The Aleph search tool, built and maintained by OpenOil, is a vast database of public documents filed by oil, gas, and mining companies in some of the biggest legal jurisdictions in the world. Aleph gives us access to millions of documents all in one place that we can search by content, but finding the exact information we want can seem intimidating. The folks at OpenOil have provided some good resources for getting started with Aleph; find them here and here. In this blog post, I will help make navigating this system even easier by providing a step by step guide on how to automatically have the information you are most interested in delivered from Aleph straight to your inbox.
At PWYP-US, we are particularly interested in (and excited about) the payments to governments reports that oil, gas, and mining companies listed on EU stock exchanges have recently disclosed. Major companies like BP, Shell, and BHP Billiton have all published reports for 2015. As more and more reports come online, there is a possibility that some may slip through the cracks. Luckily, Aleph has a search tool that can let you know when any new filings become available.
The first step is to navigate to aleph.openoil.net and register for an account.
Once that is done, on the home page click on “Alerts” in the upper right-hand corner. You should see this screen:
Click “Add” to set up a new alert.
You now have two fields to populate, “Query” and “Label”.
The “Query” field is what Aleph will use to search the database. Aleph has some advanced searching capabilities, which you can read about in depth here. We are going to use the composite querying function.
Setting up an alert for new payments to governments reports
If you want to find documents related to payments to governments reports, searching “payments to governments” is a little too imprecise. We need to get more specific .
The payments to governments reports are mandated by law, and as such, have a specific form name in each legal jurisdiction.
So, let’s construct a query that will cover all of these:
"Article L. 225-102-3" OR "DTR 4.3A" OR "Section 1504" OR "13q-1"
Add that to “Query” under your new alert and give it a name under “Label”. Select whether you want to be updated daily or weekly, then hit submit.
And there you have it!
Aleph will now automatically update you via email on any new documents that fit the conditions you outlined in your query. Currently, the London Stock Exchange is the only jurisdiction from which Aleph pulls filings that require payments to government reports. However, the first mandatory disclosure reports will be released in Canada next year, and in the United States beginning in 2018. Including Section 1504 and the French article number may mean you get notifications that don’t contain actual mandatory disclosure reports, but making your search somewhat broad ensures that if a company filing, an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative report, or contract mentions any of the search terms, you will be notified.
*Note: Running this query we noted that using "13q-1" occasionally returned results that were not relevant. However, these should be minimal, and including "13q-1" ensures a more robust query than only using "Section 1504".
Tommy Morrison is a Research Assistant at PWYP-US, follow us on Twitter @pwypusa
Accessing Aleph’s wealth of information requires a certain understanding of how to best use the search engine. While we are working hard to make the two million documents inside Aleph as easy to search across as possible, I have already provided many examples in a previous blog for why you should…
1) Be exact when selecting search terms
2) Narrow down search results
3) Use Aleph to find the particular, and not the common
4) Use the language of companies
5) Be creative and playful
Here I would like to add to this list of tips and tricks, highlight new features of Aleph’s latest release and suggest a few more interesting search examples. So let me continue with…
6) Sorting by filing date
The latest release of Aleph allows you to sort any given search result by “relevance”, “newest” and “oldest”. We chose “relevance” to be the default, which is defined by both the number of search matches inside a document and its respective filing date. Yet there are many scenarios in which you might want to find the most recent document. Let’s say, you are interested in the latest on the Jubilee field in Ghana: a quick search for the name of the project – sorted by newest – will allow you to find out about recent production figures, planed infrastructure developments in nearby blocks, and even gross sales volumes for the past months.
7) Filtering by company or filing type
If we now assume you are only interested in a particular company, it is helpful to filter Aleph’s search result to only contain documents from that company. Let’s say, you want to read on only one of Jubilee’s shareholders, Kosmos Energy. All you have to do is click on the “company facet” on the right sidebar and select Kosmos from the total list of all the companies, for which Aleph stores documents with your search terms. If this still doesn’t bring you to what you are searching for, for example Kosmos’ latest annual report (10-K filing), try filtering by filing type as well. In order to so, you should keep in mind however, that filing type names not only vary between the different stock exchanges, but also from year to year. In other words, keep an eye on the different ways a filing type can be named.
