Two petroleum engineers are helping mineral owners in North Dakota and beyond navigate the complicated world of mineral compensation with their app, Mineral Tracker.

Joel Brown and Jeff Kummer are co-founders of Mineral Tracker, as well as McKenzie Minerals Management, a company providing guidance on various aspects of mineral ownership. The companies apply knowledge the pair gained from time working in the petroleum industry and a desire to fill a gap within it.

Brown will present about Mineral Tracker at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, March 20.

“We both noticed that we were being asked a lot of questions by friends and families who were mineral owners,” Brown noted. The key question on the minds of many mineral owners is “Am I being paid correctly?” per Brown.

Billions of dollars pass from mineral companies to mineral owners. These transactions make up a complicated system, and although Brown noted he and Kummer have in general found fewer issues within this system than might be expected, given that complexity, they do still happen on occasion.

For many mineral owners, mineral royalties constitute a significant portion of their income. Within the context of North Dakota’s oil boom, many folks who find themselves as mineral owners have little prior knowledge of the inner workings of the petroleum industry, which makes them potentially vulnerable.

“A lot of mineral owners have no piece of mind,” Brown said. They have no easy way of knowing whether they are being compensated correctly.

As he and Kummer helped out mineral owners who came to them, they began to wonder what happens to mineral owners who don’t know a petroleum engineer. This led them to found McKenzie Minerals Management. Later, they started looking into technology that could help mineral owners.

“There was nothing out there that was going to accomplish what we wanted it to,” Brown said, so they started building something of their own. Development on Mineral Tracker began in winter of 2017. They soon realized what they were building could be made available and useful to the public.

The resulting Mineral Tracker app enters this space to provide an unbiased picture of what mineral owners should expect to be making.

“From a very simple, high level standpoint, it crates a basic auditing standard,” Brown said. The app helps give users a rough sense of how much they should be getting paid.

Mineral Tracker uses a number of sources to compile its assessments of how much users stand to make. These include government and independent organizations.

“We’re pulling all of our information from third party sources,” Brown said. “Typically it lines up within a couple of percentage points,” he added, when there’s nothing to look into.

The pro version of the app was launched in September 2018 with a $99 per month subscription. One of the company’s next ambitions is launching a free version.

Because mineral owners make $3 billion cumulatively, Brown suggested he and Kummer set out with a perception that mineral owners make a lot of money on an individual basis. Since then, he said they’ve learned the average mineral owner is actually a 65-year-old woman making around $600 per month from mineral royalties. That money is still a significant portion of their livelihoods, in a lot of cases, which can makes a $99 app a difficult proposition for many. The impending free app offers help to a wider swath of mineral owners.

To do this, they created a suite of products geared toward the Williston basin specifically, as opposed to other companies applying what had worked elsewhere.

“We want people to think of it as just access to support,” he said.

The Bakken is expected to produce oil and natural gas for decades, which means  management of mineral compensation is a generational issue; as a new generation of mineral owners begins to take the stewardship reins of mineral bearing properties, an app like Mineral Tracker stands to grow more and more valuable.

For more information on Mineral Tracker, visit 1 Million Cups Fargo takes place each Wednesday from 9:15 – 10:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

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Austin Gerth