Closing Out the Centennial with an Inspirational Conference

The sun shone on London in mid-October as AAPG continued its centennial celebration with our final major event of the year at the 2017 International Conference and Exhibition (ICE).

And that shining sun was a harbinger of a great conference, as more than 2,000 attendees from across the globe gathered to teach and learn about the science, the industry trends, and catch a glimpse of the future of the next 100 years of oil and natural gas exploration.

Inspiration is what many of us were seeking in London, and the opening ceremony, themed “Inspiration from Exploration,” did not disappoint, beginning with an uplifting musical medley presented by students from the Sylvia Young Theatre School and a welcome from ICE 2017 co-chairs Gabor Tari and Ken McClay and opening remarks by President Charles Sternbach.

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The sun shone on London in mid-October as AAPG continued its centennial celebration with our final major event of the year at the 2017 International Conference and Exhibition (ICE).

And that shining sun was a harbinger of a great conference, as more than 2,000 attendees from across the globe gathered to teach and learn about the science, the industry trends, and catch a glimpse of the future of the next 100 years of oil and natural gas exploration.

Inspiration is what many of us were seeking in London, and the opening ceremony, themed “Inspiration from Exploration,” did not disappoint, beginning with an uplifting musical medley presented by students from the Sylvia Young Theatre School and a welcome from ICE 2017 co-chairs Gabor Tari and Ken McClay and opening remarks by President Charles Sternbach.

Europe Awards

Recognizing excellence is one of the most important things we do at AAPG, and taking advantage of ICE being in London this year, the AAPG Europe Region leadership established and bestowed a series of AAPG Europe Awards, presented by AAPG Europe President Fiona MacAuley to:

  • Luca Bertelli, the chief exploration officer of Eni Upstream and Technical Services, who received the AAPG Europe Explorer of the Year Award.
  • Prof. Reinhard Sachsenhofer of Leoben University in Austria who was recognized as AAPG Europe’s Educator of the Year.
  • Prof. Brian Horsfield of GFZ Potsdam and the University of Berlin who received the AAPG Europe Energy Geoscience Research Award.
  • Victor Vega, exploration new business development manager for Shell Americas, who was recognized for his dedication and commitment to public service and inspiring others to engage in such activities with the AAPG Europe Public Service Award.

ICE Highlights

Jonathan Craig, the Honorary Chair of ICE 2017, then introduced the two keynote speakers of the evening: Lord John Browne of Madingley, business man and former group chairman of BP, who spoke about the future of energy, innovation and energy transformations. He was followed by planetary geoscientist Dr. Kirsten Siebach, who took us out of this world for a sedimentological and stratigraphic journey around Mount Sharp, talking about the excitement of exploration — exploration on Mars.

Buzzing and bustling is the only way to describe the icebreaker reception in the exhibition hall that kicked off the social and networking activities at ICE 2017. As attendees walked the aisles of the exhibition they were treated to libations and refreshments amid the booths of oil companies, service companies, and a particularly vibrant International Pavilion.

On Monday the technical program began with an Executive Plenary session chaired by Pinar Yilmaz. This thought-provoking plenary was themed “100 Years of Science Fueling 100 Years of Prosperity” and included:

  • Michael G. Cousins, executive vice president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company.
  • Adif Zulkifli, senior vice president of development and production upstream business for PETRONAS.
  • Ibraheem Assa’adan, vice president of exploration for Saudi Aramco.
  • Luca Bertelli, chief exploration officer of Eni Upstream and Technical Services.
  • Mario Carminatti, exploration executive manager for Petrobras.

A recurring theme during the plenary session was that geoscientists need to understand both sub-surface risks — their natural forte — and above-surface risks. It’s not enough to simply find oil and natural gas. You’ve got to find it in places where it can be commercially produced. And this basic truth needs to be taught to students, not just professionals.

There was also concern that technology and research and development are the first casualties in any market downturn. And yet they are precisely what also lead us out of a market downturn. As a result, we’re not learning fast enough — the industry needs to do better.

Technical Program

Following the Executive Plenary the technical program began in earnest, with oral and poster sessions across 12 different themes. The program also included several special sessions, including a packed Discovery Thinking session — now in its 10th year — co-chaired by President Sternbach, past President Paul Weimer and AAPG Europe past President Jonathan Craig and included presentations on the Goliat (Norway) and Zohr (Eastern Mediterranean) discoveries, as well as Senegal and the East African rifts. The conference also included a session on landmark discoveries of the last 100 years.

Exploration was a dominant theme at this conference. But as the executives in the plenary session pointed out, exploration requires new and different kinds of thinking. It requires folks who don’t all think the same way. An effective exploration team requires diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs.

And two of the ICE 2017 sessions focused on these issues. First, there was a special session on the “Bottom-line Benefits of Diversity” (coverage