrases within a document that could potentially imply geographic locations and assigns latitude and longitude coordinates. It also assigns actual coordinates by comparing words and phrases to known geographic locations as defined in the MetaCarta "Gazetteer," an index of names and locations required to identify references to locations. And it embeds the coordinates to make the document accessible by MetaCarta geOdrive geographic text search solution.

The gazetteer contains millions of known names and locations, including publicly available, industry-specific information such as blocks, quadrants and leases within the Gulf of Mexico and North Sea; worldwide oil and gas fields; and sedimentary basins. MetaCarta geOdrive includes a mechanism to extend its gazetteer to include internal, proprietary names and locations to ensure effective searches within a company.

The core of the problem

One of the most difficult data access issues in the oil and gas industry revolves around physical well information such as cores. Who better to aid in this data management effort than Core Lab? The company has developed a digital data management system that offers access to datasets such as reservoir geology, core analyses, fluid analyses, well logs, completion information and high-resolution core images.

The Reservoir Information Browser (RIB) is a visually oriented, logically linked, HTML-based data presentation tool that helps with storage, retrieval and application of any core-related dataset. Designed to use existing Web browser software, the RIB application offers a simple way to archive well and basin datasets. The interface uses an intuitive design so that even inexperienced users can find information quickly.

Reservoirs Applied Petrophysical Integrated Data (RAPID) system, another Core Lab offering, is a Web-enabled Oracle database application for organizing, archiving, retrieving and summarizing geological and petrophysical data. Originally developed as a method for delivering large volumes of geological and petrophysical core data from proprietary regional studies, the RAPID application enables users to share exploration and production data among asset team members. More than 30 major, independent and national oil and gas companies currently hold RAPID licenses.

Core Lab plans to enable these applications with GIS capability in the future.

While some companies are finding success in tackling the data management behemoth in large, enterprise-wide solutions, it's interesting to note that smaller companies are finding inroads to solve a specific niche problem that may not register on the radar screens of the company heads but which make the lives of many of their asset team members a whole lot easier. Watch this space for further updates.

For more information about geOdrive, visit www.metacarta.com. For more information about RIB and RAPID, visit www.corelab.com.