The overriding principle of AAPG’s special interest groups is to create an environment in which experienced professionals with like-minded views and concerns can come together to discuss, share, commiserate and become familiar with industry trends and Association events. Further, such groups – and it is a worldwide effort by AAPG to foster such communities – create an environment in which individual members, including those in academia and service companies, as well as those in non-petroleum-based companies, both contribute to and benefit from programs and events of interest. Such SIGs include, for example, those on women of AAPG, industry history, diversity, Visiting Geoscientists and young professionals, to name just a few. There is even one dedicated to developing camaraderie in the industry through music called, “Jammin’ Geos,” whose concerts are a regular feature of the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition.
The geoscience community in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was no stranger to the concept. For years, there was a SIG for young professionals, but the thinking was that there also needed to be something tailored for the experienced professional. Hence, a group of dedicated businessmen and women, 13 in all, came together to form one steeped in industry matters. These professionals were from local universities, operating companies based in the city. The hope was that choosing such a group from a reservoir of diverse backgrounds, yet connected interests, would allow each discipline to benefit from the expertise of other members – that the whole of this new SIG would be greater than the sum of its parts.
As Lisa Claire Chisholm, the co-chair of the new SIG, explained, it would allow participants “to tap into all the in-house talent from all the different companies in the region.”
But Chisholm, who works for Petronas, the country’s national petroleum company, had her sights set beyond the Malaysian horizon.
“This committee also gave us a great chance to catch passing academics and speakers visiting KL or this region through the various companies,” she said.
Malaysia, similar to other mature basins, has an established regional oil and gas industry and is working to realize and monetize resources. Chisholm said it is an all-too-familiar story that can benefit from the views of those inside and outside the country.
“How do we squeeze more value out of a mature basin with declining assets in a low-price oil environment?” she said.
As such, she hoped the new SIG would bring those companies and those concerns together and help shed some light on the obstacles and possibilities affecting them all. And it started out strong.
Its first event, held on Dec. 19, 2019, was headlined by Mazlan Bin Madon, chief geoscientist for Petronas, who spoke to the new SIG about the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, which defines and governs international concerns on shared water resources. The event was a huge success, for many reasons, not the least of which is because Madon, Chisholm explained, is considered the “godfather of Malaysian geology.” Following the Madon talk, Henry Posamentier, a worldwide consultant in seismic and sequence stratigraphy with a focus on lithofacies prediction risk issues, spoke on “Integrating Seismic Stratigraphy to Understand Similarities and Differences between Fluvial versus Deepwater Settings.”
Just as the SIG was warming up, however, the group, like most of the world, had to shelve much of its 2020 plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here Chisholm tells an all-too familiar story.
“So after a few in-person events during late 2019 and early 2020, unfortunately COVID hit and we had to stop our activities,” she said, noting that the group did manage a few online events.
COVID-19 did more than just cause havoc in the industry.
“We unfortunately lost a few of our committee and a lot of our attendees,” she said.
While the group waited for the in-person events to start up again, the Kuala L SIG joined regional AAPG online webinars which provided an excellent gateway to many speakers.
“We hope to get back up to our pre-pandemic levels of activity as soon it is safe to do so.”
A Model for Success
Chisholm, as you might expect, is a big proponent of SIGs and the promise they can hold and the glue they can provide for those who join. When asked the secret of such groups, she said they need the commitment from those who believe they can make an improvement in the geologic community.
“My advice would be to ensure the special interest group has a keen and active sponsor,” she said.
Here she credits Bob Shoup, chief geologist for the Houston-based Subsurface Consultants and Associates and director of clastic reservoir systems in Malaysia, as well as her co-chair, Roy Kittrell, lead regional geologist (Asia Pacific) at Bell Geospace, for bringing such a light and drive to the proceedings.
“We had Bob who helped us initiate the group,” Chisholm said, “and recommended members and generally guided us along the way.”
As for Shoup, he credits Chisholm and her team for bringing together a diverse community of geoscience professionals. He believes what she and her colleagues have done for the KL SIG can be used as a blueprint for others.
“I see their effort as a role model for others,” he said.
Chisholm said the more diverse the group, the more cohesive and efficient the output.
“This will help decrease the workload and also increase the ‘net’ potential speakers and activities, not to mention providing a great range of ideas and networks,” she said.
Such a structure can benefit special interest sections, wherever they are located, even during the difficult times.
As it happened, after the scope of the pandemic was realized, things with Kuala Lumpur group, as mentioned, began unraveling. However, Chisholm and her group were still able to keep in regular contact with ex-committee members, which was possible because AAPG provides a platform by which Association members can stay connected.
And while the Zoom and webinars are better than nothing, there’s nothing like the real thing.
“The SIG is something we feel passionate about and really can’t wait to get back to our in-person events!” said Chisholm.