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Improved access

1 December 2022

Dear Editors

In the summer 2022 edition, Alex Dickenson and Mark Ireland laid out the challenges in accessing archived geoscience data, with a clear description of the complex relationships between regulators, governments, charities, private enterprises and academia.

Each organisation is doing what it can to improve access and, for several years, we’ve seen many organisations working hard to improve access to quality information in their own specialist area. The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), for example, has made huge strides, disclosing 15 TB of well and seismic data to the public in 2021 and, after refreshing the National Data Repository (NDR) technology stack with our partners Osokey and Moveout in 2021, making even more data available – currently 230 TB and counting. Supplemented by our Open Data, the NSTA has brought vast volumes of data to academia and industry, and we are seeing uses beyond oil and gas, such as for the identification of carbon storage sites and to support the licensing rounds for offshore wind farms.

However, what was missing was a coordinated approach for the sector as a whole. So, in late 2021, the Net Zero Technology Centre, Offshore Energies UK, and the NSTA, brought together participants from central government and industry to create a taskforce to produce a coherent digital and data strategy that spans oil, gas and renewable energy.

Members of the taskforce included the Crown Estate, Crown Estate Scotland, Technology Leadership Board, RenewableUK and Open Data Institute. It was run by Energy Systems Catapult (and supported by Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult), which are not-for-profit knowledge centres that work with industry, government, academia and research.

The subsequent report, Digitalising Offshore Energy Systems, made seven recommendations. The first, the establishment of a Digital Strategy Group, has already been implemented with a core group of government bodies supported by a variety of other organisations. A series of task groups will now be set up to turn the remaining recommendations into actionable plans.

One task group will map the numerous data portals and improve the interoperability between them. This will promote authoritative sources of data and prevent duplication of effort. Collaboration in this space is already happening. For example, NSTA’s NDR wellbore summary links dynamically to the BGS Information Hub to display high-resolution core photographs, which is made possible by the BGS using NSTA’s definitive system of record for wellbore names. Additionally, the Crown Estate, Crown Estate Scotland and NSTA are using application programming interfaces to share data between their open data portals, including interactive maps.

Geoscientists will be critical in making sure the energy transition progresses at pace, while ensuring our security of supply. It is important and positive to highlight the vast amounts of geoscience data and numerous portals available to aid our efforts – not long ago these data were not accessible at all!

John Seabourn
Chief Digital & Information Officer North Sea Transition Authority

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