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Fall 2003
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Venezuelan Petroleum Company Uses GIS to Visualize Operational Surface Facilities Online

By Alfonzo Leon, PDVSA; Carlos Bolaños, PDVSA; Juanita Perez, Schlumberger; and Rodrigo Lazo, Schlumberger

PDVSA ArcIMS configuration.

Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) is an energy company owned by the Venezuelan state with operating and commercial activities within and outside Venezuela. Its operations include hydrocarbon exploration, drilling, refining, transport, and distribution. PDVSA has the largest hydrocarbon reserves on the American continent. This volume places PDVSA in fifth place worldwide for available, proven reserves. Venezuela's daily petroleum production capacity is 3.8 million barrels with an infrastructure including 20,000 active wells located in 2,400 active fields, 300 active petroleum camps, and more than 6,000 kilometers of pipelines.

The incorporation of technology in PDVSA's business is one of the corporation's strategies aimed at increasing its resource base and reducing its operating costs. The corporation believed that satellite image visualization and querying on the PDVSA Intranet was a necessity. From this grew development of a tool for visualization of satellite images on the Web, not only to become an image catalog but also as a tool to integrate cartographic- and oil-related information. This includes wells, seismic lines, and lease parcels and incorporates a series of spatial analysis functions.

Later, to support its production unit business, PDVSA decided it was necessary to visualize operational surface facilities on its Intranet. Thus was developed the Geospatial Satellite Images Web tool and the Geospatial Surface Facilities Web tool, which enables data visualization, spatial analysis, and integration with cartographic and other petroleum data.


  satellite images
Satellite images Web tool sections.

To implement the Geospatial Satellite Images Web tool and the Geospatial Surface Facilities Web tool, two corporate databases were integrated to store the geospatial data:

  • Surface Database (ArcInfo Librarian) where the spatial component of the data is stored on thematic layers:
    • Cartography on a scale of 1:2,000,000, 1:500,000, and 1:100,000 (cities, rivers, roads, etc.)
    • Wells, seismic 2D/3D navigation, leases, and surface facilities
  • Exploration and Production Master Database (Finder), based on Oracle, where the attribute components of the geospatial, exploration, and production data is stored to support PDVSA activities

Layers were generated for each data type using ArcSDE for coverages, integrating the spatial data (ArcInfo) with the attribute data (Finder).

Geospatial Satellite Images Web Tool

The Geospatial Satellite Images Web tool is divided into four main sections—Toolbar, Viewed Layers (Themes), Graphical View, and Tabular View—whose benefits include displaying data and viewing satellite imagery through the PDVSA Intranet, simplifying processes and reducing time response at the Remote Sensing Department of PDVSA, spatially integrating satellite images with the surface databases, and reducing disk space through compressed images.

Customizing ArcIMS with the HTML viewer, the Web tool was developed to visualize the satellite images from SPOT, Landsat, and Radarsat. This allows the integration of these images with cartographic data, wells, leases, and seismic 2D and 3D navigation on the PDVSA Intranet.

The Major Features

Satellite Image Catalog-There are more than 200 satellite images available (georeferenced and nongeoreferenced), all compressed with MrSID to facilitate their display. The tool has three geospatial indexes to visualize georeferenced and nongeoreferenced satellite images as follows:

  • SPOT—Multispectral and panchromatic
  • Landsat—Multispectral and panchromatic
  • Radarsat—Panchromatic
  satellite images toolbar
Satellite images Web tool toolbar.

Integration of Satellite Images, Basic Cartography, Petroleum Data—This function allows the layers (themes) from PDVSA's surface database to be superimposed on a georeferenced satellite image. These layers include well locations and attributes, seismic 2D and 3D navigation, leasing, operational agreements, and basic cartography (with scales of 1:2,000,000, 1:500,000, and 1:100,000).

Dynamic Scale Adjustment—Once the user zooms in or out in an area to visualize satellite images and other data, this function automatically selects the cartographic source or layer (1:2,000,000, 1:500,000, and 1:100,000) to be displayed based on the minimum and maximum scale factor display setting.

Image Request by E-Mail—Once the images have been selected, the tool sends an e-mail to the Remote Sensing Department of PDVSA with the identification of the images and user in order to begin their processing and delivery.

Spatial Analysis—The tool comes with functions that allow basic spatial analysis such as buffers, proximity, query an area by coordinates, and measure distance.

Geospatial Surface Facilities Web Tool

The Geospatial Surface Facilities Web tool was developed to visualize the crude oil production facilities, gas recovery and distribution system, gas injection system, water injection system, and artificial gas lift system.

In addition, critical to the operations of PDVSA are the saving of time in data search and query and reduction of response time in emergency situations. Associated surface facilities are oil and gas pipeline networks and the equipment associated with each of the facilities, their site plans, and pipeline instrument diagrams.

Looking Ahead

This integration tool demonstrates how a corporate data store can be linked together in a relatively short time span, using existing facilities, without reengineering the data warehouse initially. It also offers the possibility of further integration through the migration of relevant portions to ArcSDE.

Together with visualization tools on the Intranet, it is natural to extend the data types to include recently acquired hyperspectral and Ikonos images. Other next steps may include the electrical generation and distribution facilities directly associated with production.

For more information: Alfonzo Leon, remote sensing leader, PDVSA, and Carlos Bolaños, supervisor, PDVSA, may be contacted through Rodrigo Lazo, Surface and Geomatic Project coordinator, Schlumberger (e-mail: or Juanita Perez, Surface and Geomatic Project specialist, Schlumberger (e-mail:

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