Mapping - the process

As we look back through the years since PE Maps started in 1990, we have annually published many maps about the global energy industry. These maps are on a global, regional, or country scale and mapping the global energy industry takes lots of research and patience. In this Map Talk we look at some of the processes and decisions the team must make to get the final sheet map printed and distributed.

Petroleum Economist team of cartographers over the years see themselves not only as mapmakers but also as researchers and editors. Following consultation with our mapping partner(s), the preparation of our energy maps involves the search for, and evaluation of, all data pertaining to the map area. An easier task with modern internet search engines and company websites but in early the 1990s such information gathering exercises were prolonged affairs searching through the printed media and press cuttings.

Depending on the nature of the map to be compiled, thoroughgoing research includes geographical references, historical records, name derivations, changes, updates to infrastructure or projects plus other materials. The sources finally selected may require some adjustments to fit properly with other existing PE data.

Once the data and information has been assembled, they are reduced to a common scale and copied on the map base using our computer-based mapping tools. Minor adjustments may have to be made during compilation even though the source materials are of good quality. In particular, the need to make appropriate generalisations, omitting some details in smaller scale maps, requires much study and judgment. The process of research, selection of best data, and adjustment of these into the compilation, however, remains essential and is one thing that makes PE maps stand out from competitor mapping.

The generalisation of detail is a problem that frequently confronts the team in producing regional and world maps in the printed format. The primary purpose is to avoid overcrowding and the resulting poor legibility. A sheet map has a definitive size and sometimes you cannot portray all the vast amounts of information available to the team. In addition, the degree of generalisation or detail should be as consistent as possible throughout the map. Generalisations in some parts and excessive detail in others confuse our users and make the map’s reliability suspect. Effective generalisation requires good judgment based on seasoned knowledge and experience, which for 30 years our mapmakers have been doing successfully. In some cases where generalisation causes problems as it is not possible to map an area to the required level of detail, the team will draw specific inset maps to further highlight a producing area or region.

Once the feature map has been drawn and verified not only internally but also with our map partner, we dress the map with added value data and information in the form of infomaps, graphics and tables putting the maps contents into context. These show trends and sometime complex relationships between sets of data and explain the location of infrastructure on the map. The statistical information normally comes from a single reliable industry source such at bp, Cedigaz, EIA or IEA. This ensures consistency across the map, if third party data is used it is converted into common metric.

As the maps are a partnership with our clients. We make sure time is dedicated to ensuring the look and feel of the map is in line with their corporate guidelines often incorporating fonts, colours, and logos. Map covers feature partner photography and often specific advertising features. A series of drafts go back and forward throughout the process and once both parties are satisfied with the final product, we send it to the presses for printing on large 4-colour lithographic presses. Our involvement does not stop, we always visit the printers for a press pass. The main purpose of a press check is to make sure that the colour on press comes as close as possible to the colour proof. We check overall colour balance across the sheet and registration (sharpness, colour overlapping, edges of images and screened type).

The maps are then distributed to all Petroleum Economist subscibers and to the map partners. We also work closely with leading industry events so maps can get into delegate bags. Our maps have reached the delegates and visitors to the World Petroleum Congress, World Gas Conference, LNG series, Gastech to name a few..

If you have any questions about PE Maps contact the team

In next month’s Map Talk we will look at print maps versus digital mapping applications and why PE Maps sees the need for both products

Visit our dedicated PE Maps website