When the initial Discovery Thinking forum debuted in San Antonio at the 2008 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, it garnered high marks from attendees.
Still, who could have known that this initial forum would be the harbinger of such an amazingly successful and long-running program?
The upcoming AAPG ACE in Denver will be the setting for forums number 12 and 13. The morning session will focus on field discoveries in global settings, followed by an afternoon gathering dedicated to major and significant discoveries in North America.
"This will be a day of discovery," said AAPG Honorary member Charles Sternbach, who helped conceive, organize and frequently operate (as a co-chair) the Discovery Thinking initiative as part of AAPG's 100th anniversary celebration.
Typically planned as a half-day event, this is the third time for a doubleheader.
Daylong sessions were held in Houston in 2014 and Denver 2009, according to Sternbach, who has been a major force in planning each forum.
For the 2015 event in Denver, he will be joined by co-chairs Paul Weimer (AAPG past president) and AAPG Honorary member Ed Dolly.
"Discovery Thinking originally started as an anniversary initiative recognizing 'one hundred who have made a difference,'" Sternbach said. "As the forums progressed, we included the personal issues and expanded the time slots to let people bring in a lot of technical information."
He attributes the success of DT in large part to filling the gap in exploration experience - in other words, how the technical and professional skills combine to turn prospects into discoveries.
For the most part, the uniqueness of DT forums stems from the fact that all of the talks are focused on heavyweight, notable discoveries.
"Some are actual game changers for their regions," Sternbach said.
He noted, for example, the Levant Basin, eastern Canada and the Utica Play extension on the roster for the upcoming Denver ACE.
"The Utica was a major step-out," he noted. "Shell announced two wells in the fall that basically proved the concept.
"They were drilling 100 miles to the northeast of the nearest horizontal Utica producer," he said. "So, going into Tioga County (Pennsylvania) for Shell was a major play extender."
The planned talk on Big Bend Gulf of Mexico exploration success also is certain to be a unique story.
"It's in the class of discovery talks that show how integrated G&G technology is changing the game," Sternbach explained. "(The project) is a game changer of the latest integrated technology."
Critical thinking fed and nourished by specific knowledge is basic to the art/science of discoveries. Innumerable factors play a role.
"Many successes build on acquiring strategic knowledge that later provides key insights for discovery, such as petroleum systems, reservoirs, seals and biostratigraphy," Sternbach said.
"Many discoveries happen by critical efforts at key pivot points," he emphasized. "For example, when corporate decisions are made whether to continue or not in an exploration project.
"Receptive management and a culture of support for exploration can be crucial in the chain of events along the path to success," he added.
Regarding the array of discoveries presented in the DT talks, Sternbach noted that the best teams are often those in which you can't tell who is the geologist, geophysicist or engineer.
He has a meaningful take on the potential impact of these forums for all explorers: "Standing on the shoulders of giants helps us all see farther."
DT Forums to Come
If you haven't yet attended a DT event or simply missed out on a few, don't despair.
First, the presentation archives can be accessed on Search and Discovery, allowing you to not just view what you missed, but to do so at your leisure.
The total number of viewers of these archives thus far has reached 30,000, with 10,000 of these in the past year.
Second, future events are beginning to take shape.
A DT forum on southeast Asia discoveries is on track for the September 2015 ICE in Melbourne, while talks already are being sought for the June 2016 AAPG ACE in Calgary.
"We're going all the way through to AAPG's 100th anniversary in 2017 in Houston," Sternbach said.
"Then we'll see what happens after that."