The last meeting of one century turned out to be a time of optimism and anticipation for the next.
AAPG's international meeting and exhibition in Birmingham, England, held in September, attracted more people than expected, thanks to a larger-than-anticipated on-site turnout that left meeting officials surprised and happy.
Final figures showed a total registration of 1,728, making it the second largest international meeting in AAPG history, ranking only behind last year's 2,214 total in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Of the final Birmingham total, 413 were on-site registrations.
The meeting was presented as a partnership between AAPG and The Geological Society, a London-based group that is the world's oldest earth science society.
Also serving as co-hosts was the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain.
Final figures also showed that attendees came from 62 countries, with those from the United Kingdom comprising 53 percent of the total and those from the United States comprising 19 percent.
The country with the most number of registrants, not surprisingly, was England, with 678. Other large registration numbers came from the United States (297), Scotland (117) and Norway (57).
The meeting's theme -- "Oil and Gas in the 21st Century/Dawn of the Third Age" -- was evident throughout the meeting in both the oral and poster technical sessions as well as on the exhibition floor, which attracted 103 exhibitors. (The only larger number of exhibitors also came at Rio --106.)
One of the more popular sessions was Monday's day-long "Oil and Gas in the 21st Century," during which speakers from around the world -- and representing different facets of the industry -- offered historical-based expectations for the next era.
Meeting general chairman Richard Hardman, in his remarks to the opening session audience of about 1,000, pointed out the significance of meeting in Birmingham, which he called the "cradle of the industrial revolution and a living, breathing link to the birth of the science of geology.
"We are on the threshold of a new millennium," Hardman said, "and as we gather here today we face severe challenges of meeting the energy needs of the world -- and also dealing with the problems that a population of over six billion people leave.
"It's not easy for any of us," he continued. "And that is why we are here -- to prepare ourselves for a world of change. For a world of opportunity. For a world that demands our very best."
The opening session also featured an address from AAPG president M. Ray Thomasson, who spoke of the need for creative, integrated approaches in oil and gas exploration as we enter the next century and millennium.
Thomasson challenged the audience with a case study from the Greater Green River Basin in Wyoming. After introducing the play, Thomasson asked people to estimate the total gas in place -- and then, after presenting activity there and in other basins in the Rocky Mountains from different perspectives and disciplines, he surprised everyone by showing how the ultimate recovery far surpassed any estimates anticipated by the audience.
Geologists, he said, can succeed even where odds suggest otherwise, but they must remain optimistic and open to new possibilities.
Also addressing the opening session was Lord Sainsbury of Turville, England's Minister for Science, who during his talk praised a new computer-based licensing information effort.
Lord Sainsbury focused on the Regulation and Licensing Work group of the Task Force, which is comprised of about 200 professionals from industry and the government to improve oil industry productivity in a low-price, declining resource environment.
Formed last November, the Regulation and Licensing Work group is one of seven focus groups working to encourage technological approaches to develop UK reserves.
"Perhaps the group's biggest success will be seen in the establishment of the License for Information for Trading project(LIFT)," he said. LIFT "aims to put in place a virtual market trading mechanism, whereby companies wishing to buy or sell license assets on the U.K. Continental Shelf can gain easy and quick access to all the information needed for them to make their investment decisions."
An Internet site has been established for company access, Lord Sainsbury added.
"We believe that the use of such a technology-phased system will facilitate the rationalization of company license portfolios," he said, "and thus enhance exploration and development."
He said that an announcement is imminent on the 19th Offshore Licensing Round, and "is likely to include blocks in the North Sea and the recently designated area to the West of Shetland."
Also in the offing is a ninth Landward Round announcement, he added.
Speaking to the future on the U.S. Continental Shelf, he said, "it should be recognized that the southern North Sea is still demonstrating potential as a 'mature basin.' Successful new exploration plays continue to merge in the central North Sea, and the Atlantic Margin's large reserve potential has yet to be fully evaluated.
"The resolution of the U.S. Faroes boundary will open high prospective acreage in the former 'White Zone' to industry for the first time," he said.
Other Task Force initiatives cited by the speaker included a Task Force Group's focus on enhancing production from existing fields, which noted the advances in drilling and pipeline industries as well as seismic technology.
"While it may be trite to say that you can only develop what you have discovered," he said, "it is still true."
Environmental concerns were also voiced, with Lord Sainsbury saying that achieving environmental impact goals "should be flexible and appropriate, and promote innovation rather than relying on prescriptive standards or technologies.
He urged "the use of sound scientific analysis in assessing environmental impacts and risks," adding that "improvements should recognize that there is a balance between costs and benefits, and the processing of developing environmental regulations should be transparent and include stakeholders.
"The science base is the bedrock of the U.K.'s economic performance," he continued, "generating the skills, knowledge and technology that will maintain our competitive edge."
He noted that last year's budget "gave science the largest percentage increase of any area of public finance -- a public/private package of £1.4 billion over three years.
"The industry has always shown that it handles the technology side of things," he said in noting the government/industry Task Force's initiative, "and now seems to be getting grips with the cooperation issues."