Listening to “The Mummers’ Dance” by Loreena McKennitt as I write prompted me to think about the tremendous amount of work that has gone into considering where AAPG should go. Like heading for a sea voyage, people of different perspectives choose the route that seems best in that moment. AAPG must do the same so that we can continue to enjoy great adventures filled with learning and camaraderie.
In the shallow bays near Houston, one is rarely out of sight of land and the most pressing issues are avoiding mosquitoes, oyster reefs and the rare alligators.
For AAPG and its members, the energy transition represents a voyage into the unknown. It seems like the energy industry and energy consumers are setting sail on a voyage of unknown duration without the benefit of reliable charts or weather forecasts to guide our navigational decisions. How can we make any predictions or take precautions, like preparing for a sudden storm?
Our knowledge and wealth of experience as geoscientists teach us that the future is rarely as simple as we might initially predict. Our voyage might bring us to encounter dense fog, strong tides or heavy winds and waves that can obscure or shift our course. The energy transition is similar to a fog bank potentially shrouding jagged rocks: We recognize our critically important and ongoing role as geoscientists to deliver energy safely and reliably, including a significant amount of petroleum for decades to come. At the same time, we witness energy shortages and price spikes in certain places because decision-makers ignored the energy map or otherwise failed to prepare – and because of those vague political policies, our ultimate trajectory is somewhat unknown.
For AAPG, as an organization, we already know our voyage involves heavy seas because of the realities of our membership decline and ongoing uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic, the energy transition, and conditions in the oil and gas industry. Who would have predicted that the pandemic would still be a thing more than two years since it began and more than a year after vaccines became available? Who would have predicted the leaps and lurches of the energy transition so far, and the enormous learning curve that society faces as it recognizes that different places and populations have drastically different needs and priorities? Who would have predicted the recently found fiscal discipline of so many E&P companies and its impact on exploration and future production?
People have observed during the pandemic that we are all in the same storm, but we are in different boats. That sentiment also applies to AAPG and to the energy transition. More about that later.
Navigating the Storm
Sailing on a new heading:
What are the paths for AAPG? The merger of AAPG with the Society of Petroleum Engineers is the path to our best strategic option. It positions us for the future with a dynamic mission, vision and core values. It also reduces competition for funding and volunteers and supports the multidisciplinary nature of our work. Approving the merger is a way for AAPG members to “pay it forward” to generations of geoscientists to come – by leaving a vibrant, forward-looking organization to support members for the duration of their careers.
Furling the sails:
Another option is for AAPG to focus on reducing expenses as membership continues to decline, as we are doing now. This strategy has led to creating the IMAGE event co-hosted with the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and the formation of a Joint Events Team composed of AAPG and SEG staff. But more changes are needed on the volunteer side. As the Tactical Action Group on Governance – convened by then-President Rick Fritz – concluded in 2021, AAPG governance would have to contract to an Executive Board. The House of Delegates would have to be eliminated in favor of less structured membership and mentoring groups. The duties of the Advisory Council would have to be moved to committees.
Manning the lifeboats:
Another path is to dramatically downsize and reduce the scope of AAPG, which would be a natural consequence of managing membership decline. This path will lead AAPG to look like other organizations that already exist, with vastly diminished capabilities, relevance and impact.
With my colleagues in the AAPG-SPE Merger Steering Committee, we have observed – like the leading characters in the movie “Jaws” – that AAPG and SPE would benefit from being in a bigger boat. While this was said in jest early on, the protracted nature of the pandemic and related uncertainty in the energy industry have led to more sober acceptance of this reality.
My personal pandemic boat has been a good one because of continued employment, access to excellent health care and the support of family, friends and colleagues. “The Mummers’ Dance” reminds me to forge ahead and pursue adventure and opportunity.
In the spirit of choosing a clear heading, please prepare for lots of information to come your way about the AAPG-SPE merger as we prepare for Members to vote. The detailed merger website contains the latest information: www.aapg-spe-merger.org
In the short term, you can support AAPG by logging into AAPG.org, updating your profile, paying your dues, registering for a conference, buying a book or recruiting new members.
Since you have read this far, a $100 AAPG gift certificate will be awarded to the first person who provides an interesting fact about the petroleum geology of eastern Canada as an online comment to this EXPLORER column.
Until next time,