A scientific meeting set in a beautiful and culturally rich location established a number of "firsts" for AAPG and proved to be a "great success" in an unexpected way — the strength of its technical program.
A larger-than-expected number of nearly 1,800 people — including more than 800 onsite registrants — attended the recent AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Cancun, Mexico, hosted by the Mexican Association of Petroleum Geologists (AMGP), and officials were all smiles when it came to describing the event.
"The Cancun conference was a great success," said Nahum Schneidermann, the meeting’s technical co-chair with Javier J. Meneses. "It truly exceeded by a lot my expectations of the number of participants."
His thoughts were echoed by conference chairman Alfredo Guzman, who also noted the location’s appeal in terms of Mexico’s current move toward opening areas to outside exploration.
"Luis Ramirez Corzo, the meeting’s honorary chair and CEO of Pemex E&P, was not able to make the conference in part because he was in the process of being named general director (chairman) of all of Petroleos Mexicanos, the parent company of Pemex," Guzman observed. "This sends the signal to the international community that Mexico is going to try to continue with its opening process."
It all added up to consistently large crowds at the Cancun Convention Center throughout the entire conference, which in turn added to the event’s excitement factor.
Technical co-chair Javier Meneses called it "one of the most interesting international conferences" AAPG has ever offered.
"(It’s) because of the amount of people attending the meeting, the diversity of countries represented, the diversity of the papers presented and the quality of the technical program.
"It was completely above the expectations of everyone," he said.
"I was concerned briefly by the possible reduction of people in the sessions due to the beautiful beaches," Schneidermann observed, "but due to the very strong and timely technical program and exhibits we had standing room only in many sessions.
"The technical program was focused, yet it did provide specialists with specific sessions of interest," he added. "The focus on the various aspects of deep water exploration, development and production was very timely, and of major interest to the industry.
"In addition, the hope for some kind of possible opening of new opportunities in Mexico enhanced the active participation of majors, as seen in the Management Forum participation (see related story, page 32)."
Not only was the exhibits hall area completely sold out, the exhibits spilled over into a second area adjacent to the poster sessions, making for extremely heavy traffic and participation for all elements of the meeting.
"The compact structure (of the Cancun Convention Center) allowed rapid movement of participants between various activities," Schneidermann said. "I felt that the participants were energized, interested and actively participating."
The conference started with an opening session that featured remarks from several dignitaries, awards for 14 awardees of the Mexican Association of Petroleum Geologists (the meeting’s host society) and a brief presentation by AAPG President Patrick J.F. Gratton on the importance of the international world in AAPG activities.
The meeting also marked:
- The first time an AAPG conference was held in Mexico.
- The first time there was a special exhibitor-sponsored luncheon served in the exhibits hall (a big success).
- The first time specific "wireless hotspots" were established, allowing all participants free access to the Internet.
- The first time the International Pavilion Theatre was held at an international conference.
- The first time there were two ticketed luncheon events geared around special speakers at one meeting — including one that featured a cultural topic. Pilar Luna Erreguerena, head of the Underwater Archaeology Area at the Natinal Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico spoke (and showed a brief film) about her work dealing with Mexico’s underwater treasures. Her talk "was very well integrated into the conference," Schneidermann said.
- The first time the AAPG Executive Committee officially met during an international conference.
- The first time there was an official House of Delegates breakfast at an international conference.
- The first time, obviously, for AAPG and the Mexican Association of Petroleum Geologists to work together on an international conference — but the first time was significant.
"AMGP actually cancelled its own conference in 2003 to put all of their efforts toward this one," noted Dana Patterson Free, AAPG’s international conference manager. "Their collaboration was crucial to the success of this meeting, and they worked extraordinarily hard to make this a real team approach."
AMGP held its own ceremony during the meeting to announce its association’s election results, install new officers and recognize both AMGP and AAPG personnel who helped in planning and preparing for the conference.
Patterson Free also praised the "huge support, both financially and in other ways" of Pemex throughout the entire meeting as one more element that ensured success.
The 2005 international conference will be held Sept. 11-14 in Paris, France. A call for abstracts was included in the September EXPLORER and is available online at www.aapg.org.
The Paris abstract deadline is Jan. 12.