Oil & Gas Requirements Checklist: The Essential Guide to Authoring Clear and Compliant Specifications

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

We’ve taken the most essential points from expert research in oil and energy industries and identified the key factors when it comes to writing standards and requirements processes for oil and gas projects. Take these guidelines and this checklist and save time and headache in your future writing needs.

In the oil and gas industry, ensuring employees and companies as a whole have properly documented requirements and designated processes is of the utmost importance to safety, regulatory compliance, and company success. However, writing requirement documents can be both time-consuming and challenging. To be effective, these documents must be written clearly and accurately and strike a balance between being to the point and readable enough as well as sufficiently detailed to answer all questions.

Given these challenges, our team has worked with many oil industry professionals to learn about what they want to see in such documentation they are reading as well as learn the tips and tricks they use while writing such products themselves.

If the written instructions and requirements are unclear, the oil and gas engineering projects in practice will suffer as a result. To assist you in documenting your processes and mandatory requirements in the oil and gas sector in a clear, concise, and accurate fashion, we’ve used our knowledge, expertise, and research to create this one guide + checklist that we hope will help keep your projects on track.

1. AUTHOR EACH REQUIREMENT TO BE CLEAR AND SPECIFIC

More than most industries, companies in oil and gas tend to be multi-tiered with various layers of contractors and sub-contractors, as well as a mixture of departments and technical and non-technical teams within the company. This variety in teams that have unique responsibilities and sets of experiences creates the risk that requirements created by one party will be too vague or will be easily misunderstood for the other relevant teams who will be using them. You don’t want your carefully written instructions to be subject to a game of telephone where the person writing the requirements is too far removed from the work. If this happens, it’ll introduce mistakes, uncertainty, and potentially outdated information.

To prevent this common mistake in oil & gas requirements writing, always take care to ensure each requirement and step within that requirement is written clearly and specifically so that there is no vagueness or room for misinterpretation. And once the requirement writing is complete, go back and do a final check to confirm your requirements meet this standard.

2. ENSURE YOU DON’T ASSUME THAT YOUR KNOWLEDGE IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE

The oil industry has a very high level of specialization and all roles within the sector will require detailed and technical knowledge. These factors combine to create potential issues with requirement writing when a specialist in one area will unduly assume a level of technical knowledge from people in other areas. Many areas of the industry use requirements, including internal procedures, external regulations or standards (such as ISO 29001), competitive RFPs, and more. Each of these areas of requirements has its own understood knowledge or procedures, all of which may differ. This problem is further exacerbated by the previously mentioned nature of contractor work, sub-contractors, and segmented teams within the company. You don’t necessarily know who will be reading the requirements or what their experience and base of knowledge are.

To ensure that your requirements are useful to those reading them, it is imperative not to assume too much about your readers’ understanding. Be sure to carefully spell out acronyms and define important terms when they are first used to help guide your reader, and when doing so conform to standard acronyms, abbreviations, and symbols as spelled out by relevant guidelines like the Document Format and Style Manual from the American Petroleum Institute. And critically, once those terms are defined it is essential to use them consistently and accurately so as not to confuse the reader. So, in order to write effective requirements, go through to make sure they are written in a way that are likely to be understood by someone early in their time in the oil and gas industry, being careful not to go too far the other way and explain overly basic terms that will cause members of the field to glaze over the elementary information (it’s a delicate balance, but an important one to strike).

Write in a way that the expected readers within the industry can pick up and follow the requirements, regardless of the baseline knowledge you expect them to have.

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3. INCLUDE COMPLETE AND TIMELY INFORMATION ABOUT REQUIREMENTS

In addition to making sure requirements are fully useful to those in the oil and gas industry, information also needs to be complete and thorough. Incomplete requirements where assumptions are being made without being explicitly stated can be dangerous. For example, these requirement documents are often written and used for management to know what employees or outside contractors should fill a given role. Thus, if the requirements are written with incomplete information then you introduce the chance that someone reading it won’t fully understand what a role or a task needs and they will hire an unqualified worker for the position, leaving a skills gap. As noted by an expert in the field during our research, “By aligning user needs with how specifications are written, review time and risk of error are significantly reduced.”

Oil and gas requirements might also suffer from being outdated, as the industry has a long history and deep roots. “Standards can be quite old,” noted an expert in the field during the research for these tips, “as the industry doesn’t update them as much as they should.” Parroting requirements from older documents risks repeating information that is now out of date and insufficient. So, when using old documentation as a resource, be sure to check in on the latest developments and standards in the oil and gas industry to make sure your new requirements are accurate and up to date.

A critical goal, thus, is to make sure information is comprehensive and complete. When finished with writing the requirement, reread it as if it will be the only document read during the hiring decision, the budgeting process, or the project planning, and if that worries you that you might be omitting current information then it’s time to give the
document another pass.

Interested in learning more about authoring clear and compliant specifications in the oil and gas industry? Download our guide to continue reading!