Professional Life

Shell

I worked for Shell from 1978 until taking early retirement in 2008. I started at Shell Haven Refinery in Essex as a Refinery Technologist and spent 8 years there before moving to Shell Mex House in London where I stayed for a couple of years. I spent 1989 in The Hague, and since 1990 I have been working in Shell Centre, London.

Much of my work has been in the development of standards for information management. Initially this was for internal use, but since 1993 I have been helping to develop standards in ISO TC184/SC4 - Industrial Data.

One of the ways I have contributed to the development of information management is through involvement in European Commission supported projects.

At the beginning of 2001 I was made a Visiting Professor in the Keyworth Institute at the University of Leeds.

Over the years I have published some papers and a book that are in the public domain. I provide a list of these publications, and where I can I make them available electronically.

Refinery Technologist

I had actually applied for jobs towards the end of my BSc in what is called the "milk round". Major employers would come to the universities giving first interviews based on an initial screening of CVs. I was made a job offer by Shell, which I turned down in favour of doing a PhD. They just said the job offer would be waiting for me when I had finished. So I started work for Shell at the age of 25 at Shell Haven refinery on the north bank of the Thames estuary near Canvey Island as a Refinery Technologist.

An oil refinery takes crude oil, which has come from the North Sea, or elsewhere, and turns this into useful products such as LPG, petrol, kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil. It does this by taking the oil and splitting it into a number of boiling fractions. These fractions are then processed using catalysts, and blended to turn them into products. The scale of the plants that do this is impressive. For example, you probably have a central heating boiler in your house. On a refinery, when we heat things up we use a boiler the size of your house.

I spent eight years working at Shell Haven in a variety of posts which included:

  • Introducing computerised supervision of the process plant performance,
  • Shutting down and demolishing an old part of the site,
  • Designing a £6,000,000 (1980 money) extension to an existing plant,
  • Providing technical advice on plant operations,
  • Justification and purchase of the first IBM PC at the refinery (and one of the first in Shell)
  • Responsibility for environmental matters at the refinery,
  • Responsibility for the development and operation of a range of computer systems supporting engineering activities.

During my time there I gained membership of the Institution of Chemical Engineers. I also studied for a Diploma in Management Studies, and qualified as a Member of the Institute of Management.

Computing and Information Management

Both at university and during my work as a Chemical Engineer I had been involved with computers as tools. Eventually I concluded that I was better at the computing side of things than most of the people who were supposed to be doing that as their main job, and so I decided to switch track. However, I didn't get involved in writing programs, or in computer operations, but in what they operate on - information. I became interested in information management, and in particular data models. A data model tells you what the data in a database means, with respect to the world the data represents i.e. it is a language for data.

It turns out that whilst it is relatively easy to create a data model to do something specific for one, or a small group of people, when lots of people do this for lots of databases they create different data models (= different languages). Not surprisingly these systems then have difficulty talking to each other, because they don't speak the same language. Building translators is very expensive. So we set out to try to create a language that could be shared by a lot of systems, or at least just one language that each system would have to translate into. Rather like the way that when you have a room full of Spanish, French, German, Swedish, and Japanese business men, they don't all bring their own translator for each of the other languages, they all speak English.
I have been working on this problem for Shell now for since 1990. Part of what I have done has included developing ISO (International Standards Organisation) standard data models, in particular ISO 15926-2.

During this period I gained Membership of the British Computing Society, which is the engineering professional body for computing.

In 2005 I became responsible for the Architecture and Standards for Reference Data in Shell's Downstream business. A major task was the development of a conceptual data model for Shell's Downstream business.

I retired from Shell in June 2008.

Standards Work

A public part of my work for Shell is my involvement in standards development for the management of engineering information, in particular for the process industries. The bodies I am or have been involved in include:

  • PISTEP: the UK Process Industries STEP (STandard for the Exchange of Product model data) consortium;
  • POSC Caesar: Norwegian Oil and Gas consortium;
  • EPISTLE: the European Process Industries STEP Consortium;
  • ISO TC184/SC4 - Industrial Data: the ISO sub-committee that develops the STEP family of standards (STEP - STandard for the Exchange of Product model data).
  • BSI AMT/4: the British Standards Institute committee that provides the UK position on standards developed in ISO TC184/SC4.
  • IEEE-SUO: the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Standard Upper Ontology Working Group.
  • KnoW: Knowledge on the Web;
  • ONTOLOG: an international and virtual Community of Practice in the field of formal ontology.

Below I say something about each of these groups and my involvement in them.

PISTEP

PISTEP was the UK Process Industries STEP consortium. PISTEP is a part of POSC Caesar and a member consortium of EPISTLE.

I have been one of the co-managers of PISTEP.

