Free, Low-Cost, and Open Access Data and Software for Petroleum Exploration and Production

Free, Low-Cost, and Open Access Data and Software for Petroleum Exploration and Production


Susan S. Nash, PhD

AAPG Director of Education and Professional Development, Tulsa, OK


Bryan Flynn


HGS Continuing Education Committee, Houston


Thom Tucker, CPG

HGS Continuing Education Committee, Houston


Imagine a geologist, an engineer, and a landman sitting at their local Starbucks, their tablets and laptops out, discussing whether or not there are economical “stacked pays” in a play in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma. They are independents, and all of them have had experience with large independents or major oil companies. Each one is nervous about trying to launch a business on their own.

“I thought I had to have access to a $100,000 per year suite of data and software to be in the business,” said Tom, the landman. “But, that is no longer necessary. There are sources of production statistics, well logs, samples, geological reports, and more. And, there are low-cost maps and mapping resources,” said Raylene, the geologist.  “And, I can download software used in reservoir modeling, and I can also do basic data mining,” said Marcos, the engineer.

In addition to reports, surveys, databases, maps, software, there are also filings and legal reports which can help in decision-making. The fact that the information is readily available via the internet, and that there are many free cloud-based collaborative tools, makes it more viable than ever to work in teams to quickly put together ideas, evaluate ideas, and make recommendations.


Sources of Free and Low-Cost Data


State Information Sources

Texas Bureau of Economic Geology

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

Oklahoma Geological Survey: reports, maps, statistics

Oklahoma Corporation Commission: digitized well logs, production, well information

Oklahoma Well Search

Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (SONRIS – GIS, oil and gas data, well log information)


Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Resources:

Ohio: Information / Well Log Database

New York: oil, gas, other data:

Information on 42,000 deep wells:

New Mexico: well logs / data



North Dakota:


GIS Information Sources and Maps

Intermountain Oil and Gas BMP Project: Great portal page for free / low-cost data and software

US Energy Information Administration – Natural Gas

Summary Maps: Natural gas in the Lower 48 States and North America    

Gas production in conventional fields, Lower 48 States PDF (2.8 MB) JPG (2.5 MB)    

Gas production in offshore fields, Lower 48 States PDF (0.4 MB) JPG (1.5 MB)    

Shale gas and oil plays, Lower 48 States (4/13/2015) PDF (1.4 MB) JPG (0.6 MB)    

Shale gas and oil plays, North America (5/9/2011) PDF (0.4 MB) JPG (1.2 MB)    

Major tight gas plays, Lower 48 States PDF (1.6 MB) JPG (2.2 MB)    

Coalbed methane fields, Lower 48 States PDF (1.8 MB) JPG (2.7 MB)


Natural Gas Production

Good overview:

US Energy Mapping System

Geospatial Data Gateway   click the Get Data Button

ESRI online:



The National Map

EPA Map Viewer

EPA Enviromapper,32.77814865112305,-96.79540252685547&pText=Dallas,%20TX



EIA Base Maps:

Google Maps for Oil and Gas:

Core Repositories (portal page – somewhat dated):


State Geological Surveys

Core Information, Repositories, etc.:

State Geological Surveys: Links / Searchable:

Portal to State Geological Surveys:



Articles / Journals – Open Access

Directory of Open Access Journals:

AAPG Search and Discovery:

PetroWiki (SPE):

Journal of Petroleum Exploration and Production Technologies:

Oil and Gas Science and Technology:

Petroleum and Coal:

Journal of Petroleum Engineering:


Mexico – Useful Information

Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos (CNH) Production:

CNH Reserves (by Field):


Tectonic Map of Mexico (Dr. Ricardo Padilla y Sánchez, UNAM):


Data Mining


In addition, individuals and teams can analyze the information in new and/or innovative ways by using traditional and innovative processing and data mining techniques. Briefly stated, data mining involves statistical analyses to find relationships and patterns that arise from more than one variable, and has turned out to be ideal for all phases of oil and gas exploration, acquisition, and asset development.

The fact that data mining is capable of using machine learning techniques such as unsupervised artificial neural networks, which, through numerous iterations are used for pattern recognition tasks (including seismic signal processing and developing seismic attributes), means that there are numerous opportunities for finding new, potentially very meaningful relationships in data that were previously not considered relevant. It also helps posit potential causal relationships and helps uncover previously unsuspected interdependencies or interrelatedness.


