Skip to main content

POSC Re-launched as Energistics

01 December 2006

Article from Digital Energy Journal, Nov/Dec 2006 Issue 4


  Petrotechnical Open Standards Consortium (POSC), guardian of the electronic standard for well information 'WITSML', is putting itself something of a relaunch, under the leadership of its new CEO Randy Clark.  

As Energistics, it promises to take a more outward approach, rather than focussing on internal Energistics issues, fighting to prove the value of its electronic data communications standards.  

It will become more focussed on its community, developing propositions which can really add value, prove their worth in field trials, and achieve acceptance in the industry.  

Recently it has changed its name to reflect these changes (the new name had not been released as this article was being prepared for publication).

"We have a new brand image, a new name, a revitalised vision and mission," said Mr Clark.  

"Everything we do going forward is going to be market driven, value oriented. We are looking to the community to determine our priorities, to find the largest value proposition as we go forward."  

"There has been a shift of focus of our work effort towards membership and away from Energistics as such," he continued.

"I believe the membership needs to own the standards development offering and be the key driver of that."  

"We are a service company, we take stewardship of a project and facilitate the project management and provide some subject matter expertise and a connective tissue between the community and other standards bodies."  

"Essentially we will have a base operation, build and maintain membership and support new self-funded initiatives, participating in a general way. Where there are interested parties we can form a community around it."  

"We can do a bit of push and a bit of pull, find new opportunities and frame that at a higher level, but take it to the membership. Any specially funded project will have a clear business case, and a clear and unambiguous result of standards development."  

Energistics readily admits that uptake of the standard has been slower than it could have been - it attributes this to a lack of understanding of WITSML amongst industry bosses, an initial lack of real world trials and a need for a top industry project manager to push for acceptance. This is all being resolved.


What is WITSML

WITSML stands for Well Information Transfer Standard xML (WITSML). It is an electronic data communications standard, for communicating well data between equipment and software made by different companies.  

BP and Statoil, later with Shell, established the initiative, giving responsibility to an external organization, Energistics, for developing it from 2003 onwards. Now Norwegian oil company Hydro is also insisting that it will only use WITSML compliant applications.   Statoil uses WITSML on 300 of its wells, including all wells in the Norwegian sector and a growing number of wells internationally in Iran, Venezuela, and Angola.  

WITSML can be used to define in a standard way things like wellbore, drilling trajectory, logging while drilling (LWD) data and mud logs.   The standard enables applications to 'plug and play' together, making it much easier for operators to put together a suite of intelligent data algorithms and tools that represent the best in class for each activity.  

It should save a lot of work converting data between different file types. For example, a speaker from SDC Geologix described a typical scenario where an engineer was manually retrieving header information from a LAS (log Ascii Standard) wireline log file, importing it into Excel and finally saving it as a text file before importing into GEO, Geologix's well log data management application. This is the sort of person-intensive activity that WITSML is designed to eliminate.  

One of the main advantages is that far more data entry is automated, reducing errors and increasing the speed at which data can be analysed. Also, the creation of a single data source which can be accessed by every application - one source of the truth - removes problems of data synchronization and translation between different databases in differing formats.   WITSML is an important technology for well data collection and analysis, which can help improve decision making and reduce non-productive time.  

It can save money by reducing the amount of manual data entry which needs to be done and reducing software development costs.  

There can be health and safety improvements through earlier identification of problems and allowing more staff to work remotely from the rigsite.  

WITSML is six years old, and being used by Statoil and aggressively promoted within BP, the originators of the WITSML initiative, among other oil companies. BP and Statoil, and later shell, led the initiative up to the end of 2002. From early 2003, Energistics has had responsibility for managing its support and future evolution.  

The WITSML special interest group (SIG) meets twice a year in person, and more often electronically, to discuss future enhancements and to review documented use cases so that the standard can be modified in the light of real data and operational experience.



Developing a standard is not without problems. Despite the schemas ensuring a consistent set of data objects, there have been issues both with co-ordinating transitions to new versions of WITSML itself and of various minor 'dialects' which are slight differences in semantics or usage introduced by different implementations.  

