In my August President’s Column, “Evolve or Go Extinct,” I wrote about how the story of human evolution could have parallels to the profession of energy geoscience. Pleistocene climate variability put pressure on early Homonin species, which evolved and sometimes interbred until eventually there was only one species left: Homo sapiens. We might be the sole survivors, but we carry bits and pieces of DNA from those that went before. By analogy, today’s changing energy landscape is challenging, but when we apply our core skills (i.e. our “technical DNA”) in different ways and combinations, our horizons expand and we create new areas of opportunity. In response, our Association needs to evolve to continue to serve members’ changing needs.
When my story left off in August, the discovery of agriculture roughly 10,000 years ago had caused explosions in both population and new technologies because not everyone had to walk around all day just to hunt and gather enough food for the next meal. In Eurasia, the agricultural population originating in the Fertile Crescent migrated outward and overwhelmed the hunter-gatherers. By 5,000 years ago, farmer DNA dominated a vast area.
This month I want to add the next Eurasian turnover (African anthropology is very complex and still being unraveled). Around 5,500 years ago, a group of nomadic herders on the northern steppes brought together two pre-existing technologies (flocks and herds, and wheeled carts) with one new innovation: they domesticated horses. The Yamnaya’s combination of guaranteed food and unprecedented mobility allowed them to expand as far east as northern India and all of northern Europe to the west by about 3,000 years ago. Along with yet another wave of DNA domination, their expansion is thought to have spread the ancient Indo-European root language whose derivatives many of us speak today (My own father’s Y chromosome descends from the Yamnaya. If your roots are ultimately from the lands conquered by them, there is a good chance they show up in your DNA, too.) One human population change followed another, followed another. Nothing stands still in human history, then or now.
Our profession is full of analogous leaps forward when technologies and concepts are invented and/or combined in different ways.George Mitchell had the tenacity to run many trials of an old technique (frac’ing) against a new potential resource (mature source rock) until it clicked. If you ever worked a shale play e.g. Haynesville as I did, you probably had the experience that the land leased for shale in the 21st century had in many cases been leased multiple times in the previous century for other play concepts. Putting elements together in a new way sure generated one heck of a boom for our profession.
Another example of energy industry technology-based evolution could be the way many traditional E&P service companies have broadened their support to a wide array of natural resource and infrastructure project needs. For a third example, today there is a boom in permitting for enhanced geothermal systems in which the existing technology for geothermal power plant topsides is combined with sophisticated directional drilling and frac’ing techniques perfected in the oil field. This would, at least hypothetically, make EGS possible almost anywhere there are rocks. Colleagues who grew up in the oilfields are staffing these projects and successfully spreading their “technical DNA” into new areas. And so it goes.
The Reimagine Journey, So Far …
Continuing on this theme of innovation, hybridization and successful change, we recently took another step in the “Reimagine AAPG” journey. As previously shared, in Q1 of this year a small ad hoc committee of volunteers worked quite intensively to suggest improvements for the financial and membership health of AAPG given all the changes in the world around us. They concluded that to compete in the present business environment, AAPG must be inclusive, streamlined, responsive to the evolving needs of our industry, highly collaborative with sister societies and actively engaged with the next generations of geoscientists. In July, past President Steven Goolsby recorded a video for all members to understand AAPG’s case for action.
Just prior to the IMAGE ’23 opening, we assembled a diverse group of about 40 of your elected leaders. We spent six hours first absorbing some of the work to date then engaging in small-group discussions on questions such as:
- If you had the ability to magically transform AAPG to make it more relevant to current and future members, what would you preserve, change or eliminate?
- What should AAPG offer more of/less of to improve the membership experience (for all members)?
- Does AAPG offer the right mix of technical information and dissemination to its members?
- What could AAPG learn from other organizations (professional, community, etc.) to improve our member value proposition?
- Consider which AAPG services, events, and publications are important to protect, preserve and improve.
- Consider what AAPG should eliminate to conserve costs.
There was, of course, a spectrum of views in the room (which was the point!) and a lot of comments and ideas were captured. We are working to absorb that material now and plan out the next steps.
To summarize the Reimagine AAPG project into a work-in-progress framework:
- Achieve financial health by updating the business model to accommodate a digital world, a changing energy business, an expanded energy resource landscape, and societal focus on sustainability.
- Increase membership by engaging a broader spectrum of subsurface and surface geoscientists on a global basis, with a value proposition that retains existing members and attracts new members, is supported by their employers, and reminds all members of how much fun it is to be a geoscientist.
- Emphasize the fact that while AAPG values and will continue its strong core of expertise in petroleum, we actively welcome geoscientists across the full spectrum of energy-related sciences and technologies to join those already in our membership ranks.
Do you have thoughts about the discussion questions above, or the conceptual framework for Reimagine AAPG? Please send them to the mailbox [email protected]. A lot of comments have already come in from engaged members who support a thriving AAPG for the next years of its existence. I look forward to hearing from you.