The Need for A Digital Petroleum Atlas

The United States obtained 85 percent of its energy from fossil fuels in 1995, nearly 40 percent from oil alone (of which half was imported), and 24 percent from natural gas (President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, 1997). U.S. fossil fuel dependence, like that of the rest of the world, will decline only slowly in the future. It has been estimated that fossil fuels will provide two-thirds of all world energy needs in 2030 and half or more in 2100 (EIA, 1997). U.S. oil imports, according to the "reference" forecast of the Department of Energy, would grow from 9 million barrels per day in 1995 to 14 million barrels per day in 2015 and continue to increase for some time thereafter. The Digital Petroleum Atlas program addresses many of the issues of insuring a secure U.S. oil and gas supply as outlined by the report of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (1997).

The US and the Northern Mid-continent have large remaining oil and particularly gas resources in numerous reservoirs. A higher percentage of original oil and gas in place can be produced if old and new data and knowledge are made available to operators. Basic data and innovative developments in technology need to be directly accessible to assist operators in day-to-day decisions. The Kansas Geological Survey continues to work with the U. S. Department of Energy and oil and gas producers to create a Digital Petroleum Atlas (DPA) to meet these information needs. The DPA is unique in that it provides independent operators on-line digital and hard copy information, digital data bases, new cutting-edge scientific study of typical fields of the region and purposeful technology transfer. The atlas also provides to independent operators an evaluation of the technologies that are best suited for additional oil and gas recovery. Information is available when and where operators need it (literally on the operator's desk).

During the past few years, the United States economy has performed beyond most expectations. A shrinking budget deficit, low interest rates, a stable macroeconomic environment, expanding international trade with fewer barriers, and effective private sector management are all credited with playing a role in this healthy economic performance. Many observers believe advances in information technology (IT), driven by the growth of the Internet, have also contributed to creating this healthier-than-expected economy. In recent testimony to Congress, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan noted, "...our nation has been experiencing a higher growth rate of productivity—output per hour—worked in recent years. The dramatic improvements in computing power and communication and information technology appear to have been a major force behind this beneficial trend." The Digital Petroleum Atlas is one attempt to bring these advances in information technology to the independent oil and gas operator.

The DPA will provide a tool to enhance Kansas oil and gas production. The demonstration of the digital petroleum atlas will also enable similar projects to be instituted in other petroleum producing areas, so that a geographically broad on-line digital database will be available to domestic operators. The ultimate goal is a national digital petroleum atlas.

Short of conducting a full-scale reservoir analysis of each producing field, an efficient and effective method of communicating key information to operators is by example. For each reservoir type in a producing region, a thoroughly studied and documented analog can illustrate geologic and engineering procedures that are likely to be most successful in increasing ultimate recovery. An analog example provides operators with sufficient information and procedures to study producing fields, and increase production and ultimate recovery by modifying and applying proven methods. One way to accomplish the goal of disseminating information by analog is to provide a digital on-line geological and engineering based, state-of-the-art, petroleum atlas that contains not only historical data and descriptions, but technologically advanced syntheses and analyses of "why reservoirs produce" and "how ultimate production may be increased." This is a national need. A digital petroleum atlas is an efficient and effective vehicle to provide access to legacy databases and innovative knowledge that can be used by the operator.

The traditional role of technical publication is to formalize and record scientific and technical results in time, and to transfer technology to potential users (Kerkhof, 1994). The published petroleum atlas is a time-honored approach to illustrating by analog the latest petroleum exploration and development knowledge and application (e.g., Powers, 1929; Galloway, et al., 1983; Bebout, et al., 1993,). Similar proprietary compilations are common at major petroleum companies. The underlying goals of these petroleum atlases have been to:

The traditional published atlas is a time consuming and expensive process that results in static paper product. Typically, products and data are limited by space and cost considerations to summary information at the field or reservoir level. For each play, field or reservoir only a relatively small number of author-selected maps, cross-sections, charts and other summary data are included. Typically, the paper atlas does not provide access to well and lease data or to intermediate research products (such as digital geographic and geologic components of maps, interpreted and uninterpreted subsurface data, well test analyses, thin section images, and other traditionally unpublished material). Without access to the data and intermediate products, modifying and updating a published field study to fit a user-defined application or new scientific idea is a difficult and time consuming process.

