Cartagena, Colombia was hot, hot, hot during the successful Simposio Bolivariano Petroleum Exploration in Subandean Basins conference.
The meeting, held July 26-29 and built on the theme “Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future,” attracted 900 participants from 20 countries, plus 86 students (many for the event’s first-ever student poster session) and 41 exhibitors. There were 100 technical talks, featuring simultaneous Spanish/English translation.
The Asociación Colombiana De Geólogos Y Geofícos Del Petróleo (ACGGP), an AAPG affiliate, organized the conference, the tenth symposia since its 1982 debut in Bogotá.
The conference highlights hot technical topics and is held every three years at venues in either Venezuela or Colombia. This year’s technical program was more petroleum-oriented than past symposia.
“The symposium format itself really contributes to the success of the conference,” said Tomas Villamil, president of the Simposio. “Attendance is capped at a manageable size … so everyone can fit into one room for the technical talks.
“The beauty of the symposium format,” he added, “is that there are no internal competing events. Everyone participates in the technical talks, the poster sessions and the social events as one group.”
The conference also marked AAPG President-elect Dave Rensink’s first international trip since taking office. Rensink and the AAPG delegation were warmly welcomed to Colombia by conference organizers – and for Rensink, attending the conference and spending time in the AAPG booth presented the opportunity to meet students and geoscientists from Colombia and other Latin American countries.
“By the end of the conference I had a much better awareness of some of the issues faced by geoscientists doing business in Colombia and other parts of Latin America – issues of heavy oil and offshore drilling environments,” he said.
Colombia’s hot prospects are attracting international operations from around the world – evidenced by over 85 international companies from countries such as Canada, Russia, China, Korea and India, which are now active in Colombia and whose representatives attended the Simposio Bolivariano.
Three significant actions by the Colombian government have contributed to the current level of industry activity:
- Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe has made it clear that Colombia welcomes the world – especially outside investors.
- Beginning in 2004, government contracts enabled investors to obtain a more attractive return on investment.
- Over the past five-six years, the government has improved security conditions by increasing the number of soldiers and police on duty throughout Colombia.
According to Villamil, the reaction to these industry changes was at first gradual.
“But as companies shared stories of their success, and word spread about this new, stable and predictable business environment, investment and exploration activity in Colombia snowballed,” he said.
In addition to the excellent technical program and exhibitions, AAPG’s participation in the Simposio Bolivariano provided the opportunity to strengthen relations between AAPG and the ACGGP officers. Many initiatives for future collaboration and for bringing AAPG services to Colombia were discussed.
In his remarks during the closing ceremony, Rensink acknowledged the hard work contributed by many volunteers to make the Tenth Simposio Bolivariano such a success, and then invited geoscientists and students from around the Latin American Region to continue the hot conversations started in Colombia and to join him in November for the Rio AAPG International Conference and Exhibition.
Following the close of technical presentations, conference attendees traveled by bus and car to the Castillo de San Felipe – a huge fort built over the 17th and 18th centuries by slaves of the Spanish to defend the port from land-based attack. From high atop the old fort, with spectacular views of La Boca Grande, conference goers enjoyed a traditional Colombian meal accompanied by hot Latin music with a Caribbean beat.
Striking contrasts of past and present abound in Cartagena. Founded in 1533, Cartagena became the shipping port of the Spanish overseas empire, where precious cargo from the New World awaited shipment to Spain.
The 400-year-old stone walls encircling the city are surprisingly intact and stretch for more than two miles. The old city inside the wall has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Today, just over the old stone walls, miles of modern high rise office and apartment buildings cover the landscape all along the Caribbean coast. Cartagena is Colombia‘s largest port and an important industrial center specializing in petrochemicals. The port of Cartagena is the terminus of a pipline leading from the oilfields of the Magdalena Basin.