5 Common Oil & Gas Accounting Issues + Proposed Solutions

5 Common Accounting Issues

The oil and gas industry faces unique accounting challenges due to the complex nature of hydrocarbon exploration, extraction, and transportation. These complexities give rise to several accounting issues that can significantly impact these companies’ financial statements and operational efficiency. This article explores five common accounting issues encountered by upstream and midstream energy businesses, and offers practical solutions for each.

Revenue Recognition and Measurement

Upstream companies often struggle with revenue recognition and measurement due to the volatile nature of oil and gas prices, delays in receiving data from the field, as well as the complexity of contract terms with buyers. Midstream companies grapple with accounting for transportation and storage services, which may involve intricate contract structures, including take-or-pay arrangements or volume commitments.

Adopting a robust framework based on the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) can help. Specifically, IFRS 15 and ASC 606 provide guidance on revenue recognition from contracts with customers, offering a five-step model to ensure revenue is accurately recognized at the right time. Implementing advanced accounting software that can handle complex contract terms and automate the revenue recognition process can be invaluable for upstream and midstream businesses. 

Asset Capitalization and Depreciation

Determining which costs to capitalize and how to depreciate them over the asset’s useful life is a significant challenge. Upstream activities involve substantial investments in exploration and development, where distinguishing between capitalizable exploration costs and operational expenses can be complex. For midstream companies, the challenge lies in capitalizing costs related to the construction and expansion of pipelines, transportation, and storage facilities.

Companies should develop clear capitalization policies in line with IFRS 6 or the US GAAP’s guidance on the capitalization of oil and gas exploration and development costs. These policies should detail which costs are eligible for capitalization and prescribe the method and rates of depreciation, considering both the physical life of the asset and the reserve depletion rate. Regularly reviewing these policies and conducting impairment tests can also ensure that the carrying amount of assets does not exceed their recoverable amount.

Joint Venture and Production Sharing Agreements

Upstream and midstream operations often involve joint ventures and production sharing agreements (PSAs), where accounting for shared resources and splitting revenues and expenses can be complex. Ensuring transparent and equitable accounting practices among all parties is challenging, especially with varying accounting standards and practices.

Adopting joint arrangement accounting practices as per COPAS or similar GAAP standards can help in clearly recognizing and measuring interests in joint operations. Companies should ensure transparent communication and standardized reporting practices with all partners. Utilizing accounting software that allows for real-time tracking and reporting of joint venture activities can enhance transparency and reduce disputes.

Impairment of Assets

The cyclical nature of oil and gas prices can lead to significant fluctuations in the valuation of assets, necessitating frequent impairment reviews. For upstream companies, this is particularly relevant for exploration and production assets, while midstream companies may need to assess the value of infrastructure assets in light of changing demand for transportation and storage.

Regular, comprehensive impairment testing based on IAS 36 or the relevant GAAP guidelines is crucial. It involves estimating the recoverable amount of assets and comparing it to their carrying amount. Implementing forward-looking analytics and market trend analysis into the impairment testing process can provide more accurate and timely assessments, helping companies adjust their asset valuations in line with market conditions.

Accounting for Environmental Liabilities

Upstream and midstream companies are increasingly faced with the need to account for environmental liabilities, including decommissioning costs, environmental remediation, and penalties for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Estimating these liabilities can be challenging due to the uncertain nature of environmental impact and regulatory requirements.

Companies should adopt a proactive approach to environmental liability accounting, following the guidance provided by IAS 37 or similar GAAP standards on provisions, contingent liabilities, and contingent assets. It includes establishing a reliable process for estimating the size and timing of future disbursements related to environmental liabilities and incorporating these estimates into financial planning and reporting. Investing in sustainable practices and technologies can also reduce the future financial impact of environmental liabilities.

Avoid Oil and Gas Accounting Issues with W Energy

W Energy is the leading provider of software solutions for upstream and midstream companies in the oil and gas industry. Our innovative upstream accounting software provides your company with one integrated platform to manage a wide range of processes, such as revenue accounting, accounts payable, joint venture accounting, and division orders. With W Energy’s midstream accounting software, you can streamline gas processing to ensure accurate allocation of resources with minimal errors. Whether upstream or midstream, our state-of-the-art accounting platforms offer fast, accurate, automated calculations, giving you the most effective and efficient solutions. Contact us for a demo today!

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