Data Mining Software

Databionic ESOM Tools:  A suite of programs that perform data mining tasks such as clustering, visualization, and classification. They use Emergent Self-Organizing Maps as the core tool.

Vowpal Wabbit: Helps users develop fast, scalable, and useful learning algorithms:

OpenNN – Written in C++ and consists of an open source class library which implements neural networks. Most appropriate for advanced users who can program well in C++ and who possess machine learning skills:

Orange: Open source data visualization and analysis for novice and expert. It is maintained and developed by the Bioinformatics Laboratory of the Faculty of Computer and Information Science at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia):

Weka:  Machine learning software written in Java, and developed by the University of Waikato, New Zealand:

RapidMiner: An integrated environment for machine learning, data mining, predictive analytics, and business analytic:


Here is a brief list of the ways that data mining is being used in petroleum exploration and development:

1. Identify zones of preferential enrichment:  Data mining is effective in processing and relating calculated total organic carbon (TOC) and oil and gas fingerprinting via isotopes.

2.  Target structural patterns / lineaments that relate to productive areas in shales. This is particularly the case in the Marcellus and Niobrara in North America and in the Tarim Basin in China.

3.  Relate seismic attributes and seismic stratigraphy, and propose relationships between depositional environments and potential areas for stratigraphic traps.

4.  Optimize completions and productions by identifying areas of optimum production, key production metrics, and places to re-frac, (tying microseismic, 3D seismic, oil/gas fingerprinting, pore pressure).

5.  Combine geomechanics with TOC and fingerprinting to find patterns that could correspond to migration pathways (big picture) + where to geosteer (close-up view).

6.  Combine well log information (thicknesses and structure) with current-day processes for basin modeling with patterns that show the relative likelihood of sand emplacement. The patterns can reflect various depositional models that can incorporate deepwater (turbidites & lobes) or shallow marine deposits.  


Tools and Software for Geoscience Interpretation

The following are useful resources that can be obtained at a low cost. In some cases, the software is open-source and free.


Golden Software

Surfer is a full-function contouring and surface modeling package that runs under Microsoft Windows. Surfer is used extensively for terrain modeling, bathymetric modeling, landscape visualization, surface analysis, contour mapping, watershed and 3D surface mapping, gridding, viewshed analysis, volumetrics, and much more.


Strater displays your raw data as borehole and well logs, maps and cross sections. Strater offers unsurpassed flexibility in design and layout. Strater’s intuitive point-and-click user interface makes it easy to quickly visualize your subsurface data and create professional reports.


MapViewer is an affordable mapping and spatial analysis tool that allows

you to easily produce publication-quality thematic maps. Precisely display your data distribution with the most intuitive functions and features.


Voxler. Create powerful, fast, customized 3D images and 3D models with a fusion of your geologic data, GIS data, well and borehole data, and point cloud data with Voxler 4. Easily import and combine data in a multitude of file formats to create stunning 3D models that visualize the relationships across your data set. This robust, yet user-friendly application gives you the power to display your data in full 3D.


Didger.  All the advanced georeferencing, digitizing, coordinate conversion, and mapping features you need in a low-cost, unbelievably versatile program. This is the ultimate geoprocessing and data conversion tool for any map maker, cartographer, geologist, oil and gas professional, or GIS analyst.



The main webpage has links to videos for Demos:

Rockware version 17 comes as an integrated subsurface data and interpretation package with a selection of modules, and is available for purchase or annual rental at four (4) levels, one set of which are FREE!  Their overview page for the Petroleum industry, with videos at the bottom, is:  

 Some of the modules are:


RockPlot2D Is used to view and edit your 2D images – borehole and sample location point maps, contours and colorfill maps, cross-sections, profiles and other diagrams such as stereonets and piper diagrams.  It is one of the Print Windows.

RockPlot3D Is used to view 3D images: solids, surfaces, fences, 3D objects, plan view maps, site diagrams and more.


The ReportWorks window is used to lay out pages for printing and publication- use any of the images that you've created in your final presentation.


RockWorks Utilities contains the database, mapping and 3-D functionalities, and modules from Stereo Nets to Geosteering.


