“We don’t have to fly to the moon and look back at Earth to see we all live on one planet.”
Thatís AAPG member Susan Morrice, director and chairperson of Belize Natural Energy, and she thinks she has discovered the final frontier for geologists.
And itís not on the moon, or farther out in space, or under the tar sands of western Canada ñ itís much closer.
“The technology behind all technologies is our mind,” she says, and then quoting the legendary Wallace Pratt, adds, “Oil is found in the minds of men.”
That, she says, is the technology behind all the technologies.
“In the minds of women, too,” Morrice quickly adds, but her point ñ her question, really ñ is, how do geologists explore their own limitations, their own possibilities?
“Itís that key component of education that has not been fully understood or utilized to enable mankind to evolve fully.”
Indeed, she says, this dynamic is the final lock on the door. How we mine that potential, how we share the combination once we do is the key not only to a successful discovery, but, as she puts it, “holistically in all areas of our lives.”
Getting Beyond the Box
Susan Morrice, a 35-year veteran of the profession who is credited with being a key contributor toward giving AAPG its international presence – and for which she received an AAPG Distinguished Service Award in 1997 – has been thinking about such a dynamic for at least that long.
Born in Ulster, Ireland, Morrice says, “In a way, everything outside Ireland was international.” After studying at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, she came to the United States in 1978.
“I joined AAPG very early on in my career.”
And her career as a geologist, too, took an early-in-her-career international direction.
“Spending time working a living in the USA,” she says, “I began to see what the American Dream was – and that anything was possible.”
There was more outside the box than in, she thought – much more.
Morrice today would say there is no box.
“There were so many opportunities all over the world, and yet there were unemployed geologists in the USA,” she recalled. “I wondered how to get them all together for the good of all.”
She quickly began to see those opportunities first hand as well, because very early in her career she already was exploring onshore Ireland; on- and offshore Belize; offshore Spain; onshore U.K.; onshore Turkey; and many areas throughout the United States.
It was around this time that she met Robbie Gries, then the president of AAPG (the two, along with Susan Landon and Jeannie Harris, ultimately would comprise, if you will, the unofficial “First Ladies” of the profession) who asked Morrice if she would head up the international section of the 1994 AAPG annual convention, which was coming to Denver that year.
“When I asked Gries what that would entail, Robbie said, ‘There had never been one.’”
It was Morrice’s responsibility to come up with a job description.
“I told Roger Slatt, who was the co-chair, of my idea to have an ‘International Pavilion,’ where all the countries of the world could exhibit their oil and gas potential and show off their country’s positive attributes all around.”
It’s the sort of challenge Morrice relishes.
Growing the IP
Morrice, along with colleague Debbie Sycamore and her team, then gathered about 100 volunteers throughout Denver (her home), most of whom also were members of AAPG.
“We had the greatest fun sending out invitations all over the world, inviting them to come to the AAPG convention,” Morrice said. “I remember 52 countries came that first year, and many had to be housed at the homes of local AAPG members because their countries did not have the funds to send their people.
“I remember,” she continued, “when we sent out the invitations, representatives of one country wrote back: ‘We haven't got any oil, but if you think we have, could you tell us?’”
Morrice says, in retrospect, what turned out to be one of her finest memories of that first International Pavilion was the most obvious – the personal touch.
“That,” she said, “has also been a key part of my life's learning.”
One also could say it has done the same for AAPG.
“The International Pavilion has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the AAPG and been replicated by many organizations,” she said. “In fact, billions of barrels have been discovered by taking action on that one simple idea I had.”
The Human Touch
This attitude, of course, is evident throughout all of the businesses that Morrice in involved with; the common thread is to find the potential in the people, harness that and draw it out – and then you are operating with a very different mindset and a different set of rules.
“You have now created a working energy model that everyone is passionate about,” she said.
Morrice has this passion, with is evident when you speak with her. The excitement and enthusiasm is contagious, but in Morrice’s own words:
“I would naively say to people, if you have an idea ‘Just do it,’” she said, “but what I didn’t realize was that people don’t know how to harness their potential to be creative all the time. I was very fortunate to discover this when I attended a course (in 2000) on how to align my mind to achieve the best results.
“Our minds operate cybernetically, and we as scientists and geologists are aware of this,” she said. “In geology and exploration, a series of steps must be aligned before Mother Nature reveals her treasure.
“That is precisely what we did,” she continued. “The six originating directors all attended the same course (EDUCO) because 50 dry holes already were drilled in Belize, by all the giant names in oil, so we couldn’t have that in our mind.”
Also, those 50 dry holes meant they could not raise investment money.
“We couldn’t let that stop us,” she said. “We gathered our original investment of $1.5 million – only enough to drill one and a half wells – from people who had never invested in the oil business before but who shared our vision to make a difference in Belize.”
The result: “We struck the finest light sweet crude oil on the first well (June 24, 2005), and on the second, and third, fourth, fifth and sixth.”
Belize Natural Energy (BNE) today operates 11 oil fields in the Spanish Lookout field and five in the Never Delay field.
“All the wells are named Mike Usher No. 1, Mike Usher No. 2, and so on, because Mike Usher, an originating director, died on his birthday (June 24, 2004), exactly one year before the discovery.”
Morrice’s company (BNE) is Belize’s first oil company. It employs 96 percent of its staff from the Belizean community (240 workers), and has set up a trust of more than £2 million to provide education.