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Knowledge management in the oil and gas industry

Knowledge management best practices in oil and gas industry

Category: Knowledge Management

Last updated on Dec 28, 2023

Knowledge management in the oil and gas industry became popular during the late 1990s and has continued ever since. Managing your knowledge, spreading it evenly throughout the organization and preserving it for future use is critical if companies want to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging landscape. As many individuals with technical expertise are reaching retirement age, firms are under pressure to manage their knowledge more effectively to prevent knowledge drain. Solving the same problems repeatedly without reusing the solution is ridiculously inefficient, and yet companies do this every day.

Companies face recurring problems that are best solved with organizational knowledge. By leveraging the power of the collective mind, they can overcome obstacles and achieve greater productivity. Workers are happier when they can connect with colleagues who have highly specialized knowledge, and problems are more easily overcome.

Is Knowledge Management in the Oil and Gas Sector a Good Idea?

Any industry looking to increase efficiency and improve profits will benefit from knowledge management if they have the resources to empower its implementation. Since the cost of losing knowledge is so high – businesses are estimated to lose $47 million in productivity annually – knowledge management is a good idea.

Oil and gas companies have the budgets and the organizational structure to make knowledge management feasible. They often operate internationally, with many divisions performing similar functions, meaning companies can benefit from sharing best practices internally. New projects such as drilling a new oil rig require multi-billion dollar investments, so careful risk assessment and information-sharing are essential.

It’s not so much about whether oil and gas companies should put knowledge management into practice as it is about when. Market challenges in the 1990s and early 2000s such as loss of traditional sources of energy and the pressure to become more environmentally friendly means that oil and gas companies must embrace a knowledge-sharing culture.

How can Knowledge Management Benefit the Oil and Gas Industry

Now, we will look at some of the main benefits of knowledge management for the oil and gas industry.

Better operational risk management

The oil and gas industry is inherently risky, regularly searching for new energy sources and looking for better business methods.By identifying past success, companies can ensure better operational risk management to increase the likelihood that new projects will reap benefits. Evaluation and analysis through better KM help businesses avoid unmitigated disasters by foreseeing and preventing potential problems.

Increased efficiency

In all likelihood, there’s already a high chance someone in your company knows how to do something. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when tackling a new task. Instead of embarking on costly projects that might not work, you can work out if somebody has already found a solution to your problem. This saves hours and money for R&D if you know in advance whether something will likely work. Although every situation is unique, there are still key learning points you can apply.

Improved supplier and vendor management

Suppliers and vendors for the organizations will likely serve more than one department, so knowledge about these critical relationships should be shared. Some departments may be getting a better deal from suppliers, which results in inefficiencies for the organization. Managing these relationships centrally helps to standardize processes and production and ensures a more streamlined exchange with these vital partners for the business.

Knowledge Transfer and Employee Training

As we’ve already mentioned, senior employees who possess a wealth of knowledge about the business may be nearing retirement age. Other employees may simply move on to seek out better opportunities elsewhere. Knowledge management helps capture their knowledge using technology or pass it on to other employees remaining in their posts. Improving knowledge transfer and enhancing training for new employees ensures that valuable knowledge is not lost.

Use Cases of Knowledge Management in the Oil and Gas Industry

There are several ways that knowledge management can be used in practice for oil and gas companies.

Exploration and Drilling Optimization

When companies explore new territories and drill for new sources of oil and gas, they need to be fully conscious of the risks and challenges involved in these activities. By sharing the knowledge and experience of their technical experts, even ones not directly involved in the project, they can reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes. Knowledge management can help protect them from potential lawsuits resulting from malpractice.

Reservoir Management

Reservoir management is a complex process that utilizes industrial technologies and well-established best practices to maximize the profits from a hydrocarbon reservoir. This means that knowledge management must be used to understand reservoirs’ typical behavior and make the most of current data to help decrease risk and increase oil and gas production. Since reservoir management is usually an ongoing process, companies can continually refine their approach using knowledge management.

Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Compliance

Oil and gas are dangerous with inherent health, safety, and environmental risks. Knowledge management can help ensure compliance through following established and trusted procedures that ensure the physical safety of employees as well as protecting the environment as much as possible. Companies have a legal duty to comply with HSE and must ensure all employees have access to the right information to do their jobs.

Geological and Geophysical Data Analysis

Geological and geophysical data analysis can be used by oil and gas companies to identify possible sites for drilling by gathering information on the structure and properties of the earth below the surface. By gathering and analyzing appropriate data, companies can minimize exploration risks and maximize the chances of extracting resources. Knowledge management ensures this information is properly managed and disseminated.

Global Collaboration

Companies may explore for oil and gas across different countries and continents, with related departments operating in different territories. If groups can work together through sharing knowledge, the organization can become more highly efficient and apply the same techniques anywhere in the world. Some companies have expressed a desire to learn from others in the industry, which also helps to promote best practices.

