Always Pay Attention to the Really Big Things

Since this column is on science, I tried to find a wise saying or amusing anecdote to grab your attention. The problem is, scientists have a lot of anecdotes but very few are amusing. Searching Google, I found that chemists think they are especially funny with sayings like, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the precipitate.” Mm …

If you remember from my last column, this is a three-part series on my thoughts on science, membership and budget. I talked about budget last time … we are still working on it, so let’s talk science.

Excelling at Science Dissemination

The reason most professionals join AAPG is for access to science. That’s not just my opinion – it’s what members tell us. AAPG is very good about disseminating the work of our members and other professionals around the world. That’s our mission.

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Since this column is on science, I tried to find a wise saying or amusing anecdote to grab your attention. The problem is, scientists have a lot of anecdotes but very few are amusing. Searching Google, I found that chemists think they are especially funny with sayings like, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the precipitate.” Mm …

If you remember from my last column, this is a three-part series on my thoughts on science, membership and budget. I talked about budget last time … we are still working on it, so let’s talk science.

Excelling at Science Dissemination

The reason most professionals join AAPG is for access to science. That’s not just my opinion – it’s what members tell us. AAPG is very good about disseminating the work of our members and other professionals around the world. That’s our mission.

How many ways do we disseminate science? Let me count the ways.

Of course, the main method is the Bulletin, second is through our many conferences and forums, and third are special publications. In addition, there is the EXPLORER, Search and Discovery, and our many training programs. One of the greatest conduits of science is now through the new virtual conferences, because participants can access almost all of the talks during the meeting, or up to 90 days later. As a reminder, you can still register and access all of the 2020 Unconventional Resources Technology Conference talks online. Also, don’t forget to sign-up for the 2020 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition coming Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. It’s going to be a great virtual experience.

Regarding the Bulletin and other science avenues, we have a great editor in Bob Merrill. Bob is taking a holistic approach and has taken the responsibility of oversight of AAPG’s scientific output. His vision is “AAPG should be focused not only on the science presented in the Bulletin, but what the membership needs to advance them professionally. In other words, what technologies will propel them into the future?” As a result, we are seeing significant improvement in the Bulletin, EXPLORER and other content. Bob is essentially AAPG’s science officer.

Pay Attention to ‘Pivot’ Moments

Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” He said this on the year of my birth. I don’t remember it and have no claim to genius, but Dr. Einstein reminds us that passion and curiosity for discovery is attainable by anyone.

I’ve had a passion for science even when I was a kid up through college. I believe one secret to my success is to always – always – pay attention to the really big things! During my career, it seemed that approximately every five years there was a major scientific discovery or technological invention – something that significantly changed our view of the Earth processes or allowed us to use technology for applications we had not imagined. Examples are plate tectonics, sequence stratigraphy, horizontal drilling with staged frac’ing, shale petrophysics, geo-analytics, among others. These are major pivot points in our science and profession.

I’ve found that it is important over my career to pay close attention to these events, embrace them and learn as much as possible. Now, keep in mind that these did not necessarily occur exactly at the time of my “A-ha!” moment of realization – many were developing for years. They just came into focus for me at a certain point in time.

I plan to mention one of these events that impacted my career as an “inset” in each of my next ten columns. See if you can figure out what those pivot points are in your own career. Right now I am looking forward to the next big discovery. We are going to have a debate in the EXPLORER on the next “big idea” and we plan to do a few live Zoom debates as well.

For example, one of the biggest scientific events of this next five years is the recent lift-off of the new Mars rover Perseverance. The Perseverance is expected to land on Feb 18, 2021. We are going to have a count down in the EXPLORER and follow this exploration that is expected to stash Martian rocks to send back to Earth with the next Mars mission in 2026. The exciting development for sedimentary geologists is that scientists now believe there were major oceans, lakes and rivers on Mars, based on the sedimentary features shown by the rovers, especially Curiosity. 

Thank you for your support of science at AAPG. Now is a great time to develop a paper for the Bulletin or presentation at a meeting. Please share your knowledge and experience with your colleagues.

Think Science!

Comments (9)

