There are several obvious reasons oil and gas professionals are interested in AAPG’s 2018 Annual Convention and Exhibition in Salt Lake City this year, and at least one more subtle objective.
Michael Vanden Berg is energy and minerals program manager and senior geologist for the Utah Geological Survey in Salt Lake City.
As general chair for this year’s ACE, he quickly listed a number of meeting highlights:
- Field trips to view some of the most compelling geology anywhere, including guided trips to Utah’s national parks.
- What he called an “unprecedented” session on the presalt, with never-before-disclosed information.
- A massive core display with an extensive amount of continuous core.
- Background on the Permian Basin, arguably the hottest play in the United States, and an All-Convention Luncheon featuring the CEO of Diamondback Energy, a leading player in the basin.
- A Wednesday luncheon speaker discussing the effects of unconscious bias in the workplace.
- Plus the Utahraptor and the world’s fastest wheel-driven car.
Throw in a Super Basins Forum, a two-part session on finding success in “The Business of Oil and Gas” (see page 6 story), a special executive forum on innovation and 600 poster presentations, and you get an idea why geoscientists will show up.
But some ACE attendees will be in Salt Lake City to research topics not listed in any of the convention guides: What the heck is going on in the oil and gas industry right now? How is the industry reshaping and repositioning itself for the years ahead?
Vanden Berg hopes the meeting will draw just that kind of attention, with an aim to provide resources for the energy geoscientist of the future.
“There are a lot of ways this ACE is addressing changes in the industry that are coming and those that are happening now,” he said.
This, the first Annual Convention of AAPG’s second century, is officially designated “ACE 101: Bridging Fundamentals and Innovation.”
Vanden Berg explained that the May 20-23 meeting will “provide an opportunity to return to the rocks and to remember the importance of fundamental geologic concepts, but also to look to the future, to harness and embrace new technology and innovation.”
That includes a Machine Learning “Unsession”: a new concept for AAPG in an interactive format without formal presentations. The idea is to get geoscientists up to speed on today’s computing environment, Vanden Berg explained.
“It’s basically a forum-based opportunity as a way to learn about Big Data, machine learning and that kind of thing,” he said.
Addressing changes in the social environment, the “Unconscious Bias” luncheon will feature Carlee Beth Hawkins, a researcher and director of training with Harvard University’s Project Implicit and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois-Springfield (see related story on page 12).
“That’s something we wanted to highlight because it’s different – nothing like this has been given at ACE before. We think it’s timely,” Vanden Berg said.
AAPG’s Division of Professional Affairs will tackle tomorrow’s challenges in the DPA Special Forum: The Future Energy Geoscientist, with industry leaders discussing opportunities, career paths and essential skills in a program geared to young professionals and students.
Scenery and Science
This year’s ACE provides a unique opportunity to keep an ear to the ground and an eye on the scenery – anyone traveling to Salt Lake City can take advantage of that local specialty, according to Vanden Berg.
“Utah is known for its rocks. Obviously, it’s a beautiful state,” he said.
In addition to sightseeing opportunities, the meeting offers 13 field trips to observe and learn from the state’s geology, including guided tours of several national parks.
“The cool thing about those trips – like the Bryce Canyon and Zion (national parks) trip – the two guys who are leading that trip are the guys who mapped that whole area,” Vanden Berg noted.
He said the availability of knowledgeable local geologists as guides and expert instructors is “a huge privilege,” especially because Utah has world-class and world-renowned outcrop analogues.
The state contains the “same types of deposits that are being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico now. Everybody studying the Gulf of Mexico comes to Utah,” he said.
Vanden Berg expects the meeting’s extensive core display to be a geoscience focal point. It’s being promoted as “Core Like Never Before!”
“We’ve arranged for several cores from all over the United States and one international. We’re displaying whole sections of core from hundreds of feet to over a thousand feet,” including 1,600 feet of continuous core from the Green River Formation, he said.
“To complement that, we have a core from the presalt, from the Kwanza Basin offshore Angola,” he added.
In addition to those lacustrine cores, other examples include core from the Elko formation in Nevada and a lacustrine microbialite slab display.
“Lacustrine systems is one of our big themes because the meeting is here in Salt Lake City,” Vanden Berg said.
Other core displays will come from emerging plays in the Williston basin, as well as the Mancos/Niobrara in Colorado, the STACK play in Oklahoma and the Mancos shale in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico.
The 2018 ACE technical program will explore 11 different themes and Vanden Berg thinks information on the presalt and salt-involved systems will have a huge impact.
“We were able to get Petrobras and some other companies working the presalt to release data and have some of their geologists talk. From what they tell me, this is the first time anyone has discussed these discoveries publicly,” he said.
Scheduled speakers at the meeting include Travis Stice, CEO and director of Diamondback Energy, at the All-Convention Luncheon, and William Armstrong, president of Armstrong Oil & Gas, who will deliver the Michel T. Halbouty Lecture.
Diamondback is “at the forefront of the huge new opportunities and what’s going on now in the Permian Basin. They’ve been a leader in the resurgence of the basin,” Vanden Berg noted.
Armstrong will discuss the discovery of the Pikka field on the North Slope of Alaska. His company and partner Repsol made headlines last year when they announced the massive discovery in the Nanuschuk play.
In addition to its scenic beauty, the Salt Lake City area has many sites of historic interest. Just 65 miles to the north, in Promontory, Utah, the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S. was completed with the driving of the Golden Spike in May 1869.
And make no mistake, a number of geoscientists will be attending ACE this year just to find out what’s coming down the track.