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Kansas Geological Survey, Open File Report 97-14

Digital Petroleum Atlas Annual Report 1996

Change in Scientific and Technical Publication

The traditional role of scientific and technical publication is to formalize and record scientific and technical results in time, and to transfer technology to potential users (Kerkhof, 1994). Over the past century and possibly even in the previous decade, the paper report, journal, monograph or book was the fastest and most efficient method to disseminate, validate, and archive research and technical results. Today, traditional channels of scientific and technical communication are being challenged by the shear volume of publication, the increased unit costs, the relatively decreased resources of academic and industrial library systems, and the rapidity of technical change (Okerson, 1992). In addition, the growth of networks, storage servers, printers, and software that make up the Internet is rapidly changing the world from one in which research organizations, publishers and libraries control the printing, distribution, and archiving to a world in which individuals can rapidly and cheaply "publish", provide access and modify scientific results on-line. These changes offer significant challenges and opportunities to the various participants and traditions of scientific and technical publication (Denning and Rous, 1995).

Another drawback of traditional published scientific and technical results is the limitation of paper (cost and space) causing incomplete documentation of the research process. As a result it is often difficult to replicate or modify traditional paper-published research (Claerbout, 1994). The purpose of reproducing research is to transfer research products to the user, to validate research results, and to facilitate extending the research to better fit user needs. Reproduction of research is a fundamental problem in technology transfer in the earth sciences. This problem has been attributed to loss of steps along the research pathway (Claerbout, 1994). Lack of access to theory, methods, data, or results may form a missing step in the earth sciences. For example, it is not common practice to publish detailed production data, well logs, and analyses that formed the basis of a reservoir or field study or map. With the increased publication costs these data are at best archived. The result is a finished product that is difficult to replicate, validate, or modify to new needs or opportunities. The resource investment required to reproduce published research may take many months and forms a barrier to technology transfer of fundamental, regional or site specific petroleum research. This barrier is a significant impediment to merging results from disparate scientific fields into research solutions for societal and industrial problems and for providing timely scientific information for policy decisions. The shortening life cycles of technology and the increased needs for cross-disciplinary research require a change in the unit of research from the published paper to an easily adapted technologic solution.

The Midcontinent Digital Petroleum Atlas radically changes traditional models and approaches to generating and disseminating petroleum field, play and basin studies (Carr and others, in press). The Digital Petroleum Atlas (DPA) is an electronic publication that is available on-line over the world-wide-web. The DPA is designed to provide easily adapted technologic solutions and to be a dynamic product that is constantly evolving with new structure, research results, and data. Through complete and flexible user access to both the interpretative products and the underlying reservoir and well data, the DPA alters the relationship between interpretative result and data.

The first year of the DPA Project developed a prototype for a digital atlas of petroleum fields and reservoirs in Kansas. A very limited number of reservoirs in Kansas were included in the prototype project, but the goal is to expand beyond the prototype atlas to include all significant reservoirs representing the major plays in the Northern Midcontinent (Figure 1a). The Northern Midcontinent as defined for the DPA includes all of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, the Williston basin portion of Montana, and the Denver-Julesburg basin of eastern Colorado (Figure 1b).

The DPA was constructed using standardized templates and navigation tools to give the product a consistent look and feel. Active links, graphical user interfaces and database search mechanisms provide a product with which the reader can interact in ways that are impossible in a paper atlas. The DPA also contains forms of publication that can only be displayed in an electronic environment. These electronic only forms of publication include: searches based on user-defined geologic, engineering and production criteria; hypertext search and manipulation functions to generate customized maps and plots; and access to animated products (e.g., exploration histories through time). Electronic products such as the DPA are far more efficient tools for rapid technology transfer and resource sharing. The DPA can use available digital materials to create on-demand products that better fit user-defined needs.

Primary products of the prototype atlas are on-line accessible digital data bases covering two significant petroleum plays in Kansas. The regional databases are supplemented with selected geological field studies in each play. Digital imagery, digital mapping, relational data queries, and geographical information systems are integral to the field studies and regional data sets. Data sets have relational links to provide opportunity for history-matching, feasibility, and risk analysis tests on contemplated exploration and development projects. The flexible "web-like" design of the atlas provides ready access to data, and technology at a variety of scales from regional, to field, to lease, and finally to the individual bore. The digital structure of the atlas permits the operator to access comprehensive reservoir data, interpretative products (e.g., maps and cross-sections) and to customize the products to their needs. The atlas is accessible in digital form on-line using a World-Wide-Web browser as the graphical user interface.

Regional data sets and field studies are free-standing entities that are made available on-line through the Internet to users as they are completed. Technology transfer activities commenced in the early part of this project, providing data information sets to oil and gas operators, government and research organizations and other interested individuals prior to the full digital atlas compilation.


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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-File Report 97-14
Placed online February 1997
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