Pivot Points by Thomas C. Chidsey, Jr.
A pivot point was ultimately career changing—the 1975 discovery of Pineview field in the northern Utah thrust belt when I was in graduate school. Pineview came after years of exploring in the region and over 100 drilling failures. During the late 1970s, the thrust belt was at that time one of the hottest plays in the U.S. with several large discoveries. It seemed like every geologist wanted to explore the thrust belt, where you mapped the region's complex surface geology, tied it to the subsurface using well logs, and worked with geophysicists using what was then state-of-the-art seismic data to construct structural cross sections and define prospects. In late 1979, I received an offer to work the thrust belt and then after 10 years landed a job with the Utah Geological Survey studying various reservoirs, traps, source rocks, etc. of the play. Although the thrust belt is no longer in its glory days, that Pineview discovery led to a unique and major play, which has produced over 350 MMBO and 7 TCFG. Another pivot point, part of Rick’s 5th, was the development of the fracking techniques that finally unlocked gas in tight sands. In 1980, I was assigned wellsite duty on the Pinedale 1 well in southwest Wyoming. This well was designed to obtain cores and run tests on the Pinedale anticline, a huge structure with the potential of significant gas reserves in tight Cretaceous sandstones. Pinedale was first drilled in 1939 searching for oil but gas. For 50 years, companies attempted to produce the gas with limited success including the well that I sat. Finally, in the '90s, multistage hydraulic fracturing techniques were developed and successfully used in nearby Jonah field and then at Pinedale. These fields contain reserves of 50 TCFG. The pivotal technological advancements that really began at Jonah and Pinedale became the model for tight gas sand development around the world including Natural Buttes in the Uinta Basin, now Utah's largest gas field having produced 4 TCFG.
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9/16/2020 10:45:44 AM
Enhanced Seismic
I like your pivot points. Another pivot for the Industry (6.5) was enhanced seismic that allowed subsalt and pre-salt imaging. This was a game-changer for the offshore GoM. Beginning in the late 1990s with the Mahogany Discovery, imaging progressed to open up "hidden realms" globally in the Campos and Santos Super Basins of Brazil. Another Industry pivot is "bright spots" in the 1970s, which started a direct hydrocarbon indicator (DHI) effort that continues today. -- Charles Sternbach
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9/14/2020 10:36:23 AM
Recognizing our move beyond our planet
Camelia makes excellent observations about the importance of us recognizing our move beyond our planet. It might be interesting to note our moves to the Moon. The Moon will likely be occupied and mined for frozen water and other elements within 10 years. I think we are going to need a station on the Moon prior to Mars, as the resources on the Moon will likely facilitate a move to Mars and other planets/ asteroids. There is also a strong move to look at resources and extract resources from asteroids. All of the efforts we put forward are requiring drilling and extraction techniques, some of which we are employing on the Earth today. We have a program here at Colorado School of Mines in Space Resources, it is the only university in the world where you can gain a graduate degree in the topic of utilization of non-renewable resources in space. https://space.mines.edu/ Steve captured a lot of this so I didn't need to reiterate but when I talk about technological or thought revolutions I always start with the development of computing capabilities. It is the foundation that has enabled all of these through revolutions. Without it there would be no 3D seismic, no neural network-based data analysis, no wavelet or volume analysis, no geosteering, no 3D or 4D seismic. NO trips to the moon. -- Leslie Wood, Colorado School of Mines
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9/14/2020 10:35:13 AM
This is an outstanding column that I would like to share with our students when it's published.
Thank you for sharing it. Since your pivots start in the 1970's, I would like to add to the discussion the deep seismic reflection profiling. This was born out of the industry and the Consortium for Continental Reflection Profiling (COCORP) "pioneered the use of multichannel seismic reflection profiling for the systematic exploration of the continental lithosphere". I am including below a brief write-up from the Cornell website: "COCORP-type profiles routinely probe to the base of the crust and frequently deeper. COCORP has collected over eleven thousand kilometers of profiling at thirty sites in the United States. Among the best known of COCORP's US results are its demonstration of large-scale, low-angle thrust faulting in the Appalachians; confirmation of a thrust origin for Laramide basement uplifts; delineation of the variable character of the continental Moho, including new evidence for its post-orogenic re-equilibration, its multi-genetic origin (including phase changes) and possible role as a structural detachment; magma "bright spots" beneath Cenozoic rifts of the western US; crustal-scale detachment faults in the eastern Basin and Range; mapping of major buried Precambrian layered sequences in interior US; and definition of crustal shear zones marking major Proterozoic sutures of the buried craton. To give some perspective to your 11th Pivot, Mars expiration is definitely a great opportunity for the geoscientists to jump in. -- Camelia Knapp, Oklahoma State
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9/14/2020 10:33:42 AM
Some other items
Some other items we have lived through impacting explorationists: • Sequence stratigraphy: 1980s • Desk top computers: 1990s • Basin Center concepts: 1990s, leading to unconventionals & resource plays • Computer Mapping software: late 1990s • E mail communication: 1990s • George Mitchell and the long Barnett story • The floppy to the CD rom to the thumb drive to the cloud….. • Big data: late 2010s; data analytics • Virtual meetings 2020s -- Steve Sonnenberg, Colorado School of Mines
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9/14/2020 10:32:36 AM
Regarding your "Pivots"
Regarding your “Pivots” – I too have been through all of them. However, I think the most revolutionary pivot facing us is the Machine Learning/AI. You haven’t seen any of my case histories on Machine Learning – but it has completely changed my workflow when it comes to seismic interpretation! There is so much more stratigraphy in the data that classification based on sample statistics can do now, that we could only imagine before….revolutionary. I am leaving the “wavelet” behind! --Deborah Sacrey, Auburn Energy
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9/14/2020 10:31:34 AM
I like the concept
I like the concept; I agree that times like these are good for introspection and the things that make our profession exciting. May I add one major Pivot point in my career? The development of desktop mapping software (Petra and Kingdom) which allowed independents and small companies the ability to map and race through data like the big boys. It leveled out the playing field and led to the competitive success of small independents. -- Valary Schulz
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9/14/2020 10:30:43 AM
Your science column is good and thought-provoking. I like it!
I couldn't help reflecting about your science topic in general and the technical events that made a difference in your career. One thing I tried to do as an E&P manager (375 professionals in my 1990's team) was to encourage those that had the rare innate ability of looking at data that had been worked on by many and come up with unsuspected, radically new solutions. The kind of insight that made one exclaim, "Wow! You're right!" And leave you wondering, "How come nobody else saw that!" Very few persons truly have that ability but when encouraged they are the ones that can help bring about change. -- Hans Krause
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9/14/2020 10:29:26 AM
One thing I would add to your list is “Bright Spots” or "Amplitude Analysis”.
One thing I would add to your list is “Bright Spots” or "Amplitude Analysis”. Having started my career in Shell there were always stories about Mike Forrest and his initial observations of bright amplitudes associated with oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. I’m not sure if Mike was the first to make such an observation but the quantification of amplitude anomalies or bright spots is certainly something that is still with us today and has led to the discovery of many hydrocarbon accumulations all over the world. I have not seen the data but I have been told that some of the recent discoveries in Guyana “light up” on new seismic data. -- Bill Maloney
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9/14/2020 10:18:13 AM