The PPDM Association is an independent, not-for-profit association that represents over 100 energy companies, vendors, and regulatory agencies worldwide. Formed in 1990 and supported by many dedicated volunteers, the Association delivers vendor-independent standards that serve as the Industry foundation for managing information as an essential asset in the global resource business. The Association works with standards ranging from seismic acquisition to production monitoring and reporting.

Three core data management requirements are driving the development of today’s standards.

First and most importantly, a data repository that allows you to retain and integrate the knowledge asset contained in your seismic data must be developed if the value of the seismic asset is to be retained over time. The repository must tightly integrate information supporting each of the core aspects of the seismic business - planning, acquisition, processing, interpretation, distribution, transactions and archival. The Association’s PPDM version 3.6 data model addresses these requirements.

Reducing the ambiguity and inconsistency observed in many existing data stores is important to clarity and usability as data is shared with partners, clients and regulators. Developing standardized content definitions for data is the second key objective of the Association; doing this properly means that a variety of professional organizations such as the CSEG and SEG must be involved in the process. The PPDM Association is developing these relationships and preparing to implement a project plan developed in 2000.

Finally, the PPDM Association is developing data exchange standards that will allow companies to store data (possibly with a suitable vendor), get a copy back when it is needed, distribute copies to partners or purchasers and work with the data in a variety of technical software applications. The Association is developing data exchange schemas and supporting technology that will enable users to load or unload data into the schemas and transport an XML (Extensible Markup Language) file across the Internet in conjunction with key industry players.


Standards built by the PPDM Association are developed using an open methodology that benefits from industry expertise and is based on the requirements of industry participants. International participation and feedback in this work group process ensures that the products of each model development project are targeted to real business needs in a practical and implementable way.

In 1996, the PPDM Association enhanced their data model through the addition of an integrated seismic and information management data module designed to manage conventional two-dimensional seismic acquisition, processing and interpretation data. Member companies around the world have adopted PPDM version 3.4 into their software applications and data repositories.

An international seismic work group is presently enhancing the functionality provided in the version 3.4 model; these enhancements will be released with PPDM version 3.6 in 2001. Three key areas of focus have been defined. First, the relational data model itself must be enhanced to support additional requirements related to the description and management of all types of data and the support of changing business processes. Second, capability to exchange data between repositories and applications or other agencies and organizations is needed to support daily work activities. In many cases, these standards can be built to support and encourage the use of industry-defined standards such as SEG P1 or SEGY. Finally, standardization of reference value content will improve the ability of member companies to exchange data with clarity.

Data Model Enhancement

Virtually every aspect of Geophysical exploration and analysis depends heavily on how well the explorationist can develop a clear and unambiguous picture of how the seismic data was acquired and what has been done with it since.

A corporate data repository contains knowledge assets in the form of information and data; to be effective it needs to be developed to support key business activities and improve the efficiency with which they are carried out. Ideally, it consists of an integrated database and product library that will:

  • Manage all types of seismic data, including conventional data, 3-D data, multiple component recording, well-related seismic and additional recording methods at all stages of the life cycle.
  • Enable good data management strategies, to ameliorate the costs of reworking data that has been lost or corrupted.
  • Permit interaction with other critical types of information, such as wells, land, contracts, stratigraphy, production, projects and more.
  • Support integrated handling of any type of seismic data and information without requiring difficult or time-consuming data conversions or transformations. In other words, the data is stored in the form that makes it most useful.

Presently the PPDM Association seismic work group has defined or revised modules in the following areas:

  • Seismic acquisition. The revised module supports 2D, 3D, marine and well-related acquisition, both planned and actual.
  • Processing. Detailed processing flows, both planned and actual, are captured in the data model together with all input parameters and output products.
  • Interpretation. Key information relating to an interpretation project can be stored in the corporate repository, allowing users to integrate results from various applications (and their versions) and to combine results for high level analysis.
  • Records management. Archived products, either in digital or hardcopy media, can be catalogued or managed in this module. These products are fully integrated with the relevant sets of seismic data.
  • Funding summary. While PPDM is not an accounting database, it contains planned and actual cost summaries and allows you to reference work done to accounting cost centers.
  • Entitlements. Common to brokered seismic transactions or third party data management organizations, this module allows users to track their data authorization levels.
  • Projects. Details about the objectives of a project, its participants and their roles, the steps completed and the results of the project can be managed in this module.
  • Work orders. Representing a key component of the service industry business, this module allows a service provider to associate their work activities with the business data.

