Premier Oil strikes new growth opportunities by tapping into big data

Accelerating the identification of oil and gas reserves with Data Defined Storage from Tarmin and IBM

Published on 18-Nov-2013

"The integrated IBM and Tarmin solution provides us with a completely new approach to storing, managing and understanding data – one that will accelerate our ability to identify and exploit oil and gas reserves and support strong business growth." - David Edwards, Group Information Services Manager, Premier Oil

Premier Oil

Chemicals & Petroleum

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Storage Consolidation, Storage Infrastructure Optimization (SIO)

IBM Business Partner:
Tarmin, Eurotech


Premier Oil is a fast-growing oil and gas exploration and production company with current interests in ten countries around the world. Premier is devoted entirely to the “upstream” sector of the industry – the exploitation of oil and gas – while managing a total reserve and resource base in excess of 773 million barrels of oil.

Business need:
To identify new oil and gas reserves, Premier Oil needs to analyse large volumes of sub-surface data – or risk missing opportunities. With limited tier-one storage available, how can analysts gain rapid access to this data?

Premier worked with Eurotech to deploy Tarmin GridBank software, running on IBM® System x® servers. GridBank intelligently indexes and archives large data files, freeing up tier-one space for new projects.

Data Defined Storage management will help the Information Management (IM) team get new sub-surface data to exploration teams faster, giving them more time for analysis. This will accelerate Premier’s ability to target new reserves and grow its business.

Case Study

Premier Oil is a fast-growing oil and gas exploration and production company with current interests in ten countries around the world. Premier is devoted entirely to the “upstream” sector of the industry – the exploitation of oil and gas – while managing a total reserve and resource base in excess of 773 million barrels of oil.

Business is expanding rapidly at Premier – in 2012, production output grew by 43 percent and profit increased by 41 percent after tax to a record high of USD 252 million. Sustaining this kind of growth depends largely on the company’s ability to make smart acquisitions and discover new oil reserves.

Tapping into growing data volumes
Identifying and exploiting oil and gas reserves is no easy task. To ensure that valuable exploration funds are allocated properly, Premier Oil must gather huge volumes of seismic and geological data and process it into detailed images that geologists and geophysicists can use to determine the probable location of new oil and gas reserves. The stakes for getting this sub-surface analysis right are extremely high, as striking a large reserve can add millions of barrels to Premier’s production output.

David Edwards, Group Information Services Manager at Premier Oil, elaborates, “Seismic and geophysical analysis plays a crucial role in our exploration work. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to pinpoint new reserves – so we would miss out on opportunities to grow our business.

“While geologists and geophysicists only make up five percent of the staff at Premier, their work accounts for roughly 80 percent of all the data we store and manage. A large part of this comes from the raw seismic and geophysical data that we use to create images of the earth’s sub-surface. This data is packaged in binary form, and cannot be compressed, resulting in huge “SEG-Y” files that average 50 to 70 GB in size.

“With a small Information Management [IM] team, we find that the sheer volume of sub-surface data outstrips our ability to manage it effectively, and we sometimes get caught off-guard by urgent requests from the exploration team. For example, if they need us to load a new set of data for a project with a short deadline, and we don’t have space available on our tier-one storage systems, it might take a few days of manual archiving to free up enough spare capacity. This gives the exploration team less time for analysis, and increases the risk that they might miss out on important details.”

Tackling information access and capacity concerns
Premier’s IM team wanted to find a way to free up spare capacity on its tier-one storage systems by introducing a more structured and automated process for archiving older files. At the same time, to meet the requirements of the exploration team, it needs to increase the accessibility of the archive and make it easier to find and retrieve files when necessary.

“Managing our existing archive is a largely manual and time-consuming process: if we are looking for a specific file, we have to comb through different folders and open up files to see what they contain,” says David Edwards. “Besides slowing down information access, this makes it difficult for us to determine which files can be safely archived, which can mean that there is unnecessary data taking up valuable tier-one storage space. We were running out of capacity fast, and knew that we needed to make some changes to our storage strategy.”

Taking back control with IBM and Tarmin
Seeking a solution, Premier turned to long-time service provider and IBM Business Partner Eurotech, who recommended Tarmin GridBank.

GridBank makes distributed storage systems and the media they host more transparent, so users across the enterprise have the information they need at their fingertips. The solution is media-independent and compatible with a wide range of products, eliminating vendor lock-in at the infrastructure level. With native support for more than 550 industry-specific file formats (including sub-surface exploration formats such as SEG-Y), GridBank is ideally positioned to meet the needs of oil and gas companies such as Premier.

