Digital Atlas Keeps Data Flowing

Kansas Project Proving Its Value

The Internet can serve as an information super-pipeline for the petroleum industry, and the Kansas Geological Survey is one more group trying to keep the data flowing.

As the repository for all natural resource data in the state, the KGS launched a major effort in 1996 to make its traditional products available online in the form of the Digital Petroleum Atlas (DPA), according to Tim Carr, chief of petroleum research for the Survey.

"The idea was that instead of producing coffee table-type books ... to do it online and try to keep it current," Carr said.

Keeping it current may be the biggest benefit of online data versus paper publishing, he said.

The atlas began with static pages -- much like traditional publications -- displayed as Web pages. The system has evolved, he said, and the static displays are being replaced by dynamic pages linked to relational databases.

"The information is automatically updated on the fly," Carr said.

Lots of Data -- Fast

The atlas began with a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The grant has been renewed and is used mainly for salaries and outreach -- travel to meetings and presentations -- according to Dana Adkins-Heljeson.

Adkins-Heljeson handles the Web work and has co-authored a paper on the project with Carr that will be presented at the AAPG annual meeting in Denver this year.

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The Internet can serve as an information super-pipeline for the petroleum industry, and the Kansas Geological Survey is one more group trying to keep the data flowing.

As the repository for all natural resource data in the state, the KGS launched a major effort in 1996 to make its traditional products available online in the form of the Digital Petroleum Atlas (DPA), according to Tim Carr, chief of petroleum research for the Survey.

"The idea was that instead of producing coffee table-type books ... to do it online and try to keep it current," Carr said.

Keeping it current may be the biggest benefit of online data versus paper publishing, he said.

The atlas began with static pages -- much like traditional publications -- displayed as Web pages. The system has evolved, he said, and the static displays are being replaced by dynamic pages linked to relational databases.

"The information is automatically updated on the fly," Carr said.

Lots of Data -- Fast

The atlas began with a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The grant has been renewed and is used mainly for salaries and outreach -- travel to meetings and presentations -- according to Dana Adkins-Heljeson.

Adkins-Heljeson handles the Web work and has co-authored a paper on the project with Carr that will be presented at the AAPG annual meeting in Denver this year.

Geologist Paul Gerlach performs the mapping and log analysis. The Kansas Department of Revenue collects the information and the KGS brings that data into its own database, Carr said.

The result? "We think we have the most accurate list of wells in the state," Carr said.

Data finds its way into the database more quickly, as well.

"Scanning of source data was done by Paul originally, then me, and now is often done by students funded on the grant," Adkins-Heljeson said.

"Linking up a new set of geologic maps takes a day or two now," Adkins-Heljeson said. "Since the interactive well maps are done with our Oracle database and not by hand, that work takes a day instead of one to two weeks as it used to.

"Assembling the data takes the longest (in terms of Web production)," he continued. "However, because the DPA is now integrated with our main oil and gas well database, work done on a well or field used in the DPA by people working on different projects will improve our product. We don't have to flag a digital log file as being needed for the DPA.

"If it's been donated for any reason, it will be connected up automatically. Completion forms scanned for other projects don't have to be re-scanned for the DPA," he said.

"One of the fields recently added was mapped by a student at Kansas State University (Jonathan Lange) as part of his research.

"We explained the kinds of maps we needed, and he worked on scanning, tops picking (as needed) and mapping, supervised by Tim Carr. It's a very distributed system, with Paul working out of Wichita, the student at K-State and Tim and I here in Lawrence," Adkins-Heljeson said.

Coming This Summer ...

DPA crew members are "hitting our stride" and adding tools to help users with the data, Carr said.

"We're taking it a little further with Java programs that can handle plots and well logs -- they're now in prototype," Carr said. "The user defines how the display looks."

In the next stage, "You go out and get the logs and tops to connect ... The page wouldn't exist until you request it," he added.

The new tools should be online this summer, he said.

Perhaps most importantly, the DPA is proving its value, Carr said. The site tallies monthly online visits in the "hundreds of thousands."

Exploration companies use the atlas, as do data brokers who resell value-added products based on DPA data.

Carr believes the DPA is blazing a trail for providing public domain information.

"We (the KGS) were in a unique position ... with a lot of flat digital data collected for many years, plus the expertise needed for the project," he said. "It was a team effort to change the way we do business."

Carr sees the DPA as a valuable addition to traditional publications and commercial products.

"We provide limited search capabilities ... but someone always wants something different."

He said the atlas is unlikely ever to threaten high-end commercial interpretation programs.

Carr said the next atlas project is to add 22,000 wells in the Hugoton Field in southwestern Kansas -- "essentially a reservoir study."

"Our role is to attract business to Kansas," he said. "The DPA is doing that by making up-to-date information available for quick, informed decisions.

"People don't have time to rummage around in our file cabinets."