AAPG’s 100th Anniversary Committee officially begins its decade-long examination and documentation this month of “100 Who Made a Difference” – specifically, geologists who have made their mark in the industry and profession and, most importantly, how they did it.
Let the celebration begin.
An AAPG forum titled “Discovery Thinking,” featuring the first six to be recognized and who will share their insights and wisdom, will be held from 1:15-5 p.m. Monday, April 21, in San Antonio during the AAPG Annual Convention.
The forum will celebrate the accomplishments and professional lives of its first group: Marlan Downey, Bob Gunn, Alfredo Guzman, Dudley Hughes, Herbert Hunt and Clayton Williams – six geologists who have inspired colleagues to see challenges and opportunities in a new light, according to Charles Sternbach and AAPG Secretary Ted Beaumont, organizers of the event.
Where Credit is Due
AAPG formed the 100th Anniversary Committee to plan the celebration and recognition of the Society’s centennial in 2017.
And one of the program’s pillars, according to Sternbach, is to record those hundred geologists who made the most profound difference in both the profession and the industry and to bring their achievements to a broader audience.
“The Discovery Thinking forum is the latest in a series of wildcatter panels,” Sternbach noted. “My interest in these programs began back in 1997, when I was among many inspired by past president Jim Gibbs’ AAPG panel at the 1997 Dallas annual meeting.”
Among the Legendary speakers that day, he remembered, were Tom Jordan and Michel T. Halbouty.
“It is clear that the personalities of our business, and how they overcome challenges on the path to success, captivate fellow geoscientists,” he said.
Beaumont adds that those honored exemplify the “skillful application of information” and have created new exploration concepts.
The Discovery Thinking forum will include a symposium by the six inductees, who will each talk on topics such as philosophy of exploration, lessons learned and professional insights. According to Sternbach and Beaumont, the co-convenor, this will give listeners an idea about the “art of exploration.”
Beaumont believes the program needs to happen. And soon.
“The decade-long investment of time and energy are important because many of those people who are the heroes of the past have stories that need to be told today,” he said.
“We feel it is important to document their approaches to exploration for future generations of oil and gas explorers.”
Go for Broke
Of the six participants in San Antonio, Beaumont says each is a veteran of the petroleum industry renowned for successes in exploring for and finding hydrocarbon reserves.
One recipient, Alfredo Guzman, who has been with Pemex Exploración y Producción in Mexico since 1974, remembers his start in the profession as being less than auspicious.
“It was a Wilcox gas sand in northeast Mexico that was supposed to be present in an extension well, but after drilling, it didn´t show up,” Guzman recalled. “My boss and other managers involved claimed that the sand had pinched-out, but my team and I interpreted that its absence was due to normal faulting.
“We proposed a side track to find the sand in the footwall block,” he said. “Our view prevailed, for which my boss exclaimed that we were going to be thrown in the slammer for throwing away company money.
“When the sand showed up in the sidetrack logs, we sent him a copy with the comment, ‘We are safe from going to Alcatraz.’
“I learned that managers were not always right,” he said, “and that if I was going to succeed I had to take risks.”
Beaumont believes it is that kind of thinking that makes a special geologist. To confirm it, he sent out surveys to some of the industry’s best-known figures and asked that very question.
The top answers on the characteristics needed to succeed in the profession were creativity, resourcefulness and confidence – but to Beaumont, the most important is “persistence.”
Looking ahead, both Beaumont and Sternbach agree it will take those same skills for the industry and profession to flourish in the 21st century.
“I have been impressed with the young professionals who I have met who are just now entering the profession,” Beaumont said. “They are anxious to learn how to find oil and gas, and most of them realize that the latest technology is just part of the equation.
“Many of them intuitively seem to realize that finding oil and gas involves the skillful application of imagination grounded in solid data,” he continued.
“They have strong computer skills, which are useful for manipulating the large data sets they must deal with, but many of them realize there is more to exploration than being good with a computer.”
For Guzman, he says he learned about the intangibles of exploration years ago at a seminar – presented, in fact, by Beaumont – in which he learned the link between art and science.
“He exposed me to the ideas about creativity and the exploration philosophy of some eminent explorationists such as Wallace Pratt, Parke Dickey and Norm Foster,” he recalled. “When I was inducted as a member of the Mexican Academy of Engineering, I used creativity as the theme for my acceptance conference.”
Beaumont realizes that the challenges ahead for geologists, while daunting, are also familiar.
“Right now we are in a transition,” he said. “For the last 20 years, our industry has gotten a lot out of old oil and gas fields by drilling infill wells and step-out wells. The new leaders need to learn how to explore again. The speakers in the Discovery Thinking forum can help them start that process.
“I would say that human nature never changes. We all want simple answers,” Beaumont observed. “Many company leaders would like to think if they just bought the best technology they would be successful in their exploration efforts. Creativity is not a simple process.”
“We have to learn to apply creativity to be effective explorationists,” Guzman adds, “and the better thing is to do it while having fun and making a difference.”
Sternbach believes the keys for both a successful career in the geosciences are the same as they are for any profession.
“Persistence and hard work,” he said, and then he backed his view with a familiar tale.
“One of my favorite stories is of a friend of mine who drilled 14 dry holes over 30 years of wildcat exploration while living overseas,” he said. “By all accounts he should have gone into another business. But he loved what he was doing so much that he didn’t know what else to do.
“Of course, wildcat number 15 came in as a giant discovery!”