POSC Caesar

POSC Caesar is a Norwegian based consortium focused on bringing a product model for life-cycle information to the process industry. POSC/Caesar was a member consortium of EPISTLE.

EPISTLE

EPISTLE is the European Process Industries STEP Technical Liaison Executive. It is a collaboration of consortia to develop standards for the integration and exchange of process plant data. The participating consortia are PISTEP, POSC Caesar and USPI-NL.

Key deliverables from EPISTLE were:

  • the EPISTLE Core Model, a generic data model for the process industries that is standardised formally as ISO15926-2; 
  • the EPISTLE Reference Data Library, a standard set of classes, properties and specifications for the process industries - some 17,500 are being prepared for publication; 
  • EPISTLE Templates, an initiative to develop specific templates for specific purposes. 
  • EPISTLE was an "A" Liaison to ISO TC184/SC4.

I was the founding chairman of EPISTLE and a member of the management committee and of the data modelling team. EPISTLE became defunct after the publication of ISO 15926-2.

ISO TC184/SC4 - Industrial Data

ISO TC184/SC4 is the ISO subcommittee responsible for developing standards for engineering data.

I have participated in the development of:

  • ISO 10303-221 Process plant functional and schematic data; 
  • ISO 15926 Integration of life-cycle data for oil and gas production facilities; 
  • ISO 18876 Integration of Industrial Data for Exchange Access and Sharing (IIDEAS).
  • ISO 8000 Data Quality
I have also been deputy convener of ISO TC 184/SC4/WG10 and a member of the SC4 Policy and Planning Committee.

BSI AMT/4

The UK position on SC4 standards is developed by the British Standards Institute through committee AMT/4.

I am a member of AMT/4, and have been a sometime head of the UK delegation.

IEEE-SUO

The IEEE Standard Upper Ontology Working Group was established in 2000. The objective of the group is to develop a standard that will specify the semantics of a general-purpose upper level ontology. An ontology is a set of terms and formal definitions. This will be limited to the upper level, which provides definition for general-purpose terms and provides a structure for compliant lower level domain ontologies. It is estimated to contain between 1000 and 2500 terms plus roughly ten definitional statements for each term. Is intended to provide the foundation for ontologies of much larger size and more specific scope.

I have been an active participant in this working group and am Project Leader for two of the Work Programmes:

  • To develop a methodology for the development of standards deliverables within the Standard Upper Ontology Workgroup.
  • To develop a 4 dimensional ontology and include it as a component within the Information Flow Framework.

KnoW

Knowledge on the Web was a collaborative initiative bringing together industrial, commercial, governmental and not-for-profit organizations, consultants, implementers, academics and software vendors, with the intent of making rapid and tangible progress towards enabling the sharing and exchange of knowledge between people, organisations and systems using the technology of the Web.

I was Co-Chairman of the KnoW Board.

ONTOLOG Forum

ONTOLOG is an open, international, virtual community of practice devoted to advancing the field of ontological engineering and semantic technologies, and advocating their adoption into mainstream applications and international standards.

European Commission

I have been involved in a number of European Commission supported research projects, either as a participant or a reviewer. The projects are:

PIPPIN: Pilot Implementation of a Process Plant Information Warehouse. I was a participant in PIPPIN.

KDE: Knowledge Desktop Environment. I am a reviewer on behalf of the European Commission for KDE. 

DECOR: Delivery of context-sensitive organizational knowledge. I am a reviewer on behalf of the European Commission for DECOR 

Parmenides: A project in the area of information/knowledge management. I am a reviewer on behalf of the European Commission for Parmenides.

Leeds University

In January 2001 I was made Shell Visiting Professor in the Keyworth Institute at the University of Leeds.

My role is rather like being a non-executive director of a company. I provide an outside view, and support for specific tasks, rather than say lecturing on a regular basis.

The Keyworth Institute was set up to provide a basis for interdisciplinary research and interaction with industry. It is a collaboration between the schools of engineering, computing, philosophy and business studies. Other schools are joining.

I have become involved in three areas.

  1. The International Corporate Leadership Programme is a management programme established for top students in the Keyworth schools. I chaired the Steering Committee for this programme.
  2. Whilst working for Shell, as a Shell Campus Ambassador, providing support for Shell's recruitment effort at Leeds.
  3. As a member, and latterly as Chair of the Industrial Advisory Board for the School of Computing.

My first visit to the University as Visiting Professor was on the 24th April 2001. Here are some photos from that occasion.


Arriving at Leeds University Business School

Striking an artistic pose

Striking an artistic pose

Being greeted by Professor Alan de Pennington, then head of the Keyworth Institute

Being greeted by Professor Alan de Pennington, then head of the Keyworth Institute

Comments