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Part of having an organized database is creating terminology that is easy to understand and use. Anyone should be able to go into the database and understand how you have organized the data. This article will focus exclusively on terminology and best practices for standardizing your data terminology. Future articles will deal with other types of data and the importance of data integrity.

Seismic Data Ownership

With seismic data ownership, there are several different nomenclatures to describe ownership. This terminology can change as you move from company to company, as well as being dependent on what database software you are using. This nomenclature is important if you are a multinational company, as data from other countries is treated differently than seismic data in Canada.

Most technicians and data managers that deal with seismic data in Canada understand the differences between Proprietary and Licensed data. The issue is that not just technicians have access to this data. Land departments, merger-and-acquisition (M&A) employees, engineers, and even summer students have access to this information. If you don’t have a manual with consistent terminology, data can be used or sold when you don’t have the rights to do so. You need to protect your company from being liable, and it starts with consistency.

Let’s start with a couple of simple definitions:

  1. Proprietary data: This is data that your company has rights to. You can show it in a data room, you can sell a licensed copy of it, and you can divest it as part of a land deal. You may or may not have partners on this data.
  2. Licensed data: This is data that your company does NOT have rights to. You have purchased a copy of this data. It can be used internally in your company for exploration, but it cannot be shown to anyone outside of the company (without permission). A licensing agreement with terms will dictate how you can use this data.

Here is where it gets complicated. Proprietary data can be subdivided into multiple categories, and each one is important regarding how the data can be used.

100%/Exclusive data. Your company owns the data 100%, no partners. You have all rights and can make the decisions on this without any other opinions.

Partnered/Operated data. Your company is the owner/operator of the data, but there are one or more other companies involved, and they also have ownership rights. You can sell this data, but you must get permission from all other companies involved and pay them to license a copy.

Partnered/Non-Operated. Your company has ownership rights in the data, but you are NOT the operator. The operator will be contacted in the event of a QI (Quality Inspection) of the data, and you will be notified that someone wants to look at the data for a possible sale.

Licensed data can also be known as Trade data. This is data that your company has purchased. You have NO rights to this data, and the use of the data will be governed by a specific agreement. A specific clause in some license agreements will reference transfer fees. This is when your company gets taken over/bought out, and the new company must pay a portion of the original license fee to retain the license to this data. This includes the seismic data derived products. Seismic data derived products are any direct measure of a time series. This includes, but is not limited to, amplitude maps, isochron maps, measurements made in another mathematical domain and any other related measurement from the seismic data. Any maps or displays which include any elements of the seismic data are seismic data derived products.

A subset of Licensed data is Proprietary data that has been divested to another company. In some cases, you may retain a copy of this data, but it must be changed in your database from Proprietary to Licensed. Also, if the data has partners (not 100%), you must pay the partners a licensing fee to retain a copy of the data.

Another subset of Licensed data is “Spec” or Speculative data. This is data where your company has participated in the costs associated with shooting the data. For this, you are entitled to a licensed copy, usually with an exclusive period before the Operator releases the data for sale in the market. You have NO ownership rights, even though you were a participant in the shoot.

A definition of a Spec Company is a company that only sells its own seismic data. Most of these companies will have transfer fees associated with their data. A Brokerage company sells data from multiple different companies. They may sell Spec data, as well as Oil Company data. This is one way you can distinguish Proprietary from Licensed data. If the documentation is from a Brokerage or Spec company, it will be licensed data and may have transfer fees associated with it.

Data of Unconfirmed Origin. If there is no documentation to accompany the data and you are unsure if the data is Proprietary or Licensed, you should put the data in your database as “Data of Unconfirmed Origin”. Until documentation can be found, it is best to keep the data separate so it is not used.

Another term that sometimes causes confusion is acquire or acquisition. When a company shoots a seismic program, it is called ‘field acquisition.’ If a company purchases some assets from another company, it is called an asset acquisition. When a company acquires another company in its’ entirety, it is called a corporate acquisition. Just to make things even less clear, sometimes the transaction is called a merger. When this happens, the company whose name changes is determined to have been acquired and the ownership must be updated, and transfer fees may apply. If both companies change their names, then both companies must update their ownership and may be involved in transfer fees.

You can quickly see how complex data ownership is regarding seismic data and why a standard nomenclature would help. It is important to make sure any updates are done as soon as possible to keep your database current.

Seismic Data

There are also specific responsibilities you have if you are the operator of a seismic program. The operator is responsible for field design and activity and should retain these program and government documents indefinitely. These can be especially important if there are flowing holes, cleanup, or erosion issues in your program area. The operator is also responsible for keeping a copy of the seismic data. Partners can retain copies, but if anything goes missing, it is the operator’s responsibility to have a copy of the physical data as well as the documents.

One of the main advantages of having standardized terminology is for querying, analyzing, and reporting. As we all move forward into more data analysis and AI applications, we will find that consistency improves our query results.

Support data – program documentation, survey notes (both vertical and horizontal), observers notes, chaining notes, drillers reports and shooters reports. The filenames for files containing these documents are usually abbreviated to names like this – SURV, VERTSURV, HORZSURV, CPSURV (computer printout survey), OBS, CH or CHAIN, DR or DRILL, and SH or SHOOT. Names like this are descriptive and useful. We recommend using what works for your company but be diligent and consistent. ** Did you know that Calgary is the only place that uses the word BASIC DATA to describe support data? Everywhere else around the world uses the term Support Data, i.e., LineXXXX.surv.ext.

Field data – the field recording has been historically collected on magnetic strips, then tapes and is now being collected directly to the cloud. Having the format of the recorded data in the filename or the folder name is very convenient, i.e., LineXXXX Segb.

