Do You Boat Acreage or Push Paper?

Oklahoma Oil and Gas Interest Owners,

 Are you going to fill up the boat with acres of leasehold and Oklahoma mineral rights or worthless paper and wasted efforts?

Are you going to fill up the boat with acres of leasehold and Oklahoma mineral rights or worthless paper and wasted efforts?

Back when Berlin started schlepping leases, her boss claimed there were really only two kinds of landmen; there were landmen who boat acreage and landmen who chased rig lines and pushed paper around their desks. Then he asked, what kind of landman did Berlin want to be? While at Amoco one had to do both, but there was certainly a bias towards the landman who could boat acreage. After all, what is a landman's purpose if she can't secure mineral rights for the technical team to exploit?

The early successes of Chesapeake Energy further emphasized the importance of acquiring leases. McClendon's philosophy was that if Chesapeake owned it all, the company wouldn't have to bend to the will of the Conoco's of the world to facilitate a trade (like a 20 year earn-out on some Western Anadarko Basin properties....thanks gents for the stellar proposal).

The ease and speed of modern communication has altered how most landmen spend their time. It is now possible for a landman to spend his entire day emailing about an issue that could be solved in a phone call or worse yet, one that doesn't even need to be solved at all. Requests from the division order departments about curative, land managers about title tracking, and nitpicking another company landman over the smallest details of a pre-pooling letter agreement can be all consuming. The relative cheapness of the communication medium hides the immense opportunity costs of engaging in this type of behavior. 

Cal Newport often writes about how the quality of work and the productivity of the average knowledge worker is in decline. He claims we are now worse at creating valuable things. And this is true. Economic oil and gas prospects are valuable. As land staffs become bloated and perform less of what Newport has coined "Deep Work," it takes more man hours to put together an oil and gas prospect. Putting together a prospect requires boating acreage. And boating acreage requires deliberate, focused efforts from running title to the disciplined negotiation that is necessary to acquire oil and gas leases in a competitive environment.

There is a lot of paper to push around these days, but does it need to be pushed?

More to follow,

Berlin