MineralTracker lets owners track, predict mineral-rights royalties
Editor's note: MineralTracker is a Watford City, N.D.- based startup whose software lets mineral owners track and audit their royalty income. In this Q&A, Prairie Business talks with Jeff Kummer, MineralTracker founder and president.
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Q. Let’s start with your product. Tell us about MineralTracker.
Jeff Kummer, MineralTracker founder and president: MineralTracker is mineral management software. It gives mineral owners a dashboard through which they can see several important things.
First, by simply entering their wells and their interest, they can see a prediction of what they should have been paid in the past, month by month. Second, they can get a projection of what they should be paid in the future.
The way the software works is that it agglomerates a lot of publicly available data, such as the monthly reports that the oil and gas companies make to North Dakota. These reports document how much oil and gas is being produced for each individual well.
The software also accounts for historical commodity prices, taxes and other factors.
So again, by knowing the wells and the interest that Grandma Smith has, we can tell Grandma Smith that in June of 2018, she should have been paid X by Oil Company A. That way, when she gets her check in the mail, she can look at how much she was paid, and she can go to MineralTracker to see if the amount is correct.
It’s an audit tool, in other words. And we think that’s valuable, because otherwise, there’s no efficient way to audit your royalty check on a monthly basis.
Instead, most people just default to getting the check, looking at the amount and seeing it as a blessing.
Q. Part of MineralTracker’s appeal comes from the oil-and-gas background of its developers. How did you get your start?
Kummer: The company is based in Watford City, N.D. I grew up here back when Watford City was a small little town, and my wife is from here as well. My family had been in the oil-and-gas business for three generations, and now, I guess I'm the fourth.
I started by getting a degree in petroleum engineering. I started at the University of North Dakota, then finished out my degree in 2006 at the Colorado School of Mines.
From there, I did what most petroleum engineers do: I went out and worked for oil and gas companies. I spent the first couple of years in Wyoming. Eventually, I wound up back in North Dakota and ended up being the president of MBI Energy Services, which in 2014 was the fourth largest independent business in the state.
To make a long story short, I spent lots of time as a petroleum engineer drilling and completing wells. So, I really understood the operational aspects of working for an oil and gas company.
Then in 2013, my father passed away. He’d been handling all of my family's mineral interests. So after he died, my mom had no clue about any of it.
I started helping her, and a light bulb went off. I asked myself, “If it's this hard for me as a petroleum engineer to understand these revenue statements, what are the other thousands of mineral owners doing?”
Outside of going to an attorney, there was no service that I could see that would let mineral owners get their questions answered from people knowledgeable about the oil and gas business.
That was the seed. So in March 2017, I started a business called McKenzie Minerals Management. The goal was to open the doors for folks to come in with their paperwork and their questions, and for us to try to solve their problems or provide some answers.
We've been doing that now for a year and a half or so.
Q. And MineralTracker was next?
Kummer: Right. After we’d started to see people and answer their questions, I went to my partner in the business and said, “What if we could create something where a person could go online, log in and put in the wells they're being paid on and their unique interest, then see graphs and tables and other information displayed in a format similar to an online bank account?”
It’s a portfolio snapshot, in a way. And that's where the idea for MineralTracker came from.
Q. How difficult is it to populate the data?
Kummer: The back end of this is that it has all been run through software developers, who are pulling the information in a variety of different formats.
In fact, Lynn Helms and his crew at the Department of Mineral Resources have been ecstatic about this, because they have the cleanest website of any state in the United States, as far as having the data be readily available. They get to kind of showcase that, and they know it's being put to use, so that's good. I've been on the radio with him and have talked about that some.
Q. How much does MineralTracker cost?
Kummer: We're trying to keep it as simple as possible: the rate for one user is $99 a month, and everybody who wants to try MineralTracker can do so for 30 days for free.
Furthermore, if there are, say, five brothers and sisters who’ve inherited something from their parents, and all five of them are being paid on the same wells at the same interest, we give breaks for adding multiple accounts underneath the same umbrella.
From the beginning, we wanted to make this available to people for less than $100 a month. The thinking was that if your royalties are something that you rely on and are a meaningful part of your life, then for what you pay for your cell phone bill, you should be able to audit and check things out for yourself.
Q. What's the size of the business at this point?
Kummer: My partners are Joel Brown, who's also a petroleum engineer from Watford City and is my partner in the minerals management business; and Ryan Yesel, whose background is in software engineering and development. Between the three of us, we own MineralTracker, and we’re actively seeking others to grow the business.
After a lot of testing, we officially went live with MineralTracker on Sept. 1; you can find it at MineralTracker.com. We feel that it’s completely viable at this point, and we’re really excited to see it get up and running.