Mapping Out an Innovative Future

In the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving on November 23. No matter where you are in the world, it is always good to give thanks. I am thankful to organizers of this year’s highly successful International Conference and Exhibition (ICE) in London, Eastern, Mid-Continent, and GCAGS fall conference organizers, section and region leadership, our affiliated societies, AAPG’s more than 30 committees, divisions, SIGs, TIGs, HOD, publications, Executive Committee, Advisory Committee and headquarters staff. I am thankful to all the volunteers and members of AAPG, other professional societies, and our industry. And I am personally thankful for a profession that allows each of us to work in teams to solve challenging problems while we create energy abundance, prosperity and a better way of life for the world.

The Universal Language of Geoscientists

I have found that some of the best early play concept maps and cross sections are drawn on cocktail napkins. That’s because maps are the universal language of geoscientists. Maps can be powerful predictors of prosperity. Maps commemorate creative moments.

I spoke about this at the ICE London Opening Ceremony (video to be posted soon).

In July, we published the global super basins map. This shows the top 25 global super basins. These are the world’s richest petroleum provinces with multiple source rocks, many pays and plays, and key infrastructure.

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In the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving on November 23. No matter where you are in the world, it is always good to give thanks. I am thankful to organizers of this year’s highly successful International Conference and Exhibition (ICE) in London, Eastern, Mid-Continent, and GCAGS fall conference organizers, section and region leadership, our affiliated societies, AAPG’s more than 30 committees, divisions, SIGs, TIGs, HOD, publications, Executive Committee, Advisory Committee and headquarters staff. I am thankful to all the volunteers and members of AAPG, other professional societies, and our industry. And I am personally thankful for a profession that allows each of us to work in teams to solve challenging problems while we create energy abundance, prosperity and a better way of life for the world.

The Universal Language of Geoscientists

I have found that some of the best early play concept maps and cross sections are drawn on cocktail napkins. That’s because maps are the universal language of geoscientists. Maps can be powerful predictors of prosperity. Maps commemorate creative moments.

I spoke about this at the ICE London Opening Ceremony (video to be posted soon).

In July, we published the global super basins map. This shows the top 25 global super basins. These are the world’s richest petroleum provinces with multiple source rocks, many pays and plays, and key infrastructure.

Many more super basins exist, but just the top 25 were shown, referencing a study by IHS Markit. That is a powerful map. It is disruptive. It is a game changing treasure map. Selected basins and technology will be celebrated in our Super Basin Conference March 27-29 in Houston (note that the date has been revised).

Let’s look at another map that could have a big impact on AAPG’s future.

I have been asked by the news media whether the oil industry will find more oil in new places or in old places, and my reply is “Yes!” to both. Newly released AAPG Memoir 113 discusses giant petroleum fields found in the decade 2000-10 and Bob Merrill and I reviewed giant field patterns over the last 100 years — “The AAPG Century.”

A “giant field” is defined as 500 MMBOE. Note that there are about 1,000 giant fields shown by red gas symbols and green oil symbols. This is our past and present. The accompanying map shows sedimentary thickness increasing in yellow and orange areas (from NOAA), hints to where we may be going in the future. Deep, ultra deep and Artic conditions may pose daunting challenges. However, I believe there is room for many more giant fields and AAPG members will find them!

The bottom line: AAPG members will continue to find energy in both new and old places. Let’s continue to go where the energy is as we forge ahead into our second century.

Our Executive Committee continues to focus on the AAPG strategic goals: energy-relevant content, member engagement and financial stewardship. To quote leadership guru Jim Collins, who originated the “good to great” terminology, we can never focus “too much” on core goals.

Creative Thinking Never Goes Out of Style

What skills are needed to get the job done? No surprise here: geoscience and broad science, adaptability, persistence, communication, computer and business skills help. Creative thinking, critical thinking and discovery thinking are critical elements. The most valued skills cannot be rote memorized, but arise out of experiences working in integrated teams: “experiential learning” with real data sets (like the AAPG Imperial Barrel Award program) and building up a knowledge of analog fields and exploration strategies (like those presented at AAPG Discovery Thinking and Playmaker Forums). AAPG is listening to what is needed and we are exploring ways to provide maximum relevancy.

Our Future Workforce Trends Committee is expected to be a big help in that mission.

Many people believe that creativity can be trained. I remember the first prospect map I made when I worked for Shell as a new hire many years ago. I learned the process from a mentor. I combined stratigraphic tests and 2-D seismic. My hand-drawn contours defined a spot to drill. What a thrill to be the well site geologist as we flared gas — a bright light in early morning darkness. I can still feel the warmth of a roaring flare stack as a new field came to life that very cold winter day.

Three Questions for Innovators

Can we imagine it, can we image it, and can we get to it? Value innovation requires relentless reduction of costs with huge improvements in quality. Super basins, like the prototypical Permian Basin, are innovation proving grounds. Richly endowed petroleum systems need access, favorable regulations and infrastructure to thrive. Our industry is not standing still. Though we have learned much, we are still in our early days of resource plays and the decades ahead are quite promising. Next generation completion technologies are continuing to revitalize plays like the Haynesville and others. Continued value innovation is working its way through the exploration playlist.

Innovation is needed during price retrenchments. Some of the most impactful innovations in drilling, completion, logging, geophysical technologies and concept evolution happen when product prices are low or at a long-term sustainable level. This is a great time for innovation in both our industry and at AAPG.

AAPG has a high volume of energy relevant content and events in store for year to come:

  • We are allotting more content pages in the AAPG Bulletin, which will focus on super basins.
  • GEO 2018 will be March 5-8 Bahrain.
  • The Global Super Basin Leadership Conference in Houston is gaining momentum, and there will be more information in upcoming issues. Note the new date of March 27-29.
  • The AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition (ACE) will be May 20-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its theme will be “ACE 101: Bridging Fundamentals and Innovation.” Thanks to Michael Vandenberg and his team for what promises to be a great meeting. I am so passionate about this program that I am chairing three panels (with great co-chairs): Discovery Thinking (the 20th panel session!), an innovation panel and a forum on super basins.
  • The Unconventional Resources and Technology Conference (URTEC) will be July 23-25 in Houston.
  • The International Conference and Exhibition (ICE) will be Nov 4-7 in Cape Town, South Africa. It will be a strategic conference to build on an exciting series of exploration plays and super basins.
  • Other conferences include APPEX Global London in March (see page 4 for more information), GTW’s and Section and Region meetings around the globe.
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