Saskatchewan Government Delivering New Tool – IRIS to benefit oil companies

MofEcon_SK_Govt_CoatofArms_H_clrDon’t let it be said that the Saskatchewan government isn’t interested in servicing its growing oil and gas industry. Thanks to the Process Renewal and Infrastructure Management Enhancements (PRIME) program, which started back in 2009, the province’s oil and gas companies are about to see some significant changes to how things are done. That’s because the Integrated Resource Information System (IRIS) is about to go live with its second phase – modernizing practices, offering increased transparency, improving accuracy and speeding up timelines in the process.

Changing times

“PRIME and IRIS are all about bringing self service into the mix,” explains Ed Dancsok, assistant deputy minister responsible for the Petroleum and Natural Gas Division, with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of the Economy. “IRIS is designed to support the ministry’s new business processes by providing web-based, self-service functionality to the industry.”

Dancsok states the processes in place for the past 35-plus years have been paper-based. Ministry staff was responsible for inputting company information. It was a labourious system that provided plenty of opportunity for error.

PRIME and IRIS are changing all of this. The first phase of the $70 million PRIME project was launched in April 2012 with the inclusion of Saskatchewan production data on Petrinex. This has already resulted in significant benefits to industry, reducing the time between production reports and royalties from 90 days to 40.

In September 2014, the ministry opened the virtual doors of IRIS to industry by introducing limited functionality that enables companies to: apply for access to IRIS and an IRIS Security Administrator account; apply for a full or partial waiver of Petrinex non-compliance penalties; and search, view, and download oil and gas invoice summaries and details.

Although too early to gauge industry participation in IRIS, estimates suggest the numbers will exceed the approximate 350 oil and gas companies that currently do business in the province. Although organizations must have a business reason to gain access to IRIS, the ministry believes the user base will include companies’ contractors and consultants, academia, law firms, land brokers, and more. Since the launch of the limited phase one in September 2014, 256 individual users have logged into IRIS.

“My guess is that there will be at least 5,000 users eventually,” states Erin Raaf, lead subject matter expert, Petroleum Tenure Project (one of the modules to be implemented in phase two). “The reaction thus far has been very positive.”

Increased functionality

Phase two of IRIS includes the introduction of two new modules: the Petroleum Tenure and the Well and Facility Infrastructure. Both are expected to “go live” in November 2015.

“The Petroleum Tenure module will increase the functionality of IRIS,” states Raaf. “Companies will be able to use the system to acquire petroleum and natural gas dispositions. All of the dispositions will be held in the registry in electronic format. Users can search and print dispositions themselves. Today, companies have to rely on the ministry to do the searches and they have to pay to do so. In the future, companies can do it themselves and there will be no fee for routine searches.”

Companies will be able to use IRIS to apply for land sale parcel postings, participate in land sale bidding, and apply for non-advertised dispositions. Available functionality geared to managing dispositions will include: registering documents, searching dispositions, applying to transfer disposition ownership, applying to surrender dispositions, and obtaining lease information following annual review.

“Companies can get the information themselves whenever they want,” adds Raaf. “The whole process is more accessible and transparent.”

The second module will focus on well and facility infrastructure. It will enable companies to: apply for well licenses, including those for horizontal drilling, off-target and water injection/disposal; submit drilling and completion information, including casing, perforation, and work-over data; attach reports and other information to a well, including logs, tests, fluid analysis, core analysis, geological reports, and surveys; view and track well and facility infrastructure information; and submit spill and incident data. Additionally, companies will be able to receive inspection results from the ministry and communicate resolutions back and forth within IRIS.

“We’re also using a ‘single-window’ approach to well licenses within IRIS,” says Debby Westerman, lead subject matter expert on the Well and Facility Infrastructure Project. “We’re offering one application to attain approvals from all the necessary ministries – including the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture.”

Help is on the way

IRIS has been designed to be a user-friendly, intuitive system. Regardless, the system will contain a “help” feature and a terminology glossary. Additionally, the ministry has launched a “support desk” to field questions on how to use IRIS, who to contact, etc… Industry orientation seminars will be offered and will most likely be held in Calgary and Regina sometime this fall. Webinars are also being considered as an option.

“Saskatchewan is considered – and will continue to be considered – a good place to invest in the oil and gas industry,” concludes Dancsok. “IRIS is one of the tools we’ve developed to keep Saskatchewan at the top of the list. It’s a way to help ensure we continue to grow our industry for many years to come.”

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