8) Continue to search within documents
Another tip on making best use of Aleph is to continue searching within documents. This new feature is made possible by Aleph’s in-build document viewer, that loads once you open a particular search result. For example, if you have identified a document that matches your interest – let’s stick to the example of Kosmos’ annual report: how do you now find what is of interest to you within the document? Let’s say, you want to know which corporate risks Kosmos had mentioned? Well… all you have to do is type it into searchbar at the right corner, which will direct you to the several mentions of risks, and in particular to the so-called risks section. This particular method allows you to put your initial findings into the context of a document.
9) Keep it simple
Last but not least, you should keep in mind that Aleph only shows up documents with exact matches to your query. If there is a typo in your query, for example, Aleph will not lead you to what you are looking for. Also, Aleph is not designed to be a google alternative, where you can enter a “what are the gold reserves of Ghana?” type question. Instead, keep it simple. Put in the terms “gold”, “reserves”and “Ghana” and Aleph will point you to the resource and reserve statements of all listed companies, that are active in Ghana.
When keeping these tips and tricks in mind, however, you will be surprised about what you are going to find.
By Anton Rühling, OpenOil and David Mihalyi, Natural Resource Governance Institute
This post originally appeared on openoil.net and resourcegovernance.org on August 12, 2016
Many oil-rich countries’ governments reap huge and notoriously opaque production revenues. In the past, transparency initiatives were limited to exposing tax payments. However, EITI reports and company disclosures are exposing more details on these deals. We are seeing a growing database of incisive price data emerging.
Many observers want to know how much the oil is worth and whether a fair price is paid for it. A common assumption is that the value of a barrel of oil is easy to determine. In fact, it’s quite complicated. The oil price’s daily fluctuations are closely monitored. These are done using the so-called “reference prices”: the value of a barrel of a particular oil quality sold in a particular hub. Every barrel, though, is worth a different amount. How light the oil is, how expensive it is to transport it to main hubs and how it is sold (on a spot or long-term contract) all factor in to its value.
Source: Screenshot from Page 349 of NEITI report, Original source is EIA.
A person wanting to know the value of their country’s oil once had three options: using one of the global free benchmarks, which lack granularity, as a best approximation; paying large subscription fees to access granular market data; and looking for revealing industry reports.
The recent release of EU mandatory payment disclosure reports have provided a granular and standardized new data source on oil prices. Oil companies are now disclosing the value of the production entitlements they pay in kind to governments, both in volume and in price terms. Assembling these we built a small table of oil prices.
Data source: BP, Shell, Statoil 2015 mandatory payment disclosures.
Data from the disclosures is available on resourceprojects.org.
The above graph displays the price of oil in 2015 across BP, Shell and Statoil projects. Prices spread across a wide range, with most observations between USD 20 to USD 55 per barrel. Reported oil price in Libya is surprisingly high. There are also wide variations in the price of oil for projects in the same country. The price reported by Shell from SPDC East is much lower than for other Nigerian projects, a finding that led to civil societyraising questions. We also found significant differences between the prices reported by BP and Statoil for the same projects and period in Azerbaijan.
In the case of Statoil, we could calculate the change across two years of disclosures. We found that prices dropped by an average of 47 percent from 2014 to 2015—roughly equivalent to the drop in the Brent price, a popular benchmark. But again, there was a significant variation in the proportions of reported price drops.
New data is also beginning to reveal the prices governments sell their oil for. This information should be published more systematically by both governments and in-country operators. In Azerbaijan, for example, this information was disclosed in its 2014 EITI report.
The above graph shows the price Azerbaijan national oil company SOCAR sold its own share of crude for in 2014. The graph above shows that Azeri state oil was sold at prices between USD 69 and USD 113. The average price (weighted by quantity) was USD 99 per barrel.
These figures are then compared with the reported production entitlement values discussed above. For the same year, Statoil reported on the two producing projects in Azerbaijan. They reported a price of USD 103.4 per barrel for the Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli (ACG) complex, the country’s largest oil project, contributing three-fourths of national oil production. They also reported a much lower USD 52.9 price for the Shah Deniz gas and condensate field. Taking a weighted average of the two yields a price of USD 97.5 per barrel.
