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Spring 2004
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Web-Based Tool Gives Customers Easy Access to Up-to-Date Data and Information

IHS Energy Delivers a World of Oil and Gas Information With GIS

  click to enlarge
IHS Energy integrated SpatialDirect into its ArcIMS interface as an export module.

IHS Energy (an Esri Business Partner) of Houston, Texas, provides global oil and gas information, detailed maps, analytical software, and consulting services to oil and gas companies, national oil companies, service companies, and government agencies. Some of the data provided includes well, production, pressure, log, midstream, geologic basin, and industry news. The company delivers its products to customers for PC, Web, and client/server platforms.

IHS Energy clients use the company's data, tools, and analysis to help determine where they should be exploring for oil and gas or to evaluate production performance of existing oil and gas projects or prospects. They also use IHS Energy data and analysis to determine which assets might be appropriate for acquisition or divestiture and which countries or regions they should be entering or exiting based on numerous factors including geological attractiveness, political risk, and business climate.

A large part of the data that IHS Energy provides is spatially enabled (e.g., wells, fields, reservoirs, geological structures, block definitions, and midstream data). A longtime user of Esri's ArcView and ArcSDE technology, IHS Energy now uses ArcGIS technology, which allows data to be queried for deeper, underlying details. IHS Energy also provides a consistent set of cultural data layers to complement the comprehensive exploration and production data. Previously, all the spatial data was supplied to the customer by traditional delivery mechanisms, including local installation at client sites, with data updates provided weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Data in different formats was also shipped to customers on CDs.

There were a number of constraints on this delivery work flow. Deliveries on physical media had to be processed according to the customer's request and then shipped, which extended cycle time. IHS Energy was concerned by the time delay between the data extraction and when it reached the end user. Timely access to the most up-to-date information is a critical advantage for IHS Energy customers.

Managing Data and Information Technology Instead of Finding Oil and Gas

IHS Energy clients frequently maintain complex, multiapplication environments that require data in differing formats, and managing locally installed IHS Energy databases distracts them from their core activity—finding and producing oil and gas.

Another issue for IHS Energy was the fact that the amount of data available to its customers would continue to increase, which could further impact customer productivity. And because customers sometimes maintain IHS Energy's worldwide data set in a spatial database, there wasn't a method for capturing what happens to the data (whether it was being copied or modified).

To solve these challenges and help clients improve productivity, product management at IHS Energy required an Internet product that could display, browse, and query spatial data in the different databases and also deliver this spatial data to its clients in a simple and effective way. The tool had to satisfy several criteria. The system had to support multiple users with different access rights to the data, which meant the export module had to be able to apply these entitlements to export requests. And the system needed to offer attribute filtering so that the attributes available for export depended on the users' entitlements.

Next, the export module had to connect simultaneously to multiple databases, since spatial data was delivered in a different manner by each division within IHS Energy (International, U.S., Canada). Multiple GIS or CAD formats also were required. Previously, only a limited number of GIS or CAD formats had been offered due to the amount of resources involved in creating and maintaining different formats.

The export module also had to integrate with the Web GIS interface. The export module had to be intelligent enough to determine user status in the application and be able to export data through a window or selections (made by the user). Ultimately, the delivery mechanism had to be user-friendly—simple and safe for the user and data.

The Solution

The solution developed relies, for the GIS aspect, on a Web interface driven by ArcIMS software, which helps IHS Energy's customers access their data in a map-based environment 24 hours a day, regardless of their location. Now that clients are using the Web to get their data and information, data currency is optimal and distractions are minimized.

"Having been a major user of Esri technologies for quite a while," says Michael Wynne, a product manager at IHS Energy, "ArcIMS was a natural choice as the foundation for our Web-based product. Another point is that the industry as a whole has been adopting Esri technology. It's rapidly becoming the standard tool within many organizations, which is an important consideration in the development process.

"This is a significant advance in work flow technology," Wynne continues. "It shortens the data retrieval cycle and allows interpreters more time for actual interpretation, which is a common need for most geoscientists. However, timely access to the most up-to-date industry news also helps them respond to rapid changes in the industry—a critical advantage for minimizing risks and identifying new business opportunities."

Safe Software's Feature Manipulation Engine (FME) and SpatialDirect were chosen to provide the necessary components to integrate into the ArcIMS Web interface as an export module. Using J2EE technology (Java server side), IHS Energy was able to integrate SpatialDirect and FME as required and also add extra functionalities including a thin Web interface, simultaneous access to multiple database sources, data entitlements, multiple header attributes, the ability to support several formats, and integration into ArcIMS. In addition, the solution enabled data inventory before export starts (precounting), a user-requests history, system load that is controlled by a QServer component, and SSL support.

The resulting product is a thin Web interface (HTML based) that allows users to browse, query, and select the data using a number of relevant, simple tools and export it according to their specific requirements.

Customers can also choose the desired layers, format, coordinate systems, and attribute header parameters. After processing the choices, the system conducts a data inventory according to the user's data entitlements, and the export process begins. Users are notified by e-mail when exports are complete so they can download the files for use locally.


The Web-based tool gives IHS Energy customers easy access to up-to-date data and information in their favorite application and provides access to spatial and nonspatial data from any Internet capable computer and location without installing specific software.

"Giving explorationists the ability to access and view existing wells, fields, and contracts," says Wynne, "and then instantly retrieve the most current news available about the area of interest, regardless of their location—using a single Web interface—is a powerful advantage. Our clients now have a truly portable and timely interpretation tool that includes access to spatial data."

This solution also eliminates the need for dedicated servers to manage multiple data sets. And because customers can easily retrieve the same data in multiple formats, they can more easily use it in different software applications.

The ArcIMS solution also offers a number of benefits to IHS Energy. With an automated system, IHS Energy can support hundreds of data deliveries per day using fewer delivery resources. And because numerous export formats are available and continuously upgraded by Safe Software, IHS Energy no longer has to manage the evolution of export formats.

For more information, contact Melissa Manning, IHS Energy (tel.: 713-840-7420, ext. 297; e-mail:

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