GIS-Lite: Strike a strategic balance between your experts and the field

By George Demmy

The ability to share timely and accurate location information is critical in the oil and gas industry. From sharing data on new drilling opportunities to monitoring exploration and collaborating with field workers, the ability to leverage geospatial data is vital to both strategic and day-to-day operations, yet all too often, this critical business intelligence ends up as a paper map or a static image in a PowerPoint slide.

While GIS is a powerful platform for scientists, mapping professionals and cartographers, the reality is that not everyone who needs geospatial data is trained in GIS software, needs the complexities of robust GIS systems or has access to software such as ArcGIS. That’s why many progressive firms have found a way to increase the return on their GIS investments by using a technology called GeoPDF to share free, interactive, lightweight GIS applications with people not trained in GIS, including decision-makers, analysts, scientists, engineers and field personnel.

CGG is a geosciences leader who has leveraged these “GIS-lite” capabilities for some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. Since 2007, the organization has been compiling, analyzing and sharing geospatial data though the use of TerraGo GeoPDF and TerraGo Toolbar in its Multi-Physics business line, which provides expertise in potential fields and electromagnetics to complement seismic data in exploration workflows. The company includes GeoPDFs as part of the final package it delivers to many Multi-Physics clients.

“ArcGIS is great, but not everyone has the software or the training to effectively use it,” said James Cokinos, GIS coordinator and geologist for Multi-Physics at CGG. “By complementing our ArcGIS work with TerraGo GeoPDFs, we are able to easily share our GIS information, along with lightweight GIS features like layer control, measurements and markup, while providing a forum for sharing feedback with everyone, whether they have ArcGIS or not.  The nice thing for the end user is that it’s all accessed with free, universally available software in Adobe Reader.”

When CGG produces a GeoPDF, the company goes beyond just making a map to print. Cokinos and his team add various vector layers and customize the layers to help visualize and emphasize the most relevant information for its oil and gas customers.

CGG also finds that GeoPDFs are ideal archiving tools to capture the geospatial intelligence at a particular point in time, and since it is not based on software that could be rendered obsolete over time, it can live on forever. The portability of the solution also makes it easier to share information with all relevant parties.

“The great thing about GeoPDF is that, while GIS may be somewhat complex or intimidating, our customers and end users are not afraid of using a PDF file format,” Cokinos said. “In addition, with Esri slowly moving more towards the ArcGIS Pro platform, the GeoPDF is going to be even more valuable as a time-stamped version of the geospatial picture captured at that point in time, which is ideal for all the client programs that we manage.”

Since July 2007, CGG has delivered more than 3,000 GeoPDFs, providing interactive geological data for industry leaders around the world. The organization has delivered GeoPDFs for 67 countries in the marine gravity and magnetics arena, for more than 100 oil and gas clients.

“We were early adopters in the usage of GeoPDFs and have found that our investment in this solution has paid off tremendously,” said Cokinos. “It fits perfectly with our need to provide our users with the ability to access, share and leverage geospatial data.”

CGG is a prime example of today’s organizations needing to leverage a blend of heavy and light geospatial capabilities. It will always need to use high-caliber GIS systems, mixed in with the use of lighter-weight systems for professionals not trained in GIS.

As more organizations embrace GeoPDF, the accessibility of GIS increases exponentially — making it possible to extend an interactive map and data to anyone with a push of a button. Importantly, the relevance and value of the geo-expert’s analysis within the organization is raised. And because end users get lightweight GIS features using only free software, the ROI on the existing GIS investment is maximized.

Now more than ever, today’s energy companies face unprecedented levels of cost and competitive challenges. They rely upon geographic data to gain insights that help them manage global operations and directly impact the bottom line. The ability to more effectively collaborate among geospatial experts, decision-makers and field personnel is an operational imperative that GIS-lite delivers today.

Published Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Written by George Demmy

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