One of the privileges of the DPA presidency is the writing of these columns. Many past DPA presidents have discussed why DPA was important to them. Now it is my turn and perhaps I have a different perspective to share:
DPA is not only the Division I chose to be active in, it is the primary reason I remain in our society.
I grew up in the oil business – both of my grandfathers were in the business, and my father and uncle are geologists today. We lived in western Kansas, where shallow oil drilling was steady and the oil businesses were largely family-owned, from small oil operators to service companies, workover rigs and drilling crews. Much of the business of oil extraction was done by handshake deals, and unethical behavior by anyone was soon known and not tolerated.
This was the business in which I grew up, run by men of integrity and toughness bonded by a search for an elusive commodity in a price environment unimaginably low to most young geologists today.
I fell in love with the oil business as it was then, not geology itself, which is why I emphasize Petroleum in AAPG.
Although I sometimes envy those who truly love the science of geology (as my father does), I love the game, not the science. Creating wealth and discovering what never has been found before, unlocking the correlation puzzle, the satisfaction of watching the oil and gas recovered in a DST, the sound of oil rushing into the stock tank and the smell of crude, the odor of money, gas whistling through the separator and cooling the flow line – these are the joys that keep me in the game. The oil game.
Today, these joys can still be found, but the industry has evolved in many ways – some good, some bad.
The small independent operators and the family-owned service firms are largely gone, most destroyed by the downturn of the 1980s coupled with poor federal policies and excessive regulation (often by bureaucrats with no regard for the environment and distain for the industry).
Technology has advanced in every phase of the business and, coupled with recent price increases, has allowed our industry to supply increasing amounts of energy to an ever-growing population worldwide. Hydrocarbons are now routinely extracted from reservoirs that were not considered economic – or even reservoirs – 20 years ago, and from locales, at pressures and at depths not dreamed of until this decade. All of this is exciting to anyone who loves the game.
However, the industry also is driven by the technology and by non-technical financiers, and only rarely by the risk takers of the past. Compliance issues, complex operating agreements and lease forms, environmental impact and archaeological studies, raptor nesting season and litigation often dictate operations, while risk scenarios, exit strategies, sustainability, repeatability, organic growth, etc., are the language and core values that drive much of industry management today.
Lost somewhere is the ethical core, entrepreneurship, environmental awareness and toughness that is our industry history.
So why DPA?
DPA provides a standard for ethical behavior with professionals who truly love the game and/or the science. For me it has been a chance to interact and learn from some truly great leaders and geologists, which is a huge plus for me as a professional.
DPA is unique, in that it does enforce ethical behavior, it does attempt to stand for the extraction science and it does truly represent petroleum geologists.
Today we attempt to serve our members’ needs, provide policymakers with petroleum science, provide positions on political issues affecting geologists worldwide, monitor and train on ethical issues, provide technical training in a variety of specialties and provide a worldwide standard for experience and professionalism.
In a very real sense, we are a bridge to a past of greatness and a bridge forward for the young professionals today.
As the AAPG attempts to attract more diverse membership, DPA will remain not only a standard for competency and professionalism, but a defender of the ethics and strengths of the past.