- A typical Norwegian group effort

12.10.2015
“Without the well-known Norwegian community volunteering spirit, we would have never made it this far. Everyone contributes and there is mutual trust,” says Kjell Reidar Knudsen of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. He has held a central position in The Diskos National Data Repository (NDR) since the very beginning more than 20 years ago.

Kjell Reidar Knudsen

“Without the well-known Norwegian community volunteering spirit, we would have never made it this far,” says the NPD’s Kjell Reidar Knudsen, who was there from the very beginning and still chairs both the Management Committee and Steering Group.
(Photo: Emile Ashley).

 

“The idea behind Diskos is that the oil companies should all cooperate on storing exploration data and compete in the interpretation of this data. The more raw data is collected and shared, the greater the possibilities for the bright minds in each company,” says the Diskos veteran.

He meets people all the time in the international petroleum environment that are surprised by the trusting and orderly interaction between the oil companies and Norwegian authorities. In most other countries, oil companies typically compete on nearly everything. They are often untrusting of the authorities and fear corruption, or that the data will be lost in other ways. This often results in wasting resources and irrational management models. Therefore, the Norwegian model attracts attention.

In 1998, at the 15th World Petroleum Congress in Beijing, Knudsen held an extensive presentation on Diskos, among other things, titled: National Petroleum Resource Data Management.

“I believe it was also typically Norwegian that we started the work that brought us Diskos without a single cost-benefit analysis. For those involved from the NPD, Statoil, Hydro, Saga Petroleum and eventually eventually Mobil, it was quite obvious that cooperation in certain areas, instead of competition, would reap major benefits for us all. By storing the data in the same place, everyone would gain easier access to larger data volumes when the confidentiality period ended, and it would also become easier before this time when licensees in the same production licence wanted to share information. The costs of reporting to the NPD, storage and quality assurance would also decline. It was just a matter of getting started,” says Knudsen.

He believes it is unique in a global context that companies and authorities join forces to save money this way. Before, the NPD had to deliver copies of the information the companies were entitled to, but this was labour-intensive. Now, they simply log into the system and open access to the information once for everyone as the confidentiality periods end. “This also makes it cheaper for all parties,” says Knudsen.

 

ROUGH BEGINNINGS

It is not easy to say when what eventually became the Diskos project really started, but many got a rude awakening when they read the Oil & Gas Journal in November 1991. Here, Chevron’s chief geologist Lee Lawyers presented an overview of the geologists’ work profile. It showed that they spent as much as 60 per cent of their work day looking for relevant data. In other words, they spent more than half their time at the office not processing or interpreting information – but finding it. This waste of time was a known issue in every oil company and the reason many of them took the initiative to increase the efficiency in storage and retrieval of seismic information and well data.

The NPD was also early in the game. In 1990, director of resources Arild Nystad established a separate department for data administration and asked department head Kjell Reidar Knudsen to take responsibility for this. This resulted in more streamlined data management internally in the NPD, and the launch of the High Quality Log Data project (HQLD) as the first joint project that benefitted the entire oil industry. At the same time, Statoil had invested in its internal Seismic data storage project, and Saga Petroleum and the NPD developed the software for the ILGI database together.

At Notodden in 1992, Tape Technology Norge (TapeTech Norge) and Norsk Hydro established the company Norsk Geodatasenter in one of Hydro’s industrial halls where the industry locomotive’s data information would be stored. TapeTech Norge’s management consisted of Audun Espeland and Kjell Nedrebø in Stavanger. They wanted a lasting binding cooperation with the Norwegian oil companies.

The three Norwegian oil companies Statoil, Hydro and Saga Petroleum and the NPD already had a collaboration project on the Shelf (Exploration Technology Cooperation), and agreed in October 1991 to include a more systematic cooperation on storage of exploration data as well.

A group was appointed in 1992 to further develop the cooperation between the oil companies and the NPD. This was called the Geobank project, and it was made clear from the very start that an open tender process was necessary. A requirement specification was prepared for a system for storage of digital data, qualifying potential contractors and potentially discussing the practical aspects with regard to signing a contract.

The group was comprised of members from all of the involved players, and its work process was extensive. The group also used internal specialists when necessary. The project had a budget of 0 kroner. Everything, including the members’ travel expenses, was covered by the involved companies and the NPD.

The pre-project was headed by Stein Thorbjørnsen from Statoil. The members were Kristian Kolbjørnsen and Espen Løken from Saga Petroleum, Mons Midttun and Jo Bergan from Hydro, Kjell Reidar Knudsen and Kjetil Tonstad from the NPD and Gunnar Sjøgren from Statoil. The following year, in 1993, the NPD assumed project management for good, and Kjetil Tonstad was the first one out. He was succeeded by Hallgeir Vestøl in 1996, who passed the baton on to the current project manager for Diskos, Eric Toogood, in 1998. Elin Aabø Lorentzen was hired as the assistant Diskos project manager in 2012.