Small differences such as these can mean more work for operators to achieve consistency.  

Another issue that arose is the need for a WITSML certification program that would ensure that a vendor's application met a minimum standard for compliance.  

Energistics is in the process of launching a certification program for WITSML based products.  

Some operators mentioned variable quality in WITSML implementations and that suppliers were slow to move to comply with a new version of the standard.


Barriers to adoption

Although the business case for WITSML has largely been made, there are still significant barriers to its full adoption by some of the majors, including a lack of understanding of the standard.  

Some suppliers still take the view that WITSML is just another proprietary interface and may disappear in a few years; therefore implementing it can be seen as a burden to satisfy the requirements of a few operators, rather than an opportunity to consolidate existing data formats.  

"It's a significant problem," said Mr Clark. "It's one thing to develop the standards, another to move to implementation and adoption, we have to drive deployment within an organization and assist the promotion effort through training, case studies and harvesting of pilot data."  

"The challenge in oil and gas is that there are a large number of autonomous units that are very hard to break into," said Mr Clark.  

"A lot of the deployment effort is more about promotion and marketing - getting a targeted message to different levels of an organisation from sea level right through to upper management - this is the way we will be successful."  

"Each of us has to create ways in which each individual knows how what we do influences their performance and their ability to do their job. If an engineer can't see how utilising standards in business processes and technology will benefit him we haven't been successful."  

Energistics is also looking at other industries and emerging technologies such as RFID to see what may benefit its membership. Again, the development of any new standard depends on business drivers within the community, with the role of Energistics to try to get a group of the right people together to facilitate the process.  

"Our aim is to provide an energy standards resource centre, a platform for accessing information about standards in related segments in other industries - who did what when, how is it relevant and how is it done there," said CEO Randy Clark.  

"We will implement specific applications and build on that over the next years." To promote its activities on a wider scale, Energistics is establishing 8 regional-based focus groups to champion development and adoption of standards.  

At least one meeting a year will be held within each region and the organisation is looking for local industry leaders to take a principal role in shaping each region's activities.



One of the founder members and main contributors to the WITSML program, BP, is currently represented on the WITSML steering committee by Julian Pickering, domain lead drilling and completions.  

Dr Pickering is promoting the technology within his organisation's many business units.  

He talked about the need for BP to "set its house in order" to be ready to move ahead with adopting new digital drilling and completions technology to address increasing technical challenges and the growing pressures on internal and external industry expertise.  

BP's efforts will evolve over one or two years, with the aim being to build the infrastructure and tools needed to implement the 'smart field' concept, including visualisation, automation and simulation of the entire well delivery system.  

BP is re-defining its digital technology delivery to support drilling and completions and is looking to standardise tools and processes on a global basis.  

A focus for this activity is a department at BP called D&C Digital (D&C standard for drilling and completions), which will work on research and development technology and applications support.  

"D&C Digital is more than just a marketing tool," said Dr Pickering, "it is a mark of quality that justifiably sets expectations for our customers."  

"Everyone delivering digital services to the BP drilling-and-completions community will be seen as an extended member of the D&C Digital team," he said.  

A new drilling and completions portal website will act as a channel for vendors to provide information about their products which could encourage BP buyers to take a more detailed look.  

It will be a single access point for all information on drilling and completions global operations, with the latest information, on projects and digital operations.  

"A clear unambiguous WITSML standard is a must have for the drilling and completions digital programme," said Dr Pickering. "The standard must be stable for a defined period and third party tools and smart processes must be plug and play."  

"D&C Digital needs WITSML now to fulfill its delivery targets," he continued. "The D&C Digital team has a significant task ahead to convince the BP D&C community of the value of WITSML; WITSML is part of the D&C Digital strategy but it extends far beyond this."  

An important driver is to reduce non productive time and optimise well delivery by anticipating, detecting and preventing problems associated with the subsurface environment, logistics, equipment failures and weather. Real-time model updates can be used during actual drilling to make the best possible predictions of future problems.  