Data Exchange

Data Exchange Standards have been available to the energy industry for decades; they are widely used for storing and sharing data among companies or partners, applications and data stores and submissions to regulatory agencies. The SEG and UKOOA formats are international defacto standards for storing and distributing seismic location and trace data. Additionally, regulatory agencies and software vendors routinely define proprietary formats or versions of formats for electronic data submissions or exchanges. In this way, a wide variety of exchange formats have proliferated in the energy industry.

From their earliest days, ASCII and EBCDIC exchange formats have seen their share of successes and failures. Technically, these data files are relatively compact, easily interpreted and efficient for the storage and transmission of data. On the other hand, errors or inconsistencies in using the defined format can result in time consuming editing and reformatting. These formats are also limited in their expandability and flexibility. Self-defining formats (data files that contain both structural definitions and data content) create a new opportunity for sharing and transmitting data in a semantically accurate and consistent way. Extensible Markup Language (XML), an Internet language based on existing standards, is such a format. Users of XML data exchange are not only able to define the contents of the exchange, they can define business or content rules that the data must adhere to. For example, an XML schema can require a country name or code to adhere to the ISO 3166 standard or the shot date to be completed.

Properly implemented, XML schema offers the seismic industry an unprecedented opportunity to resolve many (but not all) of the data content problems that plague it today. Industry interest in XML technology is substantial simply because the potential benefits for improving data exchanges are profound. Providing an XML-based data exchange structure for PPDM will enable users of the data model to move one step closer to interoperability.

The PPDM Association has, in conjunction with its members, initiated a work group to define data exchange formats that support effective exchanges between PPDM databases, or PPDM databases and Industry standard ASCII formats (such as SEG P1). As with all products of the PPDM Association, these products will be based on Industry standards. In this case, the products used or recommended are either publicly available at no cost or part of an open standard. They will include:

  • Data exchange schemas (XML) to support the types of data exchange required by Industry.
  • Mechanisms to load and unload the schema from a PPDM database or a recognized Industry standard format.
  • Mechanisms that use XML to support integration of existing data standards (such as SEG P1) and databases.
  • Mechanisms to support movement of data through the Internet, such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).

Standardizing Data Content

Creating and adopting Industry standards for storing your data and moving it around only solves part of the data management issue that is faced today. Non-conformant data content, as we discussed a few moments ago, can cause endless confusion and cost a lot of money to resolve.

Consider the requirement for regulatory submissions. Typically, regulatory agencies not only define public domain formats or variations of those formats for submissions, but they also require hard copy or electronic information which does not fit within existing formats. A company with international operations will be required to support many such requirements, costing time and money but adding little if anything to the value of the data.

Imagine how much time and effort could be saved if each energy company, vendor and regulatory agency in the world used a common set of values for things like:

  • Energy source types
  • Ownership types
  • Seismic recording format type
  • Country names
  • Media type

Industry standards bodies such as the CSEG are, quite properly, addressing some of these problems. ACSEG project aimed at solving the problem of identifying seismic lines uniquely throughout the Canadian seismic industry has been working on defining standards for naming seismic lines.

The PPDM Association is establishing, in cooperation with various industry standards organizations such as the CSEG a project that will develop, distribute and maintain these lists for the Industry.



About the Author(s)

Ross Huntley graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a B.Sc. in Geophysics in 1979. He has worked with Seiscom-Delta, Gulf, BP Resources and, for the last 15 years, Mobil Oil. During that time he has done seismic processing, interpretation, geophysical programming, and data management. He is currently coordinating seismic acquisition projects for ExxonMobil Canada Energy.

Trudy Curtis is vice-president of TruBear Custom Design Inc., an Information Services company that provides data modeling, knowledge management, facilitation and project management services to energy sector companies and vendors. Trudy has worked internationally in technical and strategic projects to develop corporate knowledge and information management architectures and integrated technical environments.

Trudy has over 22 years of experience in the Energy Industry, and has been an independent consultant since 1995. Since 1996, Trudy has provided the PPDM Association with technical data modeling services for the development of the Public Petroleum Data Model. Trudy received a B.Sc. from the University of Calgary in 1978.


1. http://www.ppdm.org/

2. http://www.niso.org/3166.html

3. http://www.seg.org/


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