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Transforming records management in energy-rich areas of the U.S.

Marlys Gardner  Product Manager, Thomson Reuters Records Management

Marlys Gardner  Product Manager, Thomson Reuters Records Management

When it comes to rights associated with real property ownership interests, oil, gas and mineral rights are often misinterpreted, particularly in the U.S. In contrast to most other countries, the U.S. allows private real property owners to hold and own subsurface mineral rights (which include the right to explore, develop, extract and market any subsurface minerals) separately from traditional surface rights (which include rights to the land above the surface).

As far back as the 1800s, drilling and mineral companies would purchase the mineral rights from surface owners or families would sell real property and reserve the mineral rights as part of the inheritance for their heirs. Today, this means that holding surface rights doesn’t necessarily mean you own the mineral rights to a parcel of land, particularly in energy-rich areas like Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Colorado and New Mexico.

Like other property rights, mineral rights can be bought, sold, leased and transferred in accordance with state and federal law, either together with surface rights or separately. This complexity often results in difficulty for governments to determine definitively whether a surface owner owns the associated mineral interests. Further complicating this issue is the fact that states may differ in their interpretation and treatment of minerals – and evolving legislation can change how these rights are applied at a moment’s notice.

So, how can governments in energy-rich areas of the country better manage these records while responding accurately to requests from individuals and oil and gas companies?

How technology can enhance records management for governments

Comprehensive and integrated records management software can help governments meet the challenge of document management when it comes to determining oil, gas and mineral rights. With fast access to information and the availability of public access to records through the Internet, constituents are better served without adding staff – a benefit for many government bodies faced with doing more with less.

Data collection activities can also be improved with the latest advances in technology. Unlike other stand-alone systems, an integrated records management suite means governments collect data once and it’s automatically populated into other integrated systems, including billing and collection, property valuation and public access. The result is higher productivity rates and fewer redundant entries and duplication errors.

Accuracy and ease of use are especially important as researchers can find data regarding ownership quicker, which in turn better serves the public interest. As public servants, local governments have a vested interest in providing their constituents with fast and accurate information, so technology certainly enhances the experience in that regard.

Additionally, energy-rich areas of the country can utilize technology for continuous monitoring of legislative changes, enabling governmental entities to adapt quickly and even integrate and share data with other government offices.

Enabling a higher level of customer service

As workloads increase and governments continue to look for ways to streamline office processes, adopting technology in the form of an easy-to-use, customizable and browser-based records  management system allows governmental bodies to provide a complete range of recording capabilities and – perhaps most importantly – enables governments to provide a higher level of customer service to their constituents.

In the future, transformational technology such as blockchain or distributed ledger systems may provide even greater benefits to the Energy sector by increasing the speed and availability of records as well as a better audit for multiple sales records for surface and subsurface rights.

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