Scientific research is an integral part of upstream exploration. Decisions are made and millions of dollars are committed based on the research that geoscientists conduct and the models they develop to identify new sources of oil and gas. Yet, finding the information necessary to build accurate models and make sound recommendations can be overwhelming, time-consuming and cumbersome. Only now is technology starting to meet the challenge.
There is a wealth of information available to researchers online; however issues of 'findability', credibility, and usability make searching for pertinent data a taxing process. A preliminary search can return hundreds of thousands of articles with many irrelevant results spanning across industries and audiences. Press releases, scientific articles and encyclopedia-type entries are likely to be grouped together with no thought to categorisation, in an extraneous list of results that are based on keywords and popularity - not relevancy. It can also be difficult to ascertain the reliability of data sources.
Even when results returned are from credible academic sources, the data which is most relevant to the geoscientist's task is often embedded within presentations, white papers and literature, making it hard to find, and difficult to extract in a format that is ready to use. The purely administrative process of extracting and reformatting data for integration with proprietary data and software tools, can often take longer than the far more important work of analysis and interpretation.
The demand for specialized applications
When the Apple iPhone first launched, its major advertising campaign revolved around the promise that the cell phone offered 'an app for that.' That is, whatever task users needed to undertake, the iPhone's App Store offered an application which could help.
Although primarily a consumer product, the iPhone, and increasingly, Android smartphones, also offer apps that solve work challenges. For example, construction calculators allow builders to calculate plans and dimensions, working in linear, square and cubic measurements. Drug dictionaries are available in app form for healthcare professionals, and apps are available which help engineers calculate duct sizes for a given set of parameters for HVAC systems. By making information more user-friendly and tailored to specific needs, apps allow people to be more efficient and focus their energy and expertise on activities with a greater value.
The trend for making information more customized and timely is not confined to the consumer technology market. The scientific information industry is also on a journey to provide increasingly specialized information views.
For example, Elsevier has leveraged its highly reputable journal content from ScienceDirect, an online scientific database, to create specialized 'app-like' information tools like Reaxys, designed for chemists working in research and development, and Geofacets, designed specifically for geoscientists in the oil and gas industry.
While ScienceDirect is a valued resource for everyone from doctors to chemists and geologists, the 'information needs' of professionals working in different industries are quite different and distinct from one another; respectively, the information gathered by professionals working in different sectors will be used in different ways. Elsevier understands both the value in providing a broad and multi-disciplinary reference tool - ScienceDirect - and the additional value in providing more tailored resources where information is enhanced for use in particular work environments.
Working with geoscientists in upstream Oil and Gas exploration from a variety of companies (IOCs, NOCs and large and small E&P companies) Elsevier recognised that geoscientists had a complex search need that wasn't being satisfactorily met by the resources currently available. Geoscientists' 'search need' can be more accurately defined as the need to find relevant maps and associated data embedded in academic literature, and to extract that content in a format that integrates with proprietary data and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software.
In Apple marketing speak, Elsevier developed 'an app for that' - i.e. a specialized search and discovery solution to overcome these specific research challenges.
Developed by geoscientists for geoscientists, Geofacets is a web-based, searchable collection of geological maps and associated content sourced from Elsevier's peer-reviewed earth sciences journals.
Geoscientists can use Geofacets to search for relevant maps in a number of ways. Users can search geographically via an interactive world map, by basin name, region or country, or by article title, abstract, keyword or author. Search results are presented on an interactive map interface. Geofacets not only makes the geological maps and associated content easier to search, but it also evaluates the maps and indexes according to type, surface area, geologic basin, and geographic area or location; allowing users to refine map results accordingly.
The ability to refine a large number of search results is one of Geofacets most valuable features. Users are able to filter results by map type (i.e. structural, play, isopach and facies maps), by geographic scale, association with specific geologic basins, keyword, author and journal. When users find a map of interest, the map can be immediately downloaded in the format (JPEG, TIFF and GeoTIFF) that is most convenient for the users' requirements. Downloaded georeferened maps (GeoTIFF files) can be imported into GIS for integration with other data, thus saving time that might be more productively spent on analysis.
Knowing the context within which a map and its corresponding data was produced is just as important as the map itself. Geofacets therefore includes an option for the user to access the full article as a read-only PDF file, providing the contextual information required to understand the assumptions and constraints of the map and its underlying data, allowing more insightful analysis and interpretation by the Geofacets user.
With the commitment of millions of dollars resting on the recommendations made by geoscientists in the Oil and Gas industry, it is critical for geoscientists to have as much information as possible about the subsurface geology and reservoir characteristics to feel confident in their analysis and interpretation. With demand and prices for oil and gas increasing, geoscientists are searching in areas of more geological complexity with unconventional plays, increasing the costs of exploration and the risk of poor yields and lower returns on investment; accordingly the need for exhaustive information increases relative to this risk.
Combined with other software tools and traditional industry information sources, Geofacets can help geoscientists make more accurate interpretations and decisions that result in the right play.
Geofacets is commercially available from September 13th 2010. For more information, please visit: www.geofacets.com