Logs, Log Sections and Log Maps

Create individual logs or multi-log cross sections and maps in 2D and 3D. Logs can be vertical, inclined, horizontal, or deviated.  The versatility of this module is worth reading.


Borehole Manager contains a relational database used to store surface and subsurface information.  It is used to create striplogs, cross-sections, contour maps, 3D block models and more.


Encom Discovery appears to be a plug-in module for making maps of any size and scale incorporating all related spatial data objects, filtered and sun-shaded grids, contours, graphics overlays, geo-located raster images, structural symbols, legends, graphs, tables, scale bars, and other mapping objects. You would compare it to Didger (above) or Global Mapper.  


RockWorks contains a free library of Public Land Survey data.


Low cost Seismic Interpretation software

Like it or not, we spend more time on workstations than on outcrops-- we must have some sort of software to do our jobs. That can be a pretty high barrier to entering the consulting market, but it doesn’t have to be.


There are low cost, or even free software packages for your use depending on what you are trying to accomplish. OpendTect ( has an open source, free to use, interpretation platform that is fairly user friendly. It was the tools for most prospecting applications, as well as modules for expandable capabilities. They also have a public domain data sets for you to practice with, or use as examples to show your skills.


Both Crewes ( and Seismic Unix ( provide robust packages of command line modules for seismic data processing. These can be very effective for small scale projects, but may not be efficient enough for commercial projects.


Open Geophysical ( has a fairly low cost data processing package.


SeiSee ( is invaluable for scanning seismic headers so that you can properly load your seismic data.


KC Petrophysics ( has a free LAS application which is great for reading vintage LAS files and converting them to be used in modern packages. Their Pro software is only $200 and very capable of most petrophysical work.


There are as many other software options. This is by no means an exhaustive  list, or an endorsement for any particular vendor.

Think “sharing economy.”  One thing that Millennials have figured out is how to monetize their assets while they aren’t in use. Talk to other consultants, they may have commercial licenses tied to workstations that they can sublet to you. The owner of the seismic data may have workstations onsite that you can use.

Be creative with your software vendors. Nearly every vendor has a free license period. It may or may not be allowed to be used commercially during that time but obtaining a trial license may keep you current, or allow you to learn a new software package. When you have a contract in, you may be able to negotiate a short term license arrangement. There are also some vendors who will generously train you on their software while you are finding your next opportunity.

These arrangements are only to be found through building relationships, so remember to not be greedy and pay it forward when you can. If KC Petrophysics software helps you with a job, buy the $200 Pro version. If Seismic Unix is useful in building a wedge model, maybe you can donate to the Colorado School of Mines. Or better yet, when your next contract comes in, maybe there is a recent CSM graduate that would love to learn from your experience.



Free and Low cost software for the Engineer

Free Petroleum Engineering Software:    

DOE /NETL Software



These are very valuable resources. That said, it is important not to over-emphasize the free resources. Although extremely useful to people with limited capital, free software has its drawbacks, and they do not have the user-friendly convenience, power, and robustness of SAS, IHS, DrillingInfo, Petra, Petrel, and other popular packages. This is also true of data sets.


The Authors:

Susan S. Nash, Ph.D. currently serves as the Director of Education and Professional Development for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in Tulsa, OK.  For the last 15 years, she has focused on developing programs that develop human and natural capital using a multi-pronged, interdisciplinary approach.  Her goal is to help professionals constantly reinvent and retool themselves for quickly changing times.
Bryan Flynn, is a Consulting Geophysicist committed to getting the most geologic information out of seismic data so that better decisions can be made more quickly. He has a background in seismic processing, quantitative interpretation, and prospect identification and maturation. Bryan has worked geologic settings ranging from deep water clastics to onshore carbonates, and still believes that the best geologists are the ones that have seen the most outcrops. He is a member of the HGS Continuing Education Committee, the AAPG, and the SEG.
Thom Tucker, CPG, SIPES, SPE has worked for over 25 years in multidisciplinary Appraisal, Development, Revitalization and Reserves determination for Oil and Gas Fields in 18 basins world-wide.  This has extended into the evaluation of Oil and Gas properties and exploration Prospects.  Tucker consults to E & P operators, those with interests in, and those interested in acquiring, productive properties.  He has, and still serves, on several committees of the HGS, and on the Continuing Education committee for 20 years. He is also an active member of SIPES and SPE.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Continuing Education