Another problem facing the whole industry is the 'big crew change'; BP expects to lose a large number of its top level experts in the next five years. During this short window the company has to aggregate its experience through building knowledge into new workflows and intelligent systems that can aid operational decision making," he said. "We will have to operate leaner, smarter and with more collaboration."  

BP intends to deliver expertise wherever it is needed through remote collaboration, using a team of shore based engineers to provide support to multiple locations with a decreased head count at the rigsite.  

Reducing crew levels in high risk environments is also an important factor in improving environmental performance through de-manned and ultimately unmanned operation.  

Dr Pickering believes that future drillers may never visit the rig, but will instead use an immersive visualisation environment to control every aspect of the operation.


Statoil / Hydro

Lars Olav Grøvik of Hydro and Peter Elisø Nielsen, senior advisor subsurface work processes, spoke of some of the problems of implementing WITSML as well as the advantages Statoil has gained from its Integrated Operations approach, of which WITSML is an important enabling technology.  

Hydro now exclusively uses WITSML compliant applications and requires service providers to implement the necessary interfaces.  

'However, problems still occurred because of faulty or missing data and too often required manual intervention," said Mr Grøvik.  

Mr Nielsen stated a Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) and Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) study that calculated the value of Integrated Operations on the Norwegian shelf to be 40 billion USD.  

Statoil's anticipated Integrated Operations potential is more than 50 per cent of that, and an external review of the Integrated Operations effort on one of its major fields calculated the value created to be close to 1 billion USD, with a further potential of 0.7 +\- 0.4 billion USD.  

Statoil has been using WITSML in operations for nearly 3 years, and is increasing its use with 51 wells so far this year.   It has transferred information from over 300 wells with the use of WITSML incorporating all wells operated by Statoil in the Norwegian sector and a growing number of wells internationally in Iran, Venezuela, and Angola for example. Generally Hydro operates 10 to 15 parallel drilling operations with WITSML.  

One of the main challenges is implementing real-time or 'right-time' data sharing.  

Hydro is currently using 'right-time' data with a window of around 5 minutes, with the aim of reducing this to less than two minutes in the near future. Hydro has continuing problems with its service providers; some of the products in the data stream are not built to support multiple well streams (up to 20 simultaneous wells); others are slow to support new data objects or move to the latest version of WITSML.  

"Continuous stable delivery from service companies is one of the main priorities for future WITSML integrated application." said Mr Grøvik.



The next new initiative is PRODML, an electronic communications standard for software applications which are used to manage production data in the office and optimise the well. It can be used for all software applications in the 'smart field' category, including modelling, simulation, optimisation of reservoirs / wells.  

These applications normally use large amounts of data streamed from the fields, and software applications made by different vendors. BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Statoil led the efforts to develop PRODML, starting in August 2005.   Initial involvement in the project was limited to five operators and eight suppliers and Energistics, with a fast turnaround of twelve months from start to the release of version 1.0.  

The initial development created data standards for gas lift optimisation, production optimisation (from free flowing wells with real time data streams and reservoir models); and field-wide optimisation using real time data, models and forecasts.   Four pilot tests, based on the above use cases, were conducted using field data provided by the operators and applications and test code implementations provided by the software companies.  

The results of these have shaped the development effort, which is coordinated by another special interest group, now open to membership for any interested parties.  

Feedback from the public review during September was very positive and supportive, Energistics says.  

Some feedback, however, suggested that the objectives of PRODML could be achieved with less burden on software developers and greater integrity between services.  

The emphasis this time was focused on deliverable commercial applications that would achieve business benefits in tightly defined scenarios.

This led to a short term modification task to specialist interface definitions according to the type of data being transferred, eg well test, production volume. Publication of the revised version 1.0 of PRODML is scheduled to take place in November 2006.  

The success of the first year PRODML effort is also evident in the intention of all participating companies to make active contributions to the Energistics Special Interest Group (SIG), which will now be renamed the production PRODML SIG.   Many companies, old and new to PRODML, are already actively planning 2007 objectives to include new features and functions to support more optimisation use cases.