Hans Krause: History and Hydrocarbons

Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award

Hans Krause, this year’s AAPG Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award recipient, has been in the profession for more than 55 years and, when you spend that much time at something, in something, you learn a lot about yourself along the way.

And here’s one of them.

“I’m not very keen on self-advertising,” said the man who studied agronomy in his first year in college and thought of working on a “coffee plantation or a cattle ranch somewhere in the country.”

Lucky for geology (and for the EXPLORER in particular), he also signed up for a physical geology course at Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad.

He was, he said, “hooked.”

“I’ve been very lucky in my career,” he said, “but much of that luck has been thanks to the generous and unstinting support of friends and colleagues.”

Good answer to a stock question, but when pressed about the particulars, he said, “It’s fairly simple: surround yourself with smart people, challenge them intellectually, treat them fairly, reward them generously.”

You just know there’s something else coming.

There is.

“And make sure,” he added, “they don’t forget that you’re the boss!”

Image Caption

Krause at the town of Castrojeríz. The castle on the hill was built by Romans to guard the route to gold mines in western Spain; it was destroyed by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The Church of Santa María del Manzano stands to the right.

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Hans Krause, this year’s AAPG Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award recipient, has been in the profession for more than 55 years and, when you spend that much time at something, in something, you learn a lot about yourself along the way.

And here’s one of them.

“I’m not very keen on self-advertising,” said the man who studied agronomy in his first year in college and thought of working on a “coffee plantation or a cattle ranch somewhere in the country.”

Lucky for geology (and for the EXPLORER in particular), he also signed up for a physical geology course at Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad.

He was, he said, “hooked.”

“I’ve been very lucky in my career,” he said, “but much of that luck has been thanks to the generous and unstinting support of friends and colleagues.”

Good answer to a stock question, but when pressed about the particulars, he said, “It’s fairly simple: surround yourself with smart people, challenge them intellectually, treat them fairly, reward them generously.”

You just know there’s something else coming.

There is.

“And make sure,” he added, “they don’t forget that you’re the boss!”

Front Seat View to History

So how did it all start for him?

It was the orchids.

“It was G.C.K. Dunsterville, at that time vice-president of Shell Venezuela and an accomplished orchidologist, who recruited me into the oil industry at the age of 17 – and thanks to whom I obtained a Shell scholarship to attend university,” he related.

And Shell and PDVSA, generally, and Venezuela, specifically, is where Krause has spent his career, working in the company’s fields in the country, as exploration manager of Compañía Shell de Venezuela, which later became Maraven. Additionally, he’s had key roles in the E&P segment of Venezuela’s oil industry, its technology center (PDVSA’s research affiliate Intevep) and ultimately oversaw and supervised a staff of nearly 400 and production of just under a million barrels of oil per day.

It was an inauspicious beginning, though.

“I began working in the oilfields in Venezuela in 1963, after completing my master’s studies in geology at the University of Kansas. The day after arriving at Shell’s office in Lagunillas, on the eastern shore of Lake Maracaibo, I was put in charge of a land drilling rig. I tried to explain to my Scottish boss that I knew nothing about drilling, that I had never even seen a drill bit. His reply was, “Well, then you better learn quickly, laddy!”

Fast-forward 28 years and a journey from lowly engineer in charge of a small land rig to E&P manager at the head office.

“I remember in 1996, taking a group of 18 senior international oil executives and Tulsa AAPG friends on a plane trip from Caracas to western Venezuela. They saw Maraven’s heavy oil steam-soak recovery activities near Lagunillas and later the company’s production operations in Lake Maracaibo. I was especially pleased when, after chugging along in a boat for about an hour past oil wells, drilling rigs, production platforms and gas injection facilities, one of the visitors commented to me that he hadn’t seen the sheen of a single drop of oil in the water. Yes, Maraven’s people on the ground took great pride in being environmentally-responsible operators!”

He retired from Maraven at the end of November of 1997, upon reaching the Venezuelan mandatory retirement age of 60 years.

But it was a brief hiatus.

He returned in 1998 to Shell as a vice president and director of their companies in Venezuela, and stayed there for the next three years during the private oil industry expansion phase that followed Venezuela’s Apertura.

Since then, he has remained active as an independent consultant, working in Colombia, as well as Venezuela, a place he’s called home and about which, in spite of the present economic landscape, he’s still optimistic, even though, as he points out, its capital city, Caracas, still lacks a convention center.

(In 1993, AAPG along with the Venezuelan Geological Society, SVG, held an international meeting in Caracas. Krause calls this meeting a “game changer for AAPG” specifically beyond AAPG’s “safe” world. AAPG followed this success by holding an ICE there in 1996.)

“Venezuela is indeed going through a severe crisis, one that has affected most Venezuelans in very negative ways. But bad weather never lasts forever – and this storm will be no exception,” he said.

As for AAPG – Krause, obviously, has seen the changes within the Association, but he has seen the consistency, as well.

“One thing AAPG has enjoyed throughout the years is exceptionally high-quality volunteer leadership. I find very impressive the effort and the dedication of those on AAPG’s Executive Committee, on our committees, and also of the staff that work for the association,” said Krause.

It has been a symbiotic relationship.

“Joining AAPG 50 years ago was one of my smartest professional moves,” he said. “It provided me with a front seat in the theater of changing petroleum geology technology and rewarded me with many excellent friendships.”

Advance of Knowledge

When talking to a man like Krause, it’s often best to sit back and listen, especially when you ask him to review the state of geology – the state of knowledge, really – over the past 100 years.

“Your question,’” he repeated, ‘What have been, say, the 10 most important moments in the geology in the past 100 years?’ could be the basis for a whole article devoted to it.”

It is, he believes, the mother lode, the whole shebang.

“Knowledge of the Earth as a whole has advanced enormously in the last 100 years because of mankind’s quest for oil and gas. In their search petroleum geologists have not been shy in utilizing a broad range of physical, chemical and biological scientific tools. These tools have not only found the desired hydrocarbons but they’ve expended our knowledge of the internal structure of the Earth and its development over the course of millions of years. Since future new oil and gas discoveries will likely require even better tools, this accumulation of knowledge will continue – and I’m sure that some of it will be applied elsewhere in the quest for resources beyond our planetary home,” Krause answered.

Good Yarns from Geologists

Closer to home, he talks of the reasons he began the EXPLORER’s Historical Highlights series, which premiered in 2011.

“I figured that in addition to the high-quality scientific papers in AAPG’s Bulletin there was room for a “petroleum geology-light” series devoted to the good yarns that geologists love to tell each other and to unsuspecting non-geologists,” he said.

At last count, he estimates, there have been more “than 85 great stories generously-contributed by many authors from around the world on a broad range of petroleum topics.”

Some of those stories belong to people he admires and loves, people who have accompanied him on this geologic journey.

“I owe thanks to many people … and am privileged to join the 11 past Halbouty Award recipients, each of whom has made significant contributions to the geosciences and to AAPG,” he said.

He mentions his wife, Judi, of 53 years – and their four children, as well as his brother Federico Krause (who is also a geologist, and it’s plain that the two have a special connection). Here, too, he remembers the smart, the creative and diligent people with whom he’s worked, especially, he said, “My colleagues in the Venezuelan oil industry.”

“Be mindful,” he said, when asked about one’s place in the pursuit of geology and knowledge, “of your working, social and political environment and make sure it perceives value in you remaining there. And do not tolerate dishonesty … it’s a minefield.”

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