Today, traditional channels of scientific and technical communication represented by the petroleum atlas 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 are 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 both to public and private sector participants and to the traditions of technical publication (Denning and Rous, 1995).

Kansas Petroleum Atlas

The Kansas Digital Petroleum Atlas (DPA) is an on-line publication available on the Internet anywhere in the world using a standard point-and-click world-wide-web interface (Figure 1). The Uniform resource locator (URL) is dpaHome.html. The DPA consists of studies at reservoir, field, play and basin scales. The DPA is a dynamic, evolving product with new structure, research results, and data appearing almost daily. Through complete and flexible user access to technology, interpretative products, and underlying geologic and petroleum data, the DPA figure 2alters the relationship between interpretative result and data, between technology generation and application. At the present time, the Digital Petroleum Atlas currently contains over 6,000 static web pages covering 8 counties, 7 fields and two regions of Kansas. "Static" pages are actual HTML text files on the DPA web server showing information to visitors. Most of DPA pages are very similar--that is, a template can be made and multiple pages extracted from that template. For example, for a set of county geology pages (Figure 2), the only differences are the names of the files, the window titles, and the two figures (i.e., map and stratigraphic chart). The navigation is adjusted for each page (assigning a "Previous" page and assigning a "Next" page). As a result, a new set of geologic maps, core photos, etc., for a new play or field can be integrated into the DPA efficiently as a new set of static web pages. In addition, web access is provided to programs that can query relational database systems containing production, well and electric log data. The pages cover Kansas’s oil and gas plays at scales from the regional through the single well sample. It also consists of a navigational architecture that permits accessing the DPA information by a number of methods.

Usage of the Prototype Digital Petroleum Atlas

Since the Digital Petroleum Atlas is an electronic publication, on-line access was provided to the public soon after project inception (January 1996). Use of the DPA products was almost immediate andFigure 3 has grown steadily over the last three plus years (Figure 3). This near real-time transfer of technology and information to the client is one advantage clearly demonstrated by the DPA.

The pages that comprise the DPA make up the bulk of the web site for the Petroleum Research Section (PRS) of the Kansas Geological Survey. Usage statistics show that access to these pages has grown to over 50,000 access "hits" per month (Figure 3). In measuring access "hits" on the PRS site, all access to graphics is removed. This eliminates the multiple counting of access hits that result from multiple figures (buttons, bars, arrows, etc.) on a single web page. In addition, all access from the Kansas Geological Survey subdomain ( is removed. This measurement protocol produces a consistent and conservative measure of external usage. Current usage statistics are collected daily and weekly and are available on the Petroleum Research Section of the Kansas Geological Survey web site (

Each month a detailed usage report is generated for the oil and gas portion of the Kansas Geological Survey web site. The latest report for April 1999 ( provides rough quantitative measures for the Digital Petroleum Atlas. In April, the pages of the Digital Petroleum ranked among the most requested pages (Figure 4). Other highly requested pages on the Petroleum Research web server are portals that provide general access to the Digital Petroleum Atlas and other oil and gas information. After the user enters the Digital Petroleum Atlas Home Page or DPA-Kansas Page they split off in any number of directions. The Digital Petroleum Atlas HomePage was also the number 3 most popular entry page and the number 5 most popular exit page. This is interpreted to mean that the DPA is bookmarked and users jump directly to it. The April statistics also show that the Petroleum Research Web Site and the Digital Petroleum Atlas appealed primarily to companies (.com domain with 72.54% of total hits and 3904 separate sessions last month) and networks (.net domain with 20.02% of total hits and 1279 separate). The .net domain is interpreted as representing the very small independent and consultant who uses a local or national Internet access provider. Statistics for April 1999 measure the most accessed directories on the Petroleum Research web server. The DPA is the most accessed directory with over a third of the total hits for the site (Figure 5).

Other measures of the impact of the Kansas Digital Petroleum Atlas are unsolicited comments and success stories received by users. A selection of comments and a success story are provided in Appendix A.

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Updated June 1999
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