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Field Development Planning with GIS: Utilizing Automated and Flexible Workflows in Oil and Gas Planning

Field Development Planning with GIS: Utilizing Automated and Flexible Workflows in Oil and Gas Planning

Do you remember that time we said that the efficiency brought on by implementing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and its software into an industry or workflow literally knows no bounds? As it turns out, Field Development Planning and the highly detailed workflows involved are a prime example of the leaps and bounds performed by a GIS.

The Factors of Field Development Planning

Whether you are planning new fields or expanding on established infrastructure, there are considerations that must be made to determine both the placement of assets as well as the approach taken to planning. Examples of questions that need to be asked include:

  • Where are environmentally sensitive areas?
  • Is there existing infrastructure? Will this infrastructure be used as tie-ins or should the field routes avoid it altogether?
  • Are there any preventative measures we can take to reduce environmental impacts – such as not building near bodies of water, increasing buffer surrounding populated areas, etc.?
  • What is the future of this field? Should we consider the entire area for development at once or break out planning based on temporal-based phases to reduce costs?

There is no doubt there are more issues and concerns you and your team take into consideration – including thoughts as to how to make the planning process move more quickly. The answer to this question though, as well as many of the above, is simply utilizing GIS for planning purposes. Applications like Integrated Geomancy allow teams to establish repeatable workflows leading to thoroughly documented and highly configurable results – all in a matter of hours or days where most modern-day processes might take weeks, if not months.

As answers to these questions, potential placements for pipelines and other assets, and constructability in general are determined, it is not uncommon to find yourself wondering what might change if a particular variable is altered – whether on a small or large scale. By integrating a Field Development Planning process based on GIS technology, alternate scenarios within a project can be tested while retaining current results. It allows for variability and flexibility in a process that presently follows a time-consuming straight-and-narrow.

With the options for customization and analysis that GIS tools bring to the table, the management of both input and output resources becomes even more important. For example, applications like Integrated Geomancy operate on a project structure that manages all input datasets in a central geodatabase for easy access and reference, all output datasets in a central geodatabase and folder system, and all analysis settings a format that is available alongside this data should users need it. Knowing the answers to your questions is important but knowing how you arrived at these outcomes…well, that is essential.

Deciding the Best Approach to Getting Results

While the Field Development Planning processes at Oil and Gas companies share essential elements in their workflows and operations, the approach taken to planning is one that will be entirely dependent on the company undertaking the project as well as the system being built.

Since we have already talked about implementing Geographic Information Systems (GIS), what exactly do we mean by “approach”?

For the purposes of this example, our approach to planning comes in three flavors:

  1. Standard Optimization – This approach looks at the placement of assets based only on the elevation, supporting datasets, and any current infrastructure, if available. This approach gives a view of the overall system without regard to development phases based on time or cost.
  2. Forecast Placement – This approach is typically based on close-range outlooks, designing and installing the first few wells of the network and daisy-chaining any new wells and pipelines in future development. Each year’s plan is optimized, but the overall pipeline network is not. (see image below)
  3. Backcast Placement – This approach focuses on the future desired state of the whole pipeline network, breaking development into steps to attain this result. (see image below)

There is no right or wrong answer to how a company decides to approach Field Development Planning. As we said, it depends on the company and project – as well as the data available and the overall goals. For those teams who can plan and execute Backcast Placement, however, the prize is large. With a fully optimized network and a solid plan of how teams need to move forward, both time and costs can be cut drastically. The bottom line is always important.

The Importance of a Solid Plan

By now, hopefully you would not need more convincing as to why there should be a thorough plan in place for Field Development. Between cutting costs, saving resources, and allowing your organization to establish development phases based on the desired future outcome, putting GIS technology at the heart of this aspect of pipeline regulation and planning means a more efficient approach across the board.


Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we explore these things in our latest series on effectively managing pipeline regulatory requirements with the help of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)! The links below will be updated as these posts become available.

About This Series:

This series explores the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and applications to better manage pipeline regulations, especially within the Natural Resources and Emergency Response sectors.

  • Week 1 - Effectively Managing Pipeline Regulatory Requirements with GIS
  • Week 2 - Identifying Regulatory Hurdles in the Pipeline Industry
  • Week 3 - Better Administering Integrity Management Programs with GIS
  • Week 4 - Field Development Planning with GIS
  • Week 5 - Enhancing Fate and Transport Modeling with GIS
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