“The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights”.
-J. Paul Getty, founder of Getty Oil
When Americans say a person “owns land” they really mean they own it all. They own the air above, the surface itself, and the ground below. This principle of Americans owning from “hades to heaven” dates back to before the founding of America itself . It differs significantly from most other countries where the central government owns 100% of the ground beneath the surface . While we should feel fortunate to have such a great liberty, keeping track of who owns what is a task of gigantic proportions. Believe it or not, Thomas Jefferson himself proposed the way in which most of the country is divided up into millions of 1 square mile sections (Figure 1) . This system was implemented in the 1700’s and remains largely unchanged to this day. It requires all transactions of real estate property to be painstakingly documented at the local county courthouse for the public to be notified .
This system, while functional, is cumbersome and inefficient. The documentation system is incredibly costly to corporations trying to acquire land or mineral rights, usually oil and gas corporations. These corporations spend significant amounts of money trying to identify who owns certain pieces of land instead of using that money to just pay the landowners themselves. The system is so complex that it makes information that should be accessible by anyone the sole possession of those able to afford the long and expensive process. It takes a large budget to afford the man hours needed to research who owns a certain piece of land. This results in many individuals and smaller oil and gas companies not able to afford “title runs” to maintain their own proprietary records, making what should be a level playing field very uneven. If the system is so inefficient, shouldn’t a 21st century company be up to the task of modernizing it? Oklahoma-based startup Oseberg is attempting to do just that.
Oseberg utilizes information extraction technology to comb through publicly available data and format it to be instantly accessible through user-friendly software . Founded in 2011, the company has grown to offer services in both Oklahoma and Texas. They now offer four main products each targeting a different need for the many segments within their oil and gas client base, thus somewhat leveling the playing field by offering smaller companies the ability to only purchase what they need. Oseberg founder Evan Henderson lays out his company’s vision below .
While Oseberg’s technology is certainly on the cutting edge, they are not the first ones to attempt to do something like this. Similar ventures Drillinginfo and IHS Markit have been around for a longer period of time and have wider client bases. What sets Oseberg apart is that these other companies simply reprint this publicly available data online, making it more accessible but not necessarily more intuitive. A distinction between Oseberg and its competitors is that with Drillinginfo or IHS you need to know what you are looking for before you use their products. Oseberg operates more like a search tool. With Oseberg’s proprietary software, you are able to figure out what exactly is going on in an area without needing significant amounts of previous knowledge .
Up to this point it’s been a great beginning for the company and Oseberg has more than enough business in Oklahoma and Texas for them to thrive in the short term. When looking out on a 3-10 year horizon the most likely opportunities for growth are to enter more petroleum producing states like Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. In addition to geographical growth, it is imperative that Oseberg maintains its technological advantage over its competitors. It also needs to maintain a superior product through R&D and innovation to provide continuous value for its growing client base.
I’ve described, to the best of my extent in 800 words, the problems with America’s land recording system and its effect on oil companies and landowners. Oseberg leverages 21st century technology to make this inefficient data more palatable for their end consumer. With geographical and technological growth, Oseberg is perfectly positioned to provide unbelievable value to the oil and gas industry through digitalization. A few questions I’m left wondering is, “If Oseberg provides easier access to publicly available data, will they eventually reach a limit on how efficient they can make the current system? Perfect world scenario: they reach all 50 states and are able to efficiently digitalize 100% of all incoming information, where does the company go from there? What other systems of data outside of publicly available land records could this technology be used for? (787 Words)
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 “EnergyHQ | Innovation | Oseberg, Unlocking the Disruptive Power of Data.” YouTube, EnergyHQ | Innovation | Oseberg, Unlocking the Disruptive Power of Data, 12 Jan. 2017, www.youtube.com/channel/UC_ZxXfe9wPL01AugGXAZg5A. accessed November 2017.
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