Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS)

Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS)

Investopedia / Sydney Burns

What Is the Council Of Petroleum Accountants Societies?

The Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS) is a non-profit professional organization that provides guidance and education on accounting issues in the oil and gas industry. The organization formed in 1961 with the mission to discuss and solve the complexities inherent in oil and natural gas accounting.

Key Takeaways

  • The Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS) is a non-professional organization that provides guidance on accounting issues in the oil and gas industry.
  • COPAS was formed in 1961, and has 26 member societies located in the United States and Canada.
  • COPAS produces industry guidelines and standards for accounting at every stage of the petroleum industry, from exploration and drilling to delivery.
  • COPAS also directs certification for Accredited Petroleum Accountants, an accounting credential specifically tailored to the oil and natural gas industries.

Understanding Council Of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS)

COPAS is highly organized, with several standing committees covering broad areas and sub-committees handling narrow and distinct facets of the industry. Nine board members, each serving a three-year term, oversee the association. COPAS operates in the U.S. and Canada and currently has over 4,000 members in 26 societies. Its members work for government agencies, universities, consulting firms, and oil and gas exploration and production companies.

COPAS discussions have created numerous standardized guidelines, procedures and best practices for efficient and effective accounting in the oil and gas industry. For example, one of the organization's publications offers a detailed outline of how to properly account for natural gas at each stage of production.

Other publications address issues such as joint interest accounting, auditing, production volume, revenue accounting, financial reporting, and tax considerations. According to COPAS, numerous government agencies model some of their rules and procedures after the ones developed by the organization.

Comprehensive Services of COPAS

Aside from issuing publications that keep accountants in the industry abreast of current accounting practices, COPAS organizes monthly luncheons, workshops, and webinars, as well as annual four-day education events for new industry accountants. It is also responsible for the APA certification exams.

Do you know how to estimate the size of unproven oil reserves? If you do, you might qualify to become an APA.

Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies’s (COPAS’s) Committees

All COPAS publications are produced by committees, which assume responsibility for researching and reporting important issues to the COPAS board of directors. The COPAS website lists 27 such committees and subcommittees, with areas of focus ranging from Bylaws and Regulatory Affairs to Social Media.

Key committee groups include:

Audit Committee

The audit committee is responsible for identifying issues that might arise during the implementation or interpretation of COPAS audit protocols in the petroleum industry. The committee is also responsible for revising, or assisting other committees in the issuance of COPAS publications relating to oil and gas auditing.

Small Oil and Gas Companies Committee 

This committee is responsible for identifying the unique problems and concerns facing smaller enterprises in the oil and gas industry. It develops COPAS guidelines, checklists, and other publications necessary to help companies with smaller staff comply with industry standards, and hosts educational seminars for the benefit of these companies.

Accredited Petroleum Accountant (APA)

In 1996, COPAS launched the Accredited Petroleum Accountant program, a credential to certify qualified accountants in the oil and gas industries. Originally consisting of eight knowledge-based exams, the system was refined in 2016 into a single exam that covered every aspect of the petroleum industry.

The APA certification is valid for one year, and must be renewed by meeting a required number of education hours. In order to qualify, the candidate must have a four-year degree with 12 credit hours in Accounting, as well as one year of experience in the oil and gas industry. Candidates can also qualify if they have five or more years of work experience in the oil and gas industry.

How Much Does It Cost to Join the Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies?

COPAS consists of twenty-six societies across Canada and the United States, each of which has different requirements and fees for membership. It is also possible to become a limited member, without joining a participating society. A limited membership costs $25 for initiation, with a $130 annual renewal.

Can International Individuals and Companies Join the Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies?

COPAS has only one member society located outside the United States, based in Calgary, Alberta. All others are in the United States. Although it is possible for someone outside those countries to become a limited member, it is not clear if they would benefit, given the different international standards of the energy industry.

What Is the Benefit of Having an Accredited Petroleum Accountant (APA) Credential?

The Accredited Petroleum Accountant certification is an accounting credential that is specific to the oil and gas industry. The APA exam focuses on accounting for the costs associated with exploring, drilling, and delivering oil and gas, as well as the downstream costs of pipelines and transportation. This certification is useful for accountants seeking employment in the oil and gas industry.

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  1. Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies. "About." Accessed Feb. 6, 2022

  2. COPAS. "Audit Committee Charter." Accessed Feb. 5, 2022.

  3. COPAS. "Small Oil and Gas Committees Charter." Accessed Feb. 5, 2022.

  4. COPAS. "Accredited Petroleum Accountant Program." Accessed Feb. 5, 2022.

  5. COPAS. "Find Your Society and Join Now." Accessed Feb. 5, 2022.