Since 3 years Merkator is an contributing OGC member. In today’s post our Jan Stuckens gives an overview of what OGC is, what we do at OGC and what all of this can mean to you.

OGC in a nutshell

OGC, the acronym of Open Geospatial Consortium, is the most important geospatial standards organisation. Most of you will have heard or read about WMS (web map services), WFS (web feature services) and GML (Geospatial Markup Language). These  three make up some of the earliest OGC standards. Since their origins in 2000 these standards have been widely adopted by other members such as ESRI, Intergraph, Luciad, Bentley Systems, Autodesk and almost all open source geospatial softwares. OGC however offers much more than only a webservices standardization. Currently, OGC hosts almost 60 different standards, some of which may be relevant for our daily work at utilities companies. Did you know that even Google’s KML is now a validateed OGC standards?
Some notable examples with my personal interpretation:
  • CityGML: this extension of GML is the de facto 3D standard to describe City and building models from a GIS perspective. Once Telco, Elec and Gas distribution and transporters decide to go for full 3D interior plans of their installations, this is the way to go.
  • Landinfra: a well developed but not so widely adopted standard for land and the civil engineering infrastructures and facilities built onto it. Think of road, railway, survey, administrative divisions (real estate for utilities)
  • Geopackage: a relatively recent platform-independent, portable and self-describing format for transferring geospatial information. Bundle raster images and tiles with vector files into one portable SQLite database.
  • Simple features representation: This is for our DB Gurus. Most geospatially enabled enterprise databases – read SQL server, PostGIS and ESRI’s proprietary SDO model use this implementation for storing geographic entities and querying their relationships (intersections, unions…). Oracle being the notable exception here.

Who is OGC

OGC, being a non-profit organization which can thrive thanks to the intellectial and financial contributions of its members. See the list of the member on and realize that this is not a shadowy organisation. Among its ranks, counting over 500 organisations, you find ESA, USGS, NASA, Google, Airbus, Oracle, Hexagon, Esri…and yes, Merkator…
Actively contributing members – the women and men that preside working groups and organize quarterly meetings (conferences) are a mixure of academics, industry professionals (both software and production) and government officials.

Merkator @ OGC

Merkator nv/sa joined the OGC early 2016 and since then we have been actively contributing to the PipelineML working group. Actually, we co-chair it. This young OGC group aims at standardising pipeline and appurtenance information for gas and oil transport. So here we are at one of the core activities of our business.
PipelineML working group started about 4 years ago, mainly supported by staff from Enterprise Products. EP is a large Texas based midstream oil and gas company. The term ‘midstream’ is about equivalent to ‘transportation’ aka the activities of Dutch Gasunie and Belgian Fluxys. We joined in a few years later and together we progressed into a first vision document, and a first version of the PipelineML (in short PML) standard, submitted for OGC review on the OGC TC meeting in June.


What does Pipeline ML standard contain?

Currently, we submitted
  1. a logical data model for pipeline componentry and
  2. an XML standard – including XSD. Future extensions will include safety appurtenances (aerial beacons, safety nets), cathodic protection equipment, detailed surveying info, components inside stations and a link to the landinfra model.

Where are the documents?

Generally speaking, all work in progress at OGC is considered confidential until a standard is released. However we do get some exceptions from OGC by argumenting the importance of feedback from the oil and gas industry – most of whom are not yet OGC members. Take already a look at and realize there is more that we cannot yet publicly disclose. If you want to get the latest and greatest, just drop me a mail.

The way forward

The next months we will focus on getting the first version of the standard approved, do debugging on the XSD document and make more rumor about it to get it adopted. Alongside, Enterprise Products plans on releasing a public API and a test data set, which will greatly facilitate experimenting and implementing PML.

OGC and other standards.

OGC is definitely not the only player in the field of standardization. First thing that pops into my mind when I hear “standards”, is ISO – International Standard Organisation. OGC has a close relationship with ISO/TC 211 (Geographic Information/Geomatics). With the risk of over generalizing, I would state that OGC is the prime entry point for all flavors of geospatial standards. Some of these, upon getting wide adoption and after significantly more effort, make it into an ISO standard. An example being WFS, known as ISO19142:2010.

Why do we contribute?

You may wonder what’s the use of such a standard and what can Merkator get out of it.
In utility asset management, once a standard has been published and gets some adoption, more and more utilities will look into it, ask their consultants whether it’s any good and at some day implement their own flavor of it. This has been the case with the Common Information Model for electricity and with the Pipeline Oped Data Standard (PODS) model.

Our vision is to help our customers by not just being software coders, but by thinking together with our clients and thus understanding their business. Standardization is one of those important expertise domains, as are being up to date with latest tech developments and software products. By not just following adoption, but by taking the lead here, we show that we have the expertise and are willing to share it.

Jan Stuckens

Senior Geo-ICT Consultant, Merkator

Jan Stuckens

Jan Stuckens

Senior Geo-ICT Consultant

Jan Stuckens joined Merkator NV/SA in December 2012 as Senior Geo-ICT consultant. Jan has worked in both the private Geo-ICT sector and as a researcher at University of Leuven. Jan is recognized as a specialist in Remote Sensing and 3D-GIS. He has succeeded in combining theoretical and practical work on complex GIS matters including the fast evolving 3D-GIS processing and visualization. Jan has in depth expertise in both Esri (ArcGIS) and Intergraph (G/Technology & GeoMedia) enabled workflows. Jan holds a PhD in Bioscience engineering (Land & Forest Management) from Leuven University (Leuven- Belgium, 1996-2010). Jan is contributing to different innovation tracks at Fluxys Belgium, Proximus and KLIM/CICC among others. Jan is also involved in several software innovation tracks at Merkator Labs.