In the early 1990s, Norwegian and international media were constantly reporting on new fiascos in the data industry related to ambitions that exceeded the knowledge or feasibility. Many were talking about the burst IT bubble. This was why the project group was very concerned with keeping their feet on the ground. They constantly reminded each other that: “When you don’t know where you’re going, you usually end up somewhere else”, says Knudsen.

In the autumn of 1993, the tendering process started for development of a specific software for storage and retrieval of vast volumes of seismic and well data. One of the most important requirements was that 100% watertight dividers were needed between the data submitted by the different companies. When this was in place, it would be opened for exchange and sale in a simple and secure manner. The winner of the software competition could also have the option to operate the system.

 

THE TECHNOLOGY ARRIVES

In February 1993, five companies were prequalified to enter into the contract. The Diskos organisation was formally established in June of the same year. IBM won the software contract that was awarded in December. The precondition was that IBM would own the software and have the option to export the concept to other countries. This was reassuring to the project group, which believed it was a guarantee that the data giant would really get serious. The programme was called PetroBank. IBM also won the operations contract and also included TapeTech and PGS as co-owners of the company that would operate PetroBank. The operating company was established after the summer of 1994 and was named PetroData AS. There were also some changes on the user side. In September 1994, the four Norwegian project participants got Mobil Exploration Norway Inc. to join the team through sharing knowledge about the company’s advanced seismic robotics system Mobil View.

The strategy was in place and the goal was clear, but no one was happy with the name. The geodatabase project had to be replaced with something shorter and less of a tongue-twister. The five involved parties were asked to make proposals, which became the start of an extremely creative process where all possible abbreviations of the most incredible name compositions were launched. For a long time, it seemed as if the name issue was completely lost, until Saga Petroleum’s exploration manager, Hans Chr. Rønnevik, solved it all when he launched: Diskos, see separate article: Controversial scientist and erotic discs >>

 

14 COMPANIES + THE NPD

Everything was now in place and it was time for the formal establishment of the Diskos collaboration project, a joint information system for technical petroleum data. The official start was set for March 1995. In addition to the NPD and the four oil companies that started it all (Original Participants), Shell, Norsk Agip, Hess, Conoco, Elf, Total, Phillips, Enterprise Oil, RWE-DEA and BP/Amoco joined over the course of the year. The new data storage collaboration was also presented to the Norwegian media and was extensively discussed in newspapers and trade journals. See separate article: Press coverage of Diskos >>

After Diskos was commissioned in March 1995, Knudsen was tasked with contacting the other oil companies’ exploration managers to tell them that they could now participate in the established collaboration. The big advantage was that they could retrieve the data they needed online, while non-members had to “knock on the NPD’s door” and go back home with the information on tape rolls or paper documents. The response was entirely positive.

All of the oil companies on the Norwegian Shelf have a standing invitation to participate in Diskos. Membership is voluntary and does not grant the companies access to other data than that which they are otherwise entitled to, but the incentive is that everything becomes much simpler when they have direct access to the database. The requirement for becoming a member is that the company is prequalified by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to be a licensee on the Norwegian Shelf.

 

PUBLIC, BUT CONFIDENTIAL

One of the issues that had to be dealt with quickly was how Diskos was to be organised. A limited company or foundation were both relevant, but neither were chosen. “Diskos is defined as a collaboration project with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate as the coordinator and legal entity,” says Knudsen. This is a precondition in order for the Freedom of Information Act/Petroleum Act to be used as the basis for sharing data reported by the companies after a mandatory confidentiality period.

Since the NPD is an administrative agency, official regulations must be followed on all points, e.g. in connection with tenders for procurements, accounting procedures and disclosure regarding correspondence.

The rules regarding a duty of confidentiality are listed in the regulations to Act relating to petroleum activities which states that raw data from seismic and wells from licence groups are protected from public access for two years. General seismic is kept confidential for five years, while seismic aquired by commercial players for sale, is protected from public access for ten years. The most valuable asset of all, interpreted data, is kept confidential for 20 years before other companies can freely use the information in the hunt for new or more oil in the same area.

The authorities’ overlying resource strategy lies behind these rules. In order to encourage the initiators and investors to conduct as much activity as possible, they gain exclusive rights to the data for a certain period. When the owners have extracted what they believe to be the potential, others can reuse the same information, re-interpret them and use them to establish new plays. This reuse strategy has been highly successful and has contributed to several major discoveries, including Johan Sverdrup. See separate article: From Diskos and Edvard Grieg to Johan Sverdrup >>

Diskos also works to help relieve the National Archives of Norway, which would otherwise have had to physically store a lot of the data and correspondence regarding the oil activities. This would have required new, large and costly bases and storage premises. Instead they can now let Diskos do the job as Norway’s national archive for this part of the petroleum activities.

 

QUALITY CONTROL AND UPDATES

Kjell Reidar Knudsen has been hands-on from the preparations via the establishment of Diskos, all the way up to the present. He still sees vast possibilities for further developing the collaboration project. As regards improvement items, he notes additional quality control when data is uploaded, as well as updating metadata. There is still some room for improvement here and the work is fully underway. New geophysical data types have also arrived, which are well-suited to storage in Diskos.