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A Semantic Data Ecosystem in the Oil and Gas Sector in Norway

By   /  July 31, 2014  /  No Comments

image of Norwegian oil rig in fog.Like the oil and gas itself, data from oil and gas operations associated with the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) is also flowing. Through a number of semantically enabled hubs, it is getting integrated, refined, and distributed to different parties. EPIM, the Exploration & Production Information Management Association, is implementing its vision of a shared suite of knowledge based-applications for the Norwegian Oil & Gas industry built using semantic web standards and the domain concepts from ISO 15926 [Wikipedia].

In this brief article, we give an overview of the three applications EPIM currently in deployment (shown in the graphic below).

ISO 15926

In building and deploying these applications, some key features and insights applicable to other applications that involve data integration across diverse systems emerge:

  • A semantic ecosystem needs to accommodate flexible co-existence with other technologies, notably XML and JSON. All applications in EPIM’s vision of integration involve interoperability with these and other technologies;
  • ISO 15926 has been effective for supporting EPIM’s reporting needs, but can present a challenge, in terms of its complexity, for efficiently harnessing it within evolvable, model-driven solutions. The successful work with these models demonstrates that semantic web standards are sufficiently mature, rich and powerful to handle very complex models;
  • Model-driven approaches using semantic technologies, especially SPARQL and technologies that build on it, are highly effective for extensible applications. Development and deployment responsiveness to changing requirements proved to be very rapid.

What makes EPIM’s strategic infrastructure a true ecosystem is how multiple stakeholders from diverse organizations benefit from the applications either directly or indirectly. The parties include a variety of organizations either directly involved in or impacted by the oil and gas activities including different types of companies that directly participate in drilling and production, tax authorities and others in completely different industries that interact with the oil and gas industry (such as fisheries in the case of environment reporting, and transporters in the case of logistics).

EPIM ReportingHub (ERH) has been in production since 2012. The Oil & Gas operators are required to report their exploration and production activities to the government authorities. Since licenses are shared, operators also need to report business activities to their partners according to the Joint Operating Agreements. In addition, most operators have to provide substantial reporting to their home offices and to regional and global organization of special interests. ERH offers a single point of interaction for operators to aggregate, semantically validate and communicate this information. You can read more about ERH in “Semantic Case Study: EPIM Reporting Hub” posted to this site in February of 2012.

EPIM EnvironmentHub (EEH) became operational in February, 2014. EEH does for environmental data what ERH does for drilling and production data. Both systems offer pre-defined reports as well as ease of extracting data needed for custom reports. Information from all reports can be extracted and combined in many different ways creating new possibilities for operators, partners and government authorities to view and analyze data across different field and licenses.

EPIM LogisticsHub (ELH) is currently going through an industry pilot. ELH will initially track cargo containers containers (CCUs), and eventually track their contents, in the supply chain for offshore facilities on the NCS by using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. ELH also includes information about the journeys made by those containers. ELH was mentioned by Irene Polikoff in “RDF is Critical to a Successful Internet of Things” in May, 2014.

EPIM Logistics Hub graphic

For TopQuadrant and its partners (On ERH TopQuadrant was the prime implementer and partnered with Franz, Inc. On EEH and ELH, TopQuadrant worked with its services partner Computas), implementing and operating these systems over the last three years has led to important insights:

  • RDF-based models support the evolution of requirements better than database schemas;
  • The ability to query deployed models improves the extensibility and quality assurance of the applications;
  • Semantic standards are sufficiently rich and robust to handle the complexity of the ISO-15926 standard. ISO-15926 has proven to be effective for representing the temporal and spatial aspects of EPIM reporting needs;
  • SPARQL has proven to be a powerful foundation for RDF-based applications. Realizing this power required application development technologies that build on SPARQL. See more on this below where the use of SPIN, SPARQLMotion and SPARQL Web Pages is outlined;
  • Co-existence with other messaging and data representation approaches is highly achievable and can be accommodated in the solution architecture. All three applications involve coexistence and interoperability with other technologies, notably XML and JSON.

We believe that these insights are applicable to any application that involves data integration across diverse systems and needs to evolve flexibly to support changing requirements.

ELH Applications conceptual architecture

To illustrate these points, consider the ELH Applications conceptual architecture, built on the RDF standards stack as shown above.

Incoming XML data is semantically validated and transformed into RDF according to ISO 15926 RDF/OWL models compliant with POSC Caesar Association (PCA) standards. Transformed data is then stored in a triple store. Validation involves checking against master and reference data provided by the third party authorities, specifically, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) and the Brønnøysund Registry Centre.

SPARQL is used to perform transformations, queries, and reports. To make this possible as well as extensible and maintainable, the applications use the following technologies that are built on SPARQL:

  • SPIN [W3C, TopQuadrant] is used to represent SPARQL rules and constraints on the models, SPARQL functions and query templates, and libraries of reusable functions;
  • SPARQL Web Pages (SWP) is used as a model-driven template language to provide a flexible approach to access control and the services of the application;
  • SPARQLMotion is used for building data services based on dataflow pipeline processing transforming information from user-initiated uploads and external systems. Services return RDF, XML, JSON, HTML, and other formats.

In conclusion, EPIM’s vision of an integrated knowledge base across the information spaces of the Oil & Gas sector is becoming a reality with technologies based on ISO 15926, RDF/OWL and SPARQL. Accurate capturing and extensible query of data are increasing the value of data as an asset.   For reporting, the business outcomes are better reports and more informed decisions. For logistics, “smart events” will bring visibility of the supply chain. Efficiencies and effectiveness will reduce the number of CCUs on hire, unnecessary round trips to the rigs, redundant handling operations, and drilling and production downtime.


Hear more from TopQuadrant at the 2014 Semantic Technology & Business Conference, where they are both sponsoring and speaking.

Oil rig image courtesy flickr / stignygaard

About the Author

Photo of Ralph HodgsonRalph Hodgson is a co-founder and the CTO of TopQuadrant, Inc., a US-based company that specializes in semantic technology consulting, training, and tools. He combines expertise in semantic technologies with many years of experience in business application development and deployment, consulting, software development, and strategic planning.

Prior to starting TopQuadrant in 2001, he held executive consulting positions at IBM Global Services where he was a founding member of Portal Practice and Object Technology Practice. Prior to IBM, he was European Technology Director, founder, and Managing Director of Interactive Development Environments, which was an international CASE tools vendor. Between 1996 and 2000, he organized the OOPSLA workshops on System Envisioning. He consults with NASA on Ontologies and Information Architecture, and was the Semantic Application Architecture lead for the EPIM Logistics Hub project. Ralph is a published author and a frequent speaker at conferences. Books he has co-authored include Adaptive Information, published by John Wiley in 2004, and Capability Cases: A Solution Envisioning Approach, published by Addison-Wesley in July 2005.


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