“Tarmin GridBank was exactly what we were looking for,” remarks David Edwards. “We are confident it will not only make it much easier to manage our tier-one and archive storage – but it will also create an index of all our SEG-Y files that will enable federated search across all storage pools.”

He adds: “SEG-Y is an unusual format, and most file systems aren’t able to read it. As a result, it is difficult to gain an overview of the contents of our archive without actually retrieving the files and loading them into our applications. GridBank will solve this problem completely: via the index, we will be able to see what each file contains, so that we can find and restore the data we need much more quickly and easily.”

The next step was to select a solid hardware platform, capable of delivering the performance and reliability that Premier needed to get the most out of the Tarmin GridBank software. For this, Eurotech proposed IBM System x server technology.

Tony Klapcia, Sales Manager at Eurotech, comments: “We have been an IBM Business Partner for more than 20 years, and our experience has proven that IBM offers some of the most reliable and powerful technology solutions on the market. We wanted to give Premier the best foundation possible for running the Tarmin GridBank software, and IBM System x absolutely met that requirement.”

Close collaboration, smooth implementation
Premier is working closely with teams from Eurotech and Tarmin to carefully configure the solution so that it fits the company’s specific needs, as David Edwards explains: “Eurotech and Tarmin came together and collaborated with us to design a solution that will be perfectly tailored to our requirements and ways of working. Both partners have been very responsive and willing to adapt when we propose changes – their joint efforts are ensuring a smooth implementation.

“To achieve project success, we are maintaining a very targeted scope. We have focused on a single area of the business – the data used by the exploration team – and we are being strict about not wavering from that path. This will allow us to get the solution up and running quickly, so our users can start working more efficiently as soon as possible.”

Providing better management and more headroom for growth
With the combined Tarmin GridBank and IBM System x solution, Premier will be better placed to manage its rapidly expanding data landscape. With its powerful deduplication capabilities, GridBank will allow Premier to eliminate unnecessary replicas of large files and reduce total data volumes. This will enable the company to migrate more data to cost-effective secondary storage, reducing the load on tier-one systems and minimising total cost of ownership.

“We have recently established a new KPI, where we aim to maintain at least one terabyte of free storage capacity at all times,” comments David Edwards. “This will give us much more headroom, enabling the IM team to be more proactive when managing requests from the exploration team. Instead of scrambling to find enough storage space when urgent demands come through, we will be able to react faster and allocate storage immediately, so our geologists and geophysicists can get down to their important analysis work.”

Driving new control and insight
By introducing a new level of control for storage management, the solution will enable Premier Oil’s IM team to handle data in a way that recognises its value as a business asset, rather than just its technical characteristics. Looking at the bigger picture, this will help exploration teams to work more efficiently and allow Premier to unlock more value from its data. In turn, this will empower the company to make faster, smarter business decisions, driving greater agility and competitive advantage.

David Edwards concludes, “Eurotech and Tarmin have been great partners thus far, and are walking every step of this journey with us. The integrated IBM and Tarmin solution provides us with a completely new approach to storing, managing and understanding data – one that will accelerate our ability to identify and exploit oil and gas reserves and support strong business growth.”

About Tarmin Inc.
Tarmin Inc. is the leading provider of Data Defined Storage solutions, which unlock the value of data as a strategic business enabler, delivering a massively scalable, transparent and unified approach for consistent data management, storage, retention, security, search and analytics across cloud and traditional storage infrastructure. The Tarmin GridBank Data Management Platform empowers organisations to store, protect and gain value from data as a competitive business asset, no matter its size, location or cost, by uniting application, information and storage tiers into a single, integrated data-centric management architecture.

To learn more about products, services and solutions from Tarmin, please visit

About Eurotech Computer Services Ltd.
Eurotech is a leading provider of information management solutions and services to organisations across the globe. Originally founded in 1993 to address the specialised computer technology requirements of the oil and gas industry, Eurotech has since diversified its business portfolio to offer solutions and services across multiple sectors, including broadcast media, government and life sciences.

To learn more about products, services and solutions from Eurotech, please visit

For more information
To learn more about IBM System x solutions, contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at:

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

System x, System x: System x3630 M4

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013. IBM United Kingdom Limited, PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom. November 2013. IBM, the IBM logo, and System x are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at: GridBank is a product of Tarmin. IBM and Tarmin are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Tarmin makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. GridBank is not an IBM product or offering. GridBank is sold or licensed, as the case may be, to users under Tarmin, Inc.’s terms and conditions, which are provided with the product or offering. Availability, and any and all warranties, services and support for GridBank are the direct responsibility of, and are provided directly to users by, Tarmin, Inc.