Do you know how valuable your geophysical data assets really are?

Exploration and production companies around the globe depend on geophysical data. And endless approaches exist for managing that data – from charge-per-byte software companies to outdated spreadsheets to “ask Joe down the hall”.  But the real solution is a sustainable geophysical data management process that ensures your team won’t revert to chaos.

Managing geophysical data has become increasingly complex, especially in the absence of a systematic approach to simplify process control. Given that legacy and new acquisition data are equally valuable, exploration and production (E&P) companies tend to collect generations of data across decades of evolving formats and media types. Each data format and media type require specific software solutions and particular procedures. Combine those factors with inefficient and siloed workflows, and your geophysical data may already be, or soon become, a liability instead of a valued business asset. Instead of fixing the issue, many E&P companies have accepted the current state of their geophysical data management as part of their operations. The consequence of this acceptance affects the bottom line by restricting productivity and limiting business opportunities with unrealized value in both proprietary and licensed data.

Based on Weir Consulting Services estimates, without effective geophysical data management, a geoscientist spends 50-85 per cent of their time searching for, loading, and manipulating data. For a single geoscientist, this equates to a loss of $100,000/year in wages for an average E&P company. Inadequate data management practices and lack of indexing documented records are primary reasons for a geotechnical team’s inefficiency in locating valuable data holdings. This impedes their ability to perform tasks, resulting in decreased productivity and increased stress levels.

A focused and sustainable data management process supports the geotechnical team to perform their daily activities and enables them to expose the full value of your data. With the correct procedures in place, even divestitures and mergers can take place without disrupting daily activities.

A logical, systematic approach is essential when creating a geophysical data management process. Establishing the ideal process for your team involves assessing each aspect of your geophysical data management using the divide-and-conquer method. This approach consists of seven fundamental components that work together to create a sustainable geophysical data management process.

7 fundamentals of geophysical data management

Perform a complete inventory review of your physical assets and develop a full inventory report. You must first know what you have before you can determine the value. From the inventory report, you can determine what to keep (coordinate information, field data, stack data, observer reports) and what items are safe to purge (tape dumps, monitor records).

Determine the items to purge by performing a full investigation of the initial dataset. For example, if proper field observer reports are available for a line, monitor records serve little purpose after the initial quality inspection in the field. However, if observers are not available, the monitor records could contain enough information as to acquisition parameters to be useable for processing the line

Perform warranty tasks to ensure that the complete shot point range of a line or survey is covered and can be considered complete. If field files are missing from the field reels, determine if a partner can supply a complete copy. Determine if the line was sold and if a broker can acquire a copy. In some cases, this may not be possible, depending on when the line was shot, where the line is geographically, and whether a paper trail exists to identify any partners at the time of acquisition. You may have to research prospect files and/or expenditure records of the company to obtain such information.

Implement an effective data management system. Data management applications are essential for maintaining a well-organized data repository, ensuring accessibility and tracking data movement. An effective application correlates physical media with digital files for a full view of data assets. Key features of a data management application enable you to manage project ingestion, identify data already absorbed into a working area of interest, create reports, view snapshots of your data, and maintain an accurate system of record in real-time across your organization. Modern applications provide the necessary tools for data managers and project stakeholders to access data and perform the analysis required for making exploration decisions.

Establish data standards and guidelines for cataloging data before you begin entering metadata into your data management application. Consider following a data model, such as Professional Petroleum Data Management (PPDM), to maintain consistency. By taking an existing database and entering metadata into a data model, you can quickly verify and correct any inaccuracies. Mandating that your data be catalogued accurately forces order into your existing practices and simplifies data searches and retrieval.

Establish awareness of your data entitlement. Entitlement regarding geophysical and geological data is recognized by the end users. However, this is not often maintained with the ever-evolving divestitures, acquisitions, mergers, and data pools. Accounting for the company’s data entitlement is one of the main obligations of a data manager and the responsible team. Legal ramifications must be considered when determining a proactive data management system. Is there data in protected areas required to be kept by the operator in perpetuity? Are there partners that require the operator to maintain a copy of the data? Are joint ventures agreements in place that would require maintaining records for a certain number of years, after which the data can be destroyed? Or must the data be filed, and can it be kept offsite?

Adopt a continuous, iterative approach to maintain your processes and workflows. Your processes must be repeatable yet allow for change. An evergreen approach ensures your processes are always up-to-date and compliant, and accommodates for change with internal processes, people, and technology. As technology advances, ensure that your method of data management advances as well. A system of archiving must be in place to accommodate changes to prescribed standards as developed by APEGGA, SEG and others. These organizations are responsible for ensuring that standards are current and acceptable by most of the geophysical community, and employ the models of PPDM and POSC.

Initiating a full scope solution

Initiating the fundamentals in data management begins with performing an inventory assessment of data received and identifying data discovered among older records. Setting protocols for addressing data received and discovered is essential for your data management team to correctly purge redundant and useless data. With a clear understanding of the standards and protocols, your data management team will be equipped to make decisions on disposal of, or purge, any data package that is unusable or no longer under license. Performing a data purge exercise requires extensive knowledge of data validity and licensing scenarios, and proven evidence of a complete dataset that either is owned by the company or holds an active license.

In addition to a data purge, performing a risk assessment with your data management process reveals concerns and gaps in asset distribution. As with every seismic license, purchase and sale agreement (PSA), or divesture, data must follow acceptable asset distribution protocols. Identify the value in your data and maintain the asset in an organized and usable repository that ensures a smooth and effortless distribution of assets.

Assess the worth and value of data in specific areas, and how regular production will be affected if the data is lost due to the inability to locate or unusable because of media deterioration. Acquiring proprietary and licensed data is a high-cost activity. Consider the efforts in planning a proprietary shoot, performing quality control in a data room, and the steps involved in taking possession of this data. Recognizing this effort and the value of your data sets the precedent for prioritizing and enforcing data management procedures.

Software is an essential component to data management procedures and will enhance workflow efficiency. Software solutions in today’s market have built-in systems to support collaboration, monitor data flow, and enforce data standards for clean, reliable data. When applying software solutions to data management, consult your stakeholders to ensure you adopt the best option for ingesting and using your data assets across business units. Ensure flexibility that can evolve with your data standards and support your team’s workflows. Implementing the right technology improves workflows by providing full visibility and quick access to your data for all stakeholders across your company.

Projecting value into the future

Recognizing data as a highly valued asset, and managing that asset with processes and workflows, will ensure your data remains relevant and accessible. Geophysicists benefit from having confidence in the data available, without the need to waste time on assessing redundant or useless data which has since been purged. Identifying available data to pull and transfer is seamless. Data is backed by appropriate contracts that are tied to the ownership of such data. Overall production results will increase as stress levels decrease and your geophysicists become more familiar with the data and the data management system.

The long-term effects and financial value of properly managed geophysical data is clearly measurable in daily activities and increased business opportunities. Geophysicists can collect data, perform observations and analysis, and deliver essential information more quickly to stakeholders. Having full visibility and quick access to your data gives a competitive advantage for resource exploration, long into the future.

To learn how we can support you in implementing the fundamentals of geophysical data management, contact us at