Oil and gas software. Is Excel the best tool to manage your exploration and production permits, leases, compliance obligations and risks?

The technology at use in the oil and gas sector has changed remarkably over recent decades. Specialist tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Oil executives and E&P managers have instant access to production data, well performance figures, and the in-depth analysis of costs and forecasts. Big data in oil and gas is here, and the analysis is becoming ever deeper.

An area in which oil and gas software seems to have largely fallen behind however is in the smart management of permits, titles, leases and compliance obligations. So let’s take a look at why there has been this software lag, and how you can quickly move to a position where you have the right technology helping you to make the right decisions.

Before we get into what a ‘smart’ system does, let’s first take a look at the tool that is most often used for this task, Microsoft Excel.

The use of Excel for managing oil and gas titles, permits, leases and obligations

Excel has been around since 1985, and is now one of the most widely used pieces of software on the planet. It is used by individuals, households, small businesses and corporations alike.

In many ways, it is the ubiquitous nature of Excel that has led to it being used for such a wide array of tasks. And while it is the right tool for so many tasks, it is not always used in situations that it is well suited to.

As so many of us have a base level of fluency in Excel, it is commonly grabbed as a starting point when trying to gather, store and manipulate information and data. People in the petroleum business are no different.

We start out with a list of production assets, and the activities that need to be taken to comply with regulations, building these up into a spreadsheet. We might even get a person to add some pivot tables and charts to the worksheets so they provide a degree of interrogation and reporting. Another need is identified, whether it be in the form of more inputs, different fields, or wider reporting requirements. And so we add more sophisticated requirements and layers of complexity.

“Excel is not intended to be a database, it is not designed to do database manipulations, it is not capable of handling huge datasets at speed. Similarly for specialized problems: it is not designed to handle them, it does not have the tools to handle them.” Dr. Drew Lipman, Lead Data Scientist at Hypergiant in Why are you still using excel?
Why are you still using excel?

Why excel is not the right tool to manage oil and gas activities and events

There are a number of shortcomings when it comes to how Excel can handle the type of processes required to manage oil and gas activities and events well. The ability to share the information can become problematic.

Excel workbooks are able to be shared, to a certain extent. Place an excel file on a shared directory, or use Excel Online through OneDrive, and various people can have access to the file. This access can be full, or restricted to view only, meaning some safeguards can be in place. When information needs to be gathered from lots of sources and from different people, Excel doesn’t exactly…excel… especially when the different people need different outputs from the data in order to do their jobs.

Problems also develop when it comes to having a single source of truth. Over time, even with the best document control intentions, it seems that spreadsheets become stored on local drives, updated to meet the particular needs of a task and developed using the level of Excel fluency of the latest user. When it becomes time critical to get the latest data, too often the information is out of date or spread across multiple sources. And then the ‘holder of the spreadsheet’ is on holiday, or worse still, they left the company a few weeks or months earlier.

There are a few other measures that are commonly sought in a smart oil and gas compliance tool that Excel just isn’t set up to handle. So let’s take a look at what it is that makes a tool more suitable to the management of these aspects in an oil and gas company.

Using specialist oil and gas software to manage titles and compliance.

When designing databases or fully bespoke tools that help with the management of titles and obligations in exploration and production, there is often a long list of ‘must-have’ features. In part, this comes from having a number of different stakeholders within an organisation, each with their own unique needs.

A Permit Manager is going to want to input and store a different data set to that of an Exploration and Production Manager. The reports and notifications they will each need are also quite different. And this variety of needs runs through the organisation. A Compliance Manager or in-house lawyer, will seek different information from an oil and gas company CEO. Identifying, understanding and specifying each of these needs is a substantial task.

This is where cloud-based tools are in their element, especially when built from the ground up with oil and gas permits, titles, compliance and risk at their core. So here is a high level list of the elements that you should be aiming for when it comes to using technology in managing this aspect of your oil and gas business:


  1. Shareable
    The tool needs to provide shareable and controllable access, whether that is for putting data in or for receiving email notifications and reports out. Access for the people who need it is key.
  2. Single source of truth
    Having the ability to access one source, and know it contains the latest information, provides for faster and more accurate decision making. This removes the reliance upon single individuals who can control information.
  3. Time aware
    Being able to generate timeline views for tasks, key deliverables and upcoming milestones gives more control. In-built calendars, linked to email notifications and reminders, means that staff are highly aware of the time available to start and complete their activities.
  4. Location aware
    Not only do you want geospatial views of where you assets are, but you also want your activities and work programs to respond to location specific legislation and regulation. Smart oil and gas compliance and risk tools can easily keep track of differing state by state, or country by county requirements, as well as any company specific policies.
  5. Activity aware
    There are a wide range of activities carried out in the oil and gas sector which are governed by regulations and obligations. With the ability to auto generate these tasks based on the prescribed requirements, not only is a significant amount of time saved, but you are also less likely to miss important steps.
  6. Integration of risk management
    People in your organisation have a range of activities that they need to undertake. A system which directly links the planning and delivery of those activities to your risk reduction, mitigation and elimination processes brings significant benefits.
  7. Tailored reporting templates
    The information each person in an organisation needs differs based on their responsibilities. Using a combination of standard and custom reports, each person can quickly receive the information they need as a one-off or on a reporting cycle. This could be as simple as your upcoming tasks, or your team’s overdue activities, through to the organisation wide progress toward a complex project outcome.
  8. Audit Trail
    The ability to know who entered what information, and when they entered it, is a cornerstone to having a system that shows transparency and accuracy.

Permitintel: The Oil and Gas Compliance Tool

Permitintel is a RegTech solution focused purely on the oil and gas sector. It is the compliance and risk solution specifically designed to manage exploration and production activities anywhere in the world. With instant visibility of your licence, activities, obligations and risks at your fingertips, you’ll have all the information you need for timely and confident decision making.

One of the largest benefits to oil and gas companies is that Permitintel can be up and running in a matter of weeks. This is significantly different to the long lead times, high development costs and inevitable project risks that comes with developing in-house tools or having a development shop build custom software.

Contact the Permitintel team today for more information and a free demonstration.