I do some regular work for a small oil company that has two very capable petroleum engineers. Last week, the younger of the two told me they were trying to guess if was I closer in age to him (early 50s) or to the senior engineer (late 60s), who is also the chief operation officer of the company. After the younger engineer left the room, I told the other, “Well, you can tell he’s not in his 30s or he would have already Googled me and had that answer.”
This speaks to two areas of interest: age distribution within the industry, and to the way each group deals with data.
First, consider the former within AAPG. As seen in the demographics chart, we have a bimodal age distribution in AAPG. Everybody knows that. The gap in the middle would be the students who graduated during the 1990s and a relatively slow period for the industry.
Now, picture the chart in ten years. The large group is now 60-plus and mostly retiring or otherwise moving out of the work force. What that means is the latter group, which is currently 26-35 years old, will become the largest age group when they are 36-45 years old.
And, with regard to dealing with data – the former group, for the most part, grew up (professionally speaking) with more limited and sporadic point well data in dealing with conventional prospecting. Online data was not available and geologic data libraries flourished. The use of detailed well data, hand-written scout cards, as well as old and obscure well logs were frequently the key to a prospect or a new play.
Today, the commercial online services have captured or acquired a lot of the well data, and today’s plays – even older, established plays – have in some cases almost an order of magnitude more well data available. At least in the North American market, that is.
So it appears that the old well data, some of which will never be captured electronically, is less important, or they may even be unaware of its existence.
The bottom line is that both realities are true. The older geologist needs to be using the abundance of well data now available, and many are. The younger geologist needs to be aware that not all the data is available yet on the computer, and there may be clues out there that could make, or break, a prospect.
And, all of that speaks to another pair of related considerations: AAPG’s need for students, and students’ need for AAPG. Even as they inherit and develop technological tools undreamt of by older geologists at their age, young and aspiring geologists still need the experience and knowledge we have to offer. And, we need them to replenish and revitalize our membership demographics.
I’ve mentioned it a bit in earlier columns, but one of the exciting parts of being president is meeting students and student chapter members from around the world. With all of the students I meet, be it in Thailand, Africa, Kentucky or Mexico, it has always been a great experience. I am thrilled to see students so motivated about geoscience and have tried to be encouraging, even in the current industry condition.
AAPG has about 300 student chapters, which arrange get-togethers and activities at their local level.
When I was in school, professors mentioned the AAPG Bulletin as a great source of geologic information, and AAPG as the premier petroleum association for geologists. Two years later, I graduated and joined AAPG to get the benefits of membership, including the Bulletin. The reality of the present day is that most student members drop their membership, at least for a while. But, hopefully they still recognize the Association as the premier geoscientific organization and come back at some point in their career.
Imperial Barrel Award
The Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) is a vital program for raising awareness about AAPG among students and recruiting younger Members. IBA is a competition for students to work with real-world geological and geophysical data to identify and present a prospect to management, in this case management being the IBA judges. The IBA is regarded as a unique program that gives students an experience almost equivalent to an internship at a company. Teams must demonstrate rigorous and technical evaluations, work to a deadline, work within a team, make decisions based on incomplete or inadequate data, and give presentations to a panel of senior industry experts.
IBA 2017 is under way, with teams of four or five students from each school advancing to the Section or Region semi-final competition. This year, 160 teams have entered and are in the process of receiving datasets consisting of real-world well data and 3-D seismic volumes. Each school obtains the necessary workstation software and each student learns to use the software in preparation of receiving the dataset. The dataset may have some key well data omitted in order to gauge the results of the student prospectors against real-world results, and the teams have eight weeks to work the dataset.
The Sections and Regions will hold semi-finals. In past years the competitions were in person, but this year, owing to recent budget and sponsorship constraints, it will be held as a virtual competition via Webex. Each Region or Section may have at least three judges and there are on average about 11 teams in each Section/Region. Each Section/Region will advance one team to the finals, to be held Saturday, April 1, in Houston before the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition.
The finals are open to everyone, and I encourage you to stop in and see what the IBA is all about.