“I loved the challenge of trying to find hydrocarbons locked under the ground for tens of millions of years.”
Perhaps it was unintentional, but John Hogg, winner of this year’s Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award, reminds many in the industry of why they decided to enter the profession in the first place.
He said that singular pursuit has always motivated him.
“As a geologist,” said Hogg, an industry veteran for 35 years and a past AAPG president, “I’ve always wanted to explore. After graduating from university, I specifically took my first role in Gulf Canada because they allowed me to move right into an exploration department.”
But exploration has been just a part of his personal schema over the past three decades.
“I’ve also always seen volunteering as an integral part of the career of a professional,” he said.
Volunteerism, he said, taught him about leadership.
“Co-workers and subordinates will follow you, if your leadership is strong and consistent,” said Hogg.
To be a successful leader, he said, is to understand the difference “between being a friend and being a boss.”
Further, leaders are shortsighted who do not understand the value in having their employees volunteer.
“The thing to remember about leading volunteers is they are there of their free will, they are not being paid, and everyone is working together for a common goal,” said Hogg.
Leading and Listening, Science and Application
Hogg’s career began humbly at his first AAPG convention in 1982 in Calgary – very humbly.
“My first job was moving the arrow on a clothes pin for four sessions.”
A few clothes pins here, a few clothes pins there, and pretty soon – 34 years to be exact – he became president of AAPG.
“I never realized that would happen,” said Hogg.
He said through those early years, he learned that to be a better leader, you had to first be a better listener because it was how you became better equipped to make the difficult decisions.
To Hogg, the mission of AAPG then – the mission now – was twofold: one academic, or pure science; and the second, industry, or applied science.
“To the outsider, they are one and the same, the science of geology and geophysics, but to an industry professional, applied science is our trade, but we do rely on some pure science,” he said.
One of those difficult decisions entailed bringing all the voices of AAPG’s scientific community together.
“I think I can say, with some humility, that I am the person in AAPG who had the vision for the formation of the regions back in the 1990s,” Hogg related.
The AAPG regions – and there are currently six of them – are made up of individuals and affiliated geological societies throughout the world. Back then, industry leaders thought all participants needed to form an affiliated society to have a voice.
“This always bothered me,” said Hogg.
And it did because as a young delegate, he found the AAPG House of Delegates to be very U.S.-centric. International members did not have representation in AAPG without their country having an affiliated society. He wanted to give industry members throughout the globe a voice, regardless of their organizational standing.
“In 1997-98, I was asked to chair the HoD International Representation Committee that proposed the formation of the regions so that all voting members of AAPG would have representation in our Association,” he related.
This was a divisive time for AAPG because it included changing the Advisory Council to be a fully elected body and to include members from those six regions. The battle lasted two years, but ultimately the HoD supported the concept of the regions in 2000.
“Enemies over time became friends and the new model for AAPG is now seen as a fair and balanced system compared to the predecessor,” said Hogg.
The Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award, AAPG’s second most distinguished award, after the Sidney Powers Memorial Award, is given in recognition of outstanding and exceptional leadership in the petroleum geosciences, so it follows that those who have such skills had mentors who had such skills.
Hogg mentions Pat Gratton, Pete Rose, Ray Thomasson, Dan Smith, Bob Weimer and colleagues including Rick Fritz and Marty Hewitt as those leaders who have made an impact on him, as well as AAPG institutionally for helping improve his organizational skills.
“Leadership is not taught in school, but is critical to business, and as a young geologist,” Hogg said.
It’s not something to which he aspired.
“All I wanted to do was science,” he said.
A Need for Leaders
Hogg, who presently runs Skybattle Resources Ltd, a consulting firm named from the Skybattle Formation in the Sverdrup Basin in the Canadian high Arctic – one of the first formations he worked (in a well called Skybattle Bay C-15) – echoes those who say the oil and gas industry is at a crossroads, especially in education.
“We are all aware of the changes in almost all universities over the last decade regarding the geosciences. Faculties are getting smaller, merging with other stronger faculties and in some cases being shut-down all together,” he said.
It is alarming, he added.
“The world will need more geologists, not fewer in the coming decades, for exploring and exploiting mineral resources, ground water management, geothermal and carbon capture, and of course oil and gas exploration and development,” Hogg said.
The industry will need fresher and new blood.
“The Boomer wave, of which I’m at the tail end, will see an end to the largest population of geoscientists when they leave the profession and a massive hole to fill in the coming decade. Universities need help understanding that geos will be in demand and they need to be taught the fundamentals of geology,” Hogg warned.
There are other obstacles, as well – structural ones.
“As the green movement continues to believe we need to leave oil and gas in the ground, the energy transition will come from geoscientists and engineers who will need to find more unconventional and conventional resources for the world to continue to prosper and mine the minerals necessary,” he said.
He said the industry has transformed over the last decade or so, from an exploration and development business to a recovery business, due to drilling for unconventional oil and gas deposits.
It is professionals will need to get their hands dirty again – or, for the first time.
“I recently gave a talk where the vast majority of the audience of geoscientists had never explored.” Hogg said. “That’s very hard for me to comprehend. Other than the state-run companies, super majors and a handful of large companies and independents, most of AAPG members today do not explore, and the ones who do have a very small component of their budgets devoted to exploring for new reserves from conventional discoveries.”
He understands the reasons for that – risk tolerance, lack of capital from the financial markets due to the “wokeness” around our energy industry – but calls on leaders of today (and tomorrow) to be much more vocal about the needs and uses of oil and gas and, yes, to promote the alternative energy sources that involve the geosciences: geothermal, carbon capture and storage and uranium exploration, eliminate the practice of flaring, and ensure the capture of fugitive emissions, and reclamation of lands after production has ceased.
“They need to speak about the changes made in the transition, explain fracture stimulation to the public and show the public that all energy systems have industrial footprints,” said Hogg.
“They need to be the face of our industry,” he added.