To summarize, we find that in 2014, the Azeri government sold its oil at an average price USD 1.5 per barrel higher (at 99 USD) than the market value as reported by Statoil (at 97.5 USD). Of course, we don't know many further details to evaluate these transactions, for example the timing difference between production and sales, or the risks involved in the oil trade. Access to oil sales contracts could shed light on how much of the price risk is borne by the oil trader and how much is on SOCAR.
The price data we present remains very limited, both in company and country coverage. However, we can already explore the range in prices, looking for patterns and outliers in both reported market value and government oil sale prices. As reports on payments to governments continue growing, we are gaining valuable data on oil prices for free. We can start better exploiting these data to monitor taxation and promote better policymaking and informed discussions on the sector and on the broader debate on trade misinvoicing.
This is why initiatives such as Publish What You Pay’s “Data Extractors” program, as part of which this methodology was initially piloted, are crucial to build up more open data capacity among citizens across the globe.
Anton Rühling is the program manager at OpenOil, overseeing the development of all open data applications. David Mihalyi is an economic analyst with NRGI.
By David Mihalyi and Chris Perry, Natural Resource Governance Institute
This post originally appeared on www.resourcegovernance.org on April 1, 2016
NRGI is excited to launch the public alpha version of ResourceProjects.org.
ResourceProjects.org is an open-source repository of data on oil, gas and mining projects across the world. It provides a platform to collect, display, download and search extractive project information using open data. It aims to harvest data on project-by-project payments to governments—based on recent mandatory disclosure legislation in the EU, U.S. and Canada as well as EITI reports—and link it to associated information about the project from a variety of sources. The platform will make it easier for journalists, CSOs, researchers and government officials to search, access and download relevant data.
As we continue to develop the platform and connect it to new data sources, we are inviting contributors and collaborators to get involved.
Why does project-level data matter?
Projects are the physical, tangible presence of extractive operations in a country. A project is the mine that people see out of their window or the oil field along their coastline. But a project also has a concession area where it is located, one or more participating companies, contract documents detailing their obligations and payment information giving an insight into their economic contribution.
Governments and citizens groups can also use project data to model revenues and forecast budgets, such as in Ghana, where all interested parties could see how different oil prices affected the money available for the budget. Others, such as CCSI, Global Witness and Open Oil have modelled contracts to evaluate extractive deals, while IMF economists routinely use project-level information for fiscal design and technical assistance using their publicly available FARI model. Project information has a multitude of applications beyond fiscal modeling. It can be tied to spatial data to help better understand local impacts or environmental consequences, as highlighted by recent academic papers.
Why did NRGI build this tool?
Information on extractive projects are scattered across different company and government websites, in EITI reports, as well as databases compiled by regulators, international organizations and civil society. It comes in multiple formats: PDF, spreadsheets and in computer queryable databases. These are rarely linked to each other at all.
ResourceProjects.org brings this information into one place. We are also working on linking the data gathered to other repositories on related entities, such as OpenCorporates for associated companies; ResourceContractsfor oil and mining contracts; and Open Oil`s concession map. All information on the platform is stored with details on what source it came from and how it was retrieved. By bringing this information together in a standardized and accessible format, we are allowing users to explore extractive projects with greater depth.
How to get involved?
We are now looking for people who are interested in getting involved in the site. By the end of April, we will have added company disclosures from the U.K. that are starting to be released. Beyond the U.K., many companies are beginning to release project-by-project tax payment data. We would welcome any organisations or individuals who wish to lead on sourcing data from specific countries from upcoming mandatory disclosures.
Additionally we are inviting feedback as well as interested collaborators to help develop the site and its content. Further features and enhancements will be rolled out in the coming weeks and we are looking for partners who want to get more closely involved.
Finally, we are seeking to support the growing community of data users. Please sign up to the ResourceProjects mailing list if you want to keep up to date with what’s happening and how different organizations are using project-level information for improving resource governance.
If you are interested in getting involved, please contact NRGI economic analyst David Mihalyi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Mihalyi is an economic analyst and Chris Perry is an open data analyst with NRGI.
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