Defining Well File Management
Well file management is the categorization and organization of important documents gathered throughout the life cycle of an oil well into an accessible taxonomy to manage oil & gas assets. This taxonomy includes the areas of Engineering, Geoscience, Operations, Production, Land, Regulatory, and Accounting. The reason well file management is used so commonly is because implementing a well file management strategy can enable Exploration & Production (E&P) companies to increase efficiency across the upstream supply chain. It also allows employees, partners, and working interest owners the ability to search, access, or share data more efficiently.
Though well file management methods differ greatly from company to company, in general, there has been a shift towards using Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems to manage digital well and land files. One major reason for this shift is the growing volume and complexity of oil & gas data, making it difficult to access and classify documents as they are generated or inherited. If engineers, geologists, regulatory, and land staff are constantly burdened with managing this information, which is at times hundreds of thousands or even millions of documents, they have less time to focus on primary well initiatives. This can greatly impact production rates and well downtime. It may also result in financial penalties if lease and regulatory obligations are missed.
Some E&P companies choose to manage well files in paper format, or inherit boxes of physical files after an acquisition. Forced to search physical well files by hand, employees of an operating company may become restricted in their ability to access data in a timely manner and face difficulty when sharing this data across the company. Plus, the physical records can become unusable if they are not preserved and protected against natural disasters or human errors.
Better Well File Management Strategy
Well file management innovations all too often focus on how to digitally store and manage data without sufficient consideration to accessing, searching, and efficiently using well and land files. For example, many companies continue to manage E&P documents on network drives and servers, forcing energy professionals to navigate complex folder structures with inconsistent, incomplete, or inaccurate data.
Improving well and land file accessibility requires accurate classification of a complex variety of unstructured data into an energy specific document taxonomy. Using metadata about each document, such a taxonomy ensures that well and land files are linked with the correct department, region, lease, gathering system, facility, tank battery, and working interest owners.
ECM software has provided the energy industry with a partial well file management solution; however, such solutions require heavy software customization and carry a high IT and support overhead. The result is that many companies struggle with legacy ECM systems that are difficult to use and costly to maintain. Most E&P companies, however, lack the budget and IT resources needed to manage documents in an ECM system, leaving these operators to manage well files the old way or on a network drive.
Even with an ECM system, it is still difficult for operators, field offices, and partners to find reliable and trustworthy data in a timely manner. Ironically, ECM systems often create barriers to well and land data, impeding employee productivity and delaying data onboarding during acquisitions and divestitures.
Modern well file management
Recent innovations are enabling a paradigm shift in well file management, including Cloud computing, machine learning, and smart search technology. Software can now be delivered on the Cloud, also called software-as-a-service (SaaS), that gives oil & gas companies a cost-effective way to securely and accurately classify all of their unstructured data. Combined with an industry specific document taxonomy, such software extracts and links metadata contained within a document, such as API number or lease name, within a customizable hierarchy. Users are able to locate documents within seconds using a simple keyword search or by navigating the taxonomy by department, region, or producing unit, for example.
By leveraging modern well file management technology, operators can quickly and accurately classify large volumes of well and land files at a fraction of the cost of ECM systems. Because of improved data access, E&P companies boost employee productivity and improve operational efficiency. What’s more, cloud-based well file management is ideally suited to accelerate data classification and analysis during an acquisition or to prepare the data needed to divest a property.
Cloud-based well file management solutions also give companies enhanced security and control of their proprietary asset information. For instance, an operator can restrict access to internal or external parties, such as a working interest owner, for each Field, Unit, Tract, Well, Lease or Department. By securely storing well and land files in the Cloud, operators ensure that valuable data is permanently organized and preserved during the life of the well.
Benefits of Well File Management in the Cloud
Additional benefits of Cloud-based well file management include the ability for employees and partners to access well and land files from anywhere using a PC, laptop, or mobile device. Energy professionals benefit from the ability to perform keywords searches containing complex legal or technical terms across all of their documents. This makes searching for a particular term contained within a document fast and simple, such as an AFE number, tract information, title & curative file, lessor/lessee owner name or penetration rate. Armed with these modern well file management tools, energy professionals can spend less time hunting for E&P information and more time on higher value work.