Q&A: A Young Oil & Gas Program Benefits from RBDMS

Posted on 10/24/2018

In 2010 the first commercially viable natural gas well was drilled in Idaho after a century of failed exploration. Within two years the Idaho Department of Lands was responsible for overseeing nine operating wells and they knew the number was going to grow. The Department hired staff with oil and gas experience to ensure operators were following regulations, and each year the state’s legislature passed new rule and statutory changes.

During this time of quickly changing regulations and drilling activity, the Department identified RBDMS as the best tool to help them track oil and gas regulatory compliance. A 2013 memo to the Department Director states, “As Idaho joins 28 states either in implementation or already enjoying the robust functionality of RBDMS in regulatory capacities, the pitfalls that would be expected of a system, which has been specifically customized for each state, are mitigated by proven deployments in harsh and ever changing regulatory environments.”

Recently, the Department’s Oil & Gas Program Manager James Thum and Oil & Gas Information Specialist Chris Gozzo sat down to discuss how RBDMS has lived up to these expectations.

What support did GWPC provide during RBDMS implementation?

James: Since the first discovery in 2010 there have been rule and statutory changes almost every year. This changes how we operate. In early 2017 while we were trying to get our database updated, there was a big statutory change that created the Oil and Gas Division and increased our FTE’s from 1.75 to 5. It also required us to have all data available to the public by the end of the year. That project (which we had already been working on) became a legislative mandate. In July we started the project to implement RBDMS Data Explorer. We were able to meet the deadline 5 months later and we were very happy with how smoothly it went.

Chris: We knew going into the Data Explorer project that we had a tight deadline. GWPC and the contractor made every effort to make sure we met the requirements and deployed on time. We also had to come up with a document management system at the same time.  Although we had worked out a project schedule with GWPC, we found that we needed to have some flexibility in that schedule as the project developed. Everyone worked well together to adjust the timelines as needed, which helped keep the entire project on track. Communication was great  and they were very responsive to phone calls and emails. We did most of the work remotely, through conference calls and there were no issues. We were both very satisfied with how the project went.

What RBDMS tools does Idaho use?

James: Our desktop application is RBDMS.Net. We also have Data Explorer and the mobile app, WellFinder. As part of the new Oil and Gas Division we’ve hired a full time inspector, so we are looking at possibly using RBDMS Field Inspection in the future. One of the big things we’d like to implement is electronic reporting. We want to make it easier for operators to submit monthly production reports and make it easier for agency staff to process them. We are hoping that Chris will be able to take advantage of the RBDMS training provided by GWPC and the contractors so he could develop some online forms himself.

How has Idaho benefited from RBDMS?

James: The networking that goes on twice a year at the RBDMS training sessions and being able to talk with other states about what they are doing has been invaluable since we are small we don’t want to reinvent the wheel. We’ve been able to adopt what other states are doing. Since we’ve made those contacts we can call Michigan or Utah (for example) and ask them what they are doing. The free sharing of information has been great. We hope to be able to help other states in the future as well. We want to contribute to the community, share what we’ve implemented that other states might not have.

Chris: The user community with GWPC and its software development contractors has been very open. There have been times I’ve had questions and I can reach out to the contractors and just ask. Within the bounds of a contract or not, I can ask questions and they get back to me right away. That is invaluable support - someone standing by at all times because it is an open and collaborative community.

What is the most important thing you think people should know about RBDMS?

Chris: I keep coming back to the open and collaborative environment. That’s what I noticed at the first RBDMS training I attended. At that event all of the states were so communicative on what they were working on and how their systems were implemented. It was pure gold, especially for a new oil and gas program trying to build a system. We didn’t have to start at the ground level. In addition, the flexibility of RBDMS is so important. For other states looking at it, the ability to customize the software through working with the contractors is huge. Also, GWPC is investing in future technology. It's not stagnant software. We are pushing forward into web-based versions and beyond. There are a lot of states putting effort and resources into the product. It is moving forward quickly and all states will benefit because of that community.