By Joe Howell, Oil & Gas Market Manager

Some of the most common challenges I have seen in Oil and Gas companies are related to using the data that they already have. There are a multitude of operational, efficiency, regulatory, safety, and profitability issues that can be addressed by using a spatial system. Today I will discuss 4 opportunities for improvement in this dynamic industry. I will spend the next 4 weeks going into more detail about each. The 4 categories I will address over the next month are:

  • Aerial inspection of Pipeline and ROW
  • Using GIS to integrate disparate business systems
  • Securing your GIS and improving performance
  • Enabling business innovation through GIS

Pilot Patrol

Let’s face it, aerial inspection is a difficult job. You have to concentrate on little things like wind speed and direction, altitude, fuel, and any incidental air traffic (crop dusters beware!). Taking notes on a knee pad about encroachments and other ROW issues is an art. The use of a simple location-centric application can significantly improve the ease of capture and the quality of ROW information. Let the system record the location, capture and send a picture of the encroachment, and record other needed information at the touch of a button. Let the pilot concentrate on flying. As an example, the Pilot Patrol application used by Energy Transfer Equity (ETE), L.P. improves safety and efficiency. It eliminates the need for pilots to take detailed notes about the event and its location while they are flying and it significantly streamlines backend workflows.


Anyone who has worked in Oil and Gas IT knows how difficult it is to collate information. From Lease Management to SCADA, the number of applications and processes used to track product from well to the end of the gathering system is staggering. So how do you ever get the “big picture”? Location to the rescue again; nearly every business system in the industry allows the capture of asset locations. Capturing the latitude and longitude for simple assets will set you up for a fairly straight forward integration process with other systems.

Location information is the natural integration point of the many disparate systems that it takes to manage the complicated network of assets and activities that surround the entire industry. Chances are that you already put it on a map; the next step is to let the map do some more work. GIS brings flexibility to this space by providing a platform to present a clear concise summary of your holdings.


The performance of existing GIS systems is largely dependent on planning and execution. Data management and workflows must go hand in hand. If performance or usability drive personnel back to paper maps, reviewing the organization of the data and the workflows around capture and delivery of this data may provide surprising benefit. The underlying health of the data impacts everything down stream.

One of the major challenges many companies face is the all too prevalent gap in knowledge between GIS and IT staff. There is an even bigger gap between management and both groups. When designing GIS applications, the needs of the individual users are paramount. GIS database design should be done with personnel who understand both database architecture, spatial data, and the needs of the business. Doing it right enables innovation, performance, and flexibility in the delivery of information to all levels of the business.


Nearly every business person in America is carrying a smart phone. They use Google/Bing/Yahoo mapping applications and mobile email, web, and productivity software. This mobile acumen opens up new opportunities for innovation. Asset management, supply chain, emergency response, weather, and just about anything else you can think of can be done through mobile applications. By leveraging technologies like Esri's ArcGIS Online, you no longer need to rely on printouts that are obsolete before the ink is dry. If you can take the time to understand the needs of the individual, you can build an application that will streamline their workflow. In short, if you want to do things different and better, think about GIS.

More to Come

Next week I will be discussing in detail the Aerial Patrol application and how it improves quality and communication for pipeline inspection and right of way management.

Topics: ArcGIS Online, Pilot Patrol, Pipeline, GIS SCADA Integration, Oil & Gas, Oil Gas GIS

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