Location data – segp1, UKOOA etc. The original field survey notes (which may be handwritten or collected using a digital data collector) are processed to a standardized format for interpretation and mapping. It is extremely important to know what format your file is, the Datum used to ‘audit’ the survey, and any other survey system information you have at hand like ATS, STS, DD DMS, Lat long, northing and eastings etc. Having this in the file name is useful as you may have multiple versions of audited survey data. You may also have location data that has been extracted from your stack data – it is useful to know which ‘stack’ the data came from. The most important piece of info is the Datum. Many countries use multiple datums across their country and, of course, you have additional concerns if your project crosses international boundaries. In Canada, the data can be in NAD27 or NAD83, and it can make a significant difference where the data will show up in your mapping program (i.e., LineXXXX NAD83.ext).!

Sections – sections usually match stack files, and it is helpful to know which version you want to look at without opening the file. Most sections today are stored as digital tiff images. Companies used to store on mylar film and copy the film on a large printer if a section print was required. If you don’t have a section “print,” one can be created from the stack. The version of the stack, whether original or reprocessed, should be listed in the file’s name. Adding in more info can be valuable as well, i.e., LineXXXX.Sensor.2020.FMIG.ext.

Stack data – stack data is created by processing field recordings and location data together. Many processing steps and filters are applied to the data to get the desired result. Each processed file contains and EBCIDC header describing the contents of the file. It is very advantageous to have a brief description of the content in the filename as well for ease-of-use i.e., Mig, FMig, Str, Fstr, FXDCON and the list goes on and on. Adding in more info can be valuable as well, i.e., LineXXXX.Sensor.2020.FMIG.ext

Microseismic data

Terminology is especially important with microseismic information. Microseismic monitoring can be divided into downhole, ground, and mixing types based on the detector arrangement. The program can be temporal or permanent. Temporal refers to microseismic that is collected in a matter of hours or days. Permanent microseismic monitoring is used in oil reservoir dynamic management. In well monitoring, receiving points are deployed into one or several wells around a target monitoring area to perform microseismic monitoring. In ground monitoring, several receiving point detectors are deployed around a target monitoring area (such as a fracturing well). According to the features of the monitoring wells, microseismic monitoring can also be classified as adjacent-well or one-well.

Microseismic data is managed very similarly to conventional seismic data and can be licensed. It is critical that you, as the operator, can provide the licensee with all the data they need for their interpretations and reprocessing if they so desire. Have you labelled the data so that the source and monitoring types are made clear? Have you provided a complete data set? The CSEG has an excellent article on Guidelines for Standard Deliverables from Microseismic Monitoring of Hydraulic Fracturing ( This article describes what you need to know about a complete microseismic dataset. However you choose to name your files – be consistent. (Well Drilling and Completion Techniques Caineng Zou, in Unconventional Petroleum Geology (Second Edition), 2017.)

Gravity and Magnetics

Gravity and magnetic data usually come in maps for specified areas. The maps may be in an orthorectified format that allows them to be digitally overlayed on other data within your project. Each file should be identified by the area and project name, if possible. You can acquire your own proprietary surveys, or you can ‘license’ data through a data broker. Be sure to keep track of which datasets are proprietary and which are licensed.


Lidar also comes in files that should be identified by map area and project. You may receive jpg files and shapefiles that can be loaded to your projects. Lidar can also be licensed.

Good data management/data governance is essential in today’s economy. Our organizations depend on us to efficiently organize and manage the data currently being collected. Engaging a good data manager to assist with your data governance plan is a cost-effective way of keeping your company moving forward technologically and using increased data analytics and AI instead of searching for and cleaning up data! A well-populated, complete, and accurate database is the foundation that search engines require to query a database.



Denise Freeland

Joanne Poloway is Manager, Operations, at Sigma Explorations. While playing varsity basketball for S.A.I.T. Joanne graduated with diplomas in Marketing and Management. She started at Sigma on a temporary summer job placement, and 29 years later she is still enjoying working in Calgary’s Energy industry and for Sigma.

Joanne is a member of the CSEG and was involved in the Women in Seismic Golf tournament for several years. She was recognized by the CSEG in 2014 for her work with the tournament and reaching the goal of over $100,000 donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation on the tournament’s behalf. Joanne has also volunteered for the CGDMS in various roles and is currently the Secretary.

As well as industry volunteer time, Joanne was actively involved in both her son’s sports teams (football and soccer) as a manager and fundraiser. She also spent time on the School Council at All Saints High School from 2018-2021.


Denise Freeland

Denise Freeland is a Geoscience Tech and Data Specialist, at Freeland Ventures. Denise’s career has “transitioned” many times within the oil and gas industry. She received a Geophysical Certificate from S.A.I.T. early in her career and has continuously expanded her skillset, including roles environmental assessment, seismic survey audit, geophysical mapping and cross-sections, seismic database creation and maintenance, IBM data dictionary analyst, seismic operations front-end support, seismic data clean-up and archiving, client account management, team leader, seismic and geological data loading, well database clean-up, and seismic database integration. It has always been about the data!

Denise has a passion for her many volunteer roles and has been involved with the Calgary Geoscience Data Managers Society since its inception in 2008, and is currently serving as President. She has also volunteered with the CSEG as a Mentor, and on the “Geotechnical Support Committee” where she participated in teaching a course for data managers at DoodleTrain. Denise looks forward to new challenges and solutions with emerging energy technologies.



Maxwell, S., and Reynolds, F., 2012. Guidelines for Standard Deliverables from Microseismic Monitoring of Hydraulic Fracturing, Microseismic Subcommittee of the CSEG Chief Geophysicists Forum.

Zou, C., 2017. Chapter 8. Well Drilling and Completion Techniques in Unconventional Petroleum Geology (Second Edition), Elsevier.

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