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Division of Corporation Finance: Frequently Requested Accounting and Financial Reporting Interpretations and Guidance
Prepared by Accounting Staff Members
in the Division of Corporation Finance
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,
March 31, 2001
3. Definition of Proved Reserves
Over the last several years, the estimation and classification of petroleum reserves has been impacted by the development of new technologies such as 3-D seismic interpretation and reservoir simulation. Computer processor improvements have allowed the increased use of probabilistic methods in proved reserve assessments. These have led to issues of consistency and, therefore, some confusion in the reporting of proved oil and gas reserves by public issuers in their filings with the Commission. This section discusses some issues the Division of Corporation Finance's engineering staff has identified in its review of such filings.
The definitions for proved oil and gas reserves for the SEC are found in Rule 4-10(a) of Regulation S-X of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The SEC definitions are below in bold italics. Under each section we have tried to explain the SEC staff's position regarding some of the more common issues that arise from each portion of the definitions. As most engineers who deal with the classification of reserves have come to realize, it is difficult, if not impossible, to write reserve definitions that easily cover all possible situations. Each case has to be studied as to its own unique issues. This is true with the Society of Petroleum Engineers' and others' reserve definitions as well as the SEC's definitions.
(a) Proved oil and gas reserves are the estimated quantities of crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids which geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions, i.e., prices and costs
as of the date the estimate is made. Prices include consideration of changes in existing prices provided by contractual arrangements, but not on escalations based upon future conditions.
The determination of reasonable certainty is generated by supporting geological and engineering data. There must be data available which indicate that assumptions such as decline rates, recovery factors, reservoir limits, recovery mechanisms and volumetric estimates, gas-oil ratios or liquid yield are valid. If the area in question is new to exploration and there is little supporting data for decline rates, recovery factors, reservoir drive mechanisms etc., a conservative approach is appropriate until there is enough supporting data to justify the use of more liberal parameters for the estimation of proved reserves. The concept of reasonable certainty implies that, as more technical data becomes available, a positive, or upward, revision is much more likely than a negative, or downward, revision.
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