GIS in Oil and Gas

Sangeeta Deogawanka


As an industry that fuels progress, development and basic human needs, the oil and gas industry is a vital part of the global economy. It is also the most capital intensive. Revenues are large, as are the costs. It also makes headlines for unforeseen accidents and environmental hazards. The ever changing dynamics of this industry drives sustained efforts for increased efficiencies and risk mitigation. This is where GIS and supporting technologies step in with limitless uses and seamless applications.

The Oil and Gas industry is driven by an estimated 80% data that has a spatial component. This is the only industry that harnesses spatial information at every stage of the life-cycle, beginning with opportunity analysis and exploration, through appraisal and production, right up to the abandonment phase.

Interactive web map showing oil and gas basins in U.S., with links to geologic reports
Interactive web map showing oil and gas basins in U.S., with links to geologic reports

So companies are beginning to understand the importance of geospatial to maximize ROI as well as minimize risks. Beginning with the integration of spatial databases within existing systems, the oil and gas sector has also begun looking at software companies to come up with industry-specific software, tools and models to maximize value from their investments.

For the geospatially driven this is an industry to look at. Assets, offices, sites, workers as well as operations are geographically dispersed. So large and complex data is utilized to explore and manage the spatially distributed assets and operations. Dedicated maps and models are proving to be the most effective way to visualize and communicate. The spatial component is however still underutilized, and out-of-the box GIS solutions are needed to address the vast needs of this industry. With the surface barely scratched, there is an enormous potential for geospatial technology employment and software development.

Free weekly newsletter

Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!

Global Energy Mapper – a spatial data and visualization tool for oil and gas industry
Global Energy Mapper – a spatial data and visualization tool for oil and gas industry

GIS deployment through the oil field life-cycle


Well Planning and Acquisition

  • Basin Analysis – map of potential hydrocarbon accumulations; hydrological modeling; sub-surface secondary fluid migration network mapping; flow direction – flow accumulation mapping across DEM; potential migration pathways, etc.
  • Play Analysis – risk segment mapping for each petroleum play element; regional risk mapping; geological maps; ground truthing or validating imagery through field surveys
  • Acreage Analysis – rapid evaluation and gradation of opportunities using multi-disciplinary asset data and assigning weightings and criteria; ranking of acreage, petroleum leases, blocks and companies; exploration statistics in visual platform, etc.
  • Prospect Analysis – hydrocarbon reserve or volume estimation; raster analysis based deterministic prospect volume of petroleum reservoirs; reserve estimation and spatial analysis of well data in unconventional hydrocarbon, like shale, and so on.

Seismic planning – terrain analysis; seismic survey maps and data; satellite image processing and spatial analysis; etc.


  • Well Planning – well planning around multiple drilling constraints; GIS tools used in well pattern optimization workflows
  • Drilling –spatial analysis within GIS for optimized well drilling patterns and efficient configurations
  • Production – GIS allows data integration and visualization of production volumes, injection rates and recovery efficiency in near real-time

Exploration (Onshore) – visual framework for exploration across assets; 3D modeling of geological, geophysical and petrophysical hierarchical data

Exploration (Offshore) bathymetry mapping; sea floor surveys; shipping lane maps with data integration; 3D seismic analysis; on-demand satellite image processing for offshore mapping and exploration activities

Field Operations – GIS supports drilling around surface and geologic constraints; improved field production efficiencies for whole reservoirs /basins; data integration and visualization in real time for production dashboards, coordinated workflows and personnel across rig sites; Dynamic Hazard modeling for resource allocation; asset tracking in real time; updated DEMs to help detect subsidence caused by extraction and much more.

Facilities management – 3D GIS with field layout helps accurate monitoring of associated environmental changes in near real time for HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) and emergency response during oil spills, leaks or explosions.

Distribution and Pipeline management – least cost path analysis for distribution network; network analysis for environment friendly and cost effective routes; pipeline monitoring for geo-hazards and leaks; tracking of inspections using remotely acquired data; monitoring and analysis of spatially dispersed data in real-time; seafloor geodesy and asset management in offshore operations, etc.

Least cost path routes with weighted overlays (1,2,3) vis-a-vis the Ogallala Aquifer Case Study (Keystone XL pipeline, Nebraska)
Least cost path routes with weighted overlays (1,2,3) vis-a-vis the Ogallala Aquifer Case Study (Keystone XL pipeline, Nebraska)

Pipeline Routing and Vehicle / Fleet Tracking –  A GIS ecosystem supports tracking of valuable assets in a capital intensive sector. The precise location of vehicles and ships ensures timely delivery of goods and services, as well as efficient emergency response.

Decommissioning – field data from earlier phases of the oil field life cycle centralized in enterprise GIS help to remove infrastructure and assets, and recover the site for land use.

Benefits of GIS in Oil and Gas 

  • Empowers decision making – which acreage or play to enter, how to shorten portfolio workflows, how to plan the optimal pipeline route, integrate results of seismic survey, planning emergency response, better management of facilities, manage pipeline outage and leaks, etc.
  • Supports future action and ongoing exploration activities – By standardizing processes and reducing technical uncertainty, GIS improves exploration efficiency. The GIS framework models a consistent exploration processes across all assets within the company. This supports a consistent, auditable corporate prospect portfolio, for ongoing portfolio decisions.
  • Increased efficiencies – multi disciplinary data integration for risk assessment and uncertainty, better access for cutting wasteful downtime, optimized maintenance schedules; monitoring and analysis of daily fleet movements in real time, least cost path analysis for pipeline routing, standardized portfolio workflows, cutting down decision cycle times, etc.
  • Cost saving – an estimate of 10-30 per cent cut in operational costs, prevention and management of incidental or accidental costs, efficient pipeline and fleet management saves costs, optimized drilling and operation workflows enhances ROI, and so on.
  • Seamless management with a real-time mapping visualization and analysis of remote /offshore sites, operations and assets
  • Improved communication across spatially dispersed locations
  • Record keeping – the huge data loaded in centralized GIS builds a strong framework for managing data with full transaction support and reporting tools.


The Oil and Gas industry has been a comparative late comer to GIS. However, it is fast emerging as the industry with the highest potential of GIS application through the entire life-cycle. What’s more, it enables a seamless integration of geospatial technologies like UAV, sensors, and existing computer systems within the GIS framework. This is helping companies compete in the global race to unlock new energy sources and maximize value from its assets.

Photo of author
About the author
Sangeeta Deogawanka