We have a vital role in the energy quest. We have all seen the wedge graph showing energy mix contributions. Today, headlines focus on the 15-20 percent of novel alternative energy resources that continue to grow.
Let’s take a hard look at the 80-percent baseload of gas, oil and coal that underpins the energy ecosystem, which will continue to grow under realistic forecast scenarios. Have you ever wondered what it will take to keep this baseload energy going? This energy isn’t going to find and develop itself. The wedge that includes natural gas and oil (red and green, respectively, in figure 1) calls AAPG members and geoscientists everywhere to carry a heavy load.
These red and green wedges require continuous investments, discoveries, development, innovations and creative thinking simply to stay flat. For generations, they will continue to be the dominant employment driver for petroleum professionals.
So, is there a career for the petroleum geoscientist? The answer is “yes.” Petroleum professionals will continue to be the foundation and basis of all types of energy.
The LinkedIn world has shown us that having a network is vital for our professional success. We now have podcasts, video links and connectivity to promote our technical and professional wellbeing, all while having a coffee.
Let’s tap into a global network of “find and develop” energy experts and share their insights from the greatest basins, play-based evaluations and giant discoveries of the world. AAPG provides many resources and a global platform for this interface that includes a heritage of more than 100 years at our digital fingertips.
Analogs, Economicsand Creative Thinking
How do we train a new workforce to achieve the equivalent of 30 years’ experience in a shorter time than 30 years?
The answer is immersion in analogs and case studies.
As Marlan Downey said, “A study of history is extremely valuable: A shortcut to wisdom and additive to personal experience.”
They are broadband stories of complicated systems. Explorers speak an ideographic language of holistic motifs. Geoscientists commonly draw great ideas on cocktail napkins that speak all languages.
Analogs are where goal-oriented multidisciplinary teams solve functional problems driven by commercial concerns. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a well-detailed analog is worth a million.
As Bill Fairhurst has described, creative thinking requires mastery of foundational disciplines. We progress from remembering (working with data) to analyzing (interpreting) to creative thinking (predicting). Analogs quickly take us up the curve to predict and provide support when sharing these ideas or prospects with employers, stakeholders or investors.
For example, “that looks like a John Amoruso field” communicates a compact conceptual motif. To explorers, this telegraphs a channelized erosional notch in a depositional shelf that focuses siliciclastic turbidites downdip that form reservoirs for natural gas in a deep basin setting. When we see a notch on a shelf, explore downdip.
There are thousands of instructional analogs like this.
Tying the analogs to production and well results is vital to exploration programs. Bringing an expansive view of the analog with the economics to a prospect or play is critical for success.
Successful explorers tell us that building a vocabulary of analogs is fundamental. We suggest expanding the adage, “the best geoscientist is the one who has seen the most rocks” also to include, “the best geoscientist understands the most analogs.” And analogs are important not just for oil and gas, but for subsurface fluid and rock skillsets needed for geothermal and carbon capture, utilization and storage.
Like in Plato’s “Republic” (where Socrates goes from discussing the republic to the individual), let’s discuss analogs and resources at various scales. In the library of exploration, the basins are the book, the plays are the chapters and the discoveries are the paragraphs.
The Super Basin Thinking Toolkit
Over the last five years, AAPG has hosted four Super Basin Global Leadership conferences, 15 super basin-themed events, and two special issues in the AAPG Bulletin (soon to be a quartet). Lessons from these programs form the Super Basin Thinking Toolkit (figure 2) and provide insight into “the seven habits of highly creative oil and gas finders,” wrote Sternbach in his 2020 article in the AAPG Bulletin, “Super Basin Thinking: Methods to explore and revitalize the world’s greatest petroleum basins.”
Video highlights of this paper are available at AAPG.to/halboutyvideo21.
AAPG offers regional overview papers of many of the richest petroleum basins on our planet. One cannot know everything about roughly 1,000 petroleum-producing basins. But building our expertise on the most productive basins can contribute to the red and green wedges shown in figure 1. Super basin special issues to the AAPG Bulletin are analog references to help (figure 3).
Playmakers and play-based exploration are also instructive topics to consider. What do successful explorers have in common? In 25 Discovery Thinking forums, 183 speakers (and co-authors) suggest that play-based evaluations, kept current, foster discoveries.
AAPG and the Division of Professional Affairs offer instructive Playmaker presentations. An attendee at a Playmaker conference described how she and her multidisciplinary team regularly watched previous Playmaker videos at lunch as an instructional and team-building exercise. You can learn from these experts, too! (See figure 5.)
Discoveries and Prospects: An Explorer’s Fundamental Unit of Thought
Analog field studies are the greatest way to calibrate new fields. AAPG offers an online special collection of Discovery Thinking presentations that share firsthand accounts and privileged insights by individuals and their teams who made important discoveries.
This syllabus includes giant fields – the ultimate exploration prize. In addition to video links, authors of the newly released Memoir 125 document giant field analogs with lots of seismic images, including a valuable database of 1,141 giant fields in ARC GIS.
Another AAPG special publication, “Discoverers of the 20th Century,” features critical firsthand insights from innovators about discoveries and scientific pivot points, many that past AAPG President Rick Fritz wrote about in his EXPLORER columns last year.
“The Treatise on Petroleum Geology,” by Ted Beaumont and Norm Foster, is a treasure trove. The 12-volume collection of field studies makes an excellent exploration textbook.
Proactive social license is another skillset geoscientists need today and tomorrow.
How does our Industry get a good reputation?
One project at a time, according to Susan Morrice, who is a passionate exemplar of turning energy prosperity to fuel education and a better life for the host country. As Wallace Pratt said in 1942, “Good geologists make good neighbors.”
Building your Brand
Wherever you fit within the industry, AAPG is your career partner in good times and bad. AAPG provides a platform to present talks, write papers, edit publications, serve in leadership roles and chair sessions so that you may develop leadership and communication skills essential for success. Your brand and your network go hand-in-hand.
If you wish to build your brand, a great avenue for doing that is to present a talk at the International Meeting for Applied Geoscience and Energy, the AAPG International Conference and Exhibition, the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Conference or other events. Also, write a paper for the AAPG Bulletin or Search and Discovery. Serve in your local societies and serve on AAPG committees and leadership roles. Your geoscience community will thank you, and your contributions will serve you well.
It takes all of us, working together, to fuel those red and green wedges shown back in figure 1. Shouldering the global energy mix long into the future is a herculean task, the world will continue to depend on geoscientists, and AAPG offers valuable tools and resources to help.