Oil and Gas Companies with Knowledge Management: Examples

Now we’re going to look at some prime examples of oil and gas companies that have implemented knowledge management.

Murphy Oil Corporation

Murphy Oil Corporation ensures that it is compliant with governance by dedicating a space on its website to governance documents. By making this information widely available, employees can become aware of the company’s policies and follow the rules when conducting their business.


Chevron has become an inspirational leader in the field of knowledge management for the gas and oil industry. They were particularly interested in using knowledge to drive learning and improvement and learning from experts outside of the organization to help them solve their problems. In implementing KM, they chiefly responded to the pressure for cost reduction by improving their operations.


In 1998, BP became the largest producer of oil and gas in the US. They have used knowledge management to outcompete their rivals by enabling the exchange of knowledge between people within their organization. They use informal or semi-formal networks of people with a shared professional or technical field of expertise to share their own knowledge. While IT has been important, prioritizing people has played a central role in the success of their knowledge management initiatives.


ConocoPhillips wanted to expand their exploration efforts in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico, so they employed data management systems to capture the large amounts of data available and use it to inform the decision-making process. In order to help employees find information quickly and limit costs, they used Oracle’s ConText search engine to link their databases together and developed an integrated document management system.

Exxon Mobil

Exxon Mobil engaged with the challenge of motivating employees to participate in knowledge-sharing initiatives, although they currently lack formal incentives. While leaders may extol the virtues of knowledge management, the benefits are not always clear to employees on the ground. They also dealt with the problem of information overload, where employees were overwhelmed with knowledge and failed to choose the right source to help them.

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How to Implement Knowledge Management Strategy in the Oil and Gas Industry

There are a few key steps that organizations need to go through if they are to effectively implement knowledge management in their industry.

Identify critical knowledge

First of all, oil and gas companies need to know exactly what knowledge they want to capture. This may be information about operational processes or data concerning new sites to extract resources. When companies understand exactly what to document, they can then develop a system that will house this knowledge and make it easily accessible to employees who need it.

Invest in the right technology infrastructure

As we have seen, many companies would not separate their knowledge from their IT infrastructure. While knowledge is primarily captured through people, software tools must be used to store and search this knowledge, and companies can benefit from a dedicated knowledge base to create and publish documentation.

Knowledge capture

Oil and gas companies need to develop a process whereby they are regularly capturing and storing information. This could be formalized by rewarding employees who document tacit knowledge or could simply be through creating a knowledge-sharing culture, like BP. Capturing knowledge requires insight into what will be useful in the future, without overwhelming the system with lots of irrelevant data.

Knowledge access and retrieval

It must be easy for employees to find and access the right knowledge at the point of need. Tools like knowledge base software Document360 enable employees to search or browse the documents in order to quickly discover information that is relevant to their jobs. There must be some system of classification to enable companies to make sense of the large amount of knowledge available at their fingertips.

Knowledge governance

Your knowledge management strategy influences knowledge governance and deals with ongoing best practices for your knowledge repository.It typically formalizes your organization’s approach to the creation of your content and concerns the correct usage of your knowledge base – in other words, determines how your knowledge is governed. If companies can get knowledge governance right, then they will have a valuable resource for employees who are looking for answers.

Cultivate a knowledge-sharing culture

Some companies find that communities of practice (groups of technical experts sharing ideas and information within the company) work well as a method of disseminating knowledge, alongside traditional knowledge bases storing technical documents. Employees must be empowered to share their knowledge and understand the benefits if knowledge management is to succeed in the company.

Commitment to learning and improvement

Knowledge management is an ongoing process, requiring a commitment to learning and improvement even when times are tough. In fact, when budgets are restricted, this is a crucial era to be conserving knowledge since it vastly improves productivity and efficiency. Employees must be selected on their ability to improve upon past outcomes and ensure teams can learn from their mistakes without blaming any single individual.

Wrapping up

Knowledge management is important in any industry but is perhaps particularly so in oil and gas. This is because the industry is facing increased competition, challenges and higher prices. By building on past success, companies can refine their strategy through an improved approach to knowledge management and ensure that the contributions of employees are preserved.

Conserving technical expertise is vital for oil and gas companies who want to launch new projects, improve existing ones, and operate globally. Having a centralized knowledge management system helps employees share their knowledge and implement best practices. Access to knowledge improves the work environment and positively impacts employee retention.

As the examples have shown, both people and technology are crucial for knowledge management. Investing in the right systems such as Document360 means employees can document and share knowledge as part of their daily workflows. This agile and fast-paced approach to knowledge is ideal for companies in the oil and gas industry.

Also, check out our article on knowledge management in energy sector

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