Black Gold, Texas Tea: How energy exploration has new potential when information and geography are linked
gas exploration relies on decades' worth of documents that have been
generated and/or purchased by oil companies to aid in exploration,
drilling, production and all facets of upstream activities. As a
result, energy companies invest billions of dollars each year gathering
and processing data contained within these documents. Organizing these
data can translate into a competitive advantage for the exploration of
Structured databases have helped manage much of the data explorers use,
but most data is not structured. According to the National Science
Foundation, approximately 80% of information stored within an
enterprise is "unstructured" content that does not fit properly into a
relational database. Unstructured content includes information found in
emails, messages, Web pages, reports, analysis, well and field reviews
and correspondence. According to research conducted by the Gartner
Group, about 80% of business decisions are made based on this type of
information. Compounding the difficulty is the fact that unstructured
data is growing at a rate of 60% per year, according to the National
If users could leverage all historical data, both structured and
unstructured, to understand why decisions were made in the past, an
exploration team could make smarter and more cost-effective decisions
for the future. There are massive amounts of information found in all
corners of an organization, but organizing these data is a difficult
and costly enterprise. Leveraging the geography within documents
provides a simple means of organizing information in a way that people
To use the mountains of information that companies in this industry
have, you might ask, "How can we possibly georeference' thousands, if
not millions, of pieces of data and information?" After all, manually
georeferencing data is a Herculean effort that is cost- and
time-prohibitive. MetaCarta technology
solutions are tailored to locate the unstructured content
distributed across an enterprise and enable knowledge workers within an
enterprise to find important information wherever it may be located.
solutions, we have greatly enhanced geospatial presentations. This
process transforms data and unstructured content into information that
is "location-aware," creating geographically relevant collections. Such
a solution enables a means of indexing these data, provides methods of
searching them, and allows a map to be used as a search filter to help
users discover the information regardless of where it is stored in the
At MetaCarta, we are often asked what exactly it is that we sell - a
service, tools, a database? Very specifically, it is software in
the form of computer code and scripts that works on top of mapping
software, such as ArcGIS and others. In fact we make a software package
that plugs right into ESRI products. It works with all the major
mapping providers' software, as well.
Those who use our solutions are able to discover, visualize and act on
important location-based information that may not otherwise have been
available. This is obviously a very lucrative exercise in the oil and
gas industry, where the stakes are high. Combining geography with text
search allows users to find documents that mention specific words or
phrases and references to places contained inside the map window. The
technology employs a geospatial, natural language processing engine for
an enterprise infrastructure. What this means is that it is able to
analyze, extract and georeference both structured and unstructured
content for names, places and other kinds of geographic references.
The greatest obstacle in trying to do this lies is in the many
ambiguities that exist in data. When the solutions were developed, they
excelled in deciphering ambiguous tags to data. For example, the
solution can automatically differentiate between "Paris, France,"
"Paris, Texas," "Paris Hilton" (the person), and the "Paris Hilton"
(hotel) as the terms appear in different contexts and disparate content
collections. Once data are tagged and indexed, they can be located and
used. In other words, when a GIS user pulls up a map, the information
can be displayed spatially according to the desired search as the
database has been populated, referenced and indexed.
For example, one energy company aggregated content from more than 50
diverse repositories across the organization, allowing a single
geospatial query to retrieve information from multiple sources. These
repositories included information such as company reports, studies,
geographical accounts, field analysis and miscellaneous documentation
about various locations for exploration. The company built onto the
large gazetteer provided them by including company-specific geographic
information - adding the names and locations of energy fields, well
heads, pipelines and pumping stations. A gazetteer is an index of
place names as they might appear in the index of an atlas, although
with MetaCarta solutions the gazetteers are very extensive. The
gazetteer identifies the latitude and longitude of over eight million
places, and allows additional locations to be added to it. This company
was able to create an intelligence resource that will easily translate
into a competitive advantage.
Another company used MetaCarta technology to aggregate data from
internal and external Web sources, such as major discoveries and
competitive analysis. The company also included environmental
information such as hazards, wildlife preserves and environmental
impact studies, as well as travel restrictions and reports of civil
In another instance, a company believed that 75,000 technical documents
received through an acquisition might be critical in supporting
exploration decisions in South America. The company estimated that five
full-time employees would need up to one year to manually sift through
the data and organize them in a form that could be used in a database.
When MetaCarta technology solutions were used, the documents were
handled in less than two hours.
The solutions are implemented via an appliance that plugs directly into
a company's infrastructure, leveraging all existing securities.
Connectors crawl and process documents from Windows shared drives,
document management systems, Web content (intranet, Internet),
databases, and RSS news feeds, providing valuable content for users
within a few days.
"Black Gold, Texas Tea" has been the resource that challenges natural
resource explorers who rely on its discovery for their profitability
and ultimately the world's use. It is located somewhere in the earth.
But it is quite a bit more easily discoverable, and its exploration
much more manageable, in an information age that allows useful data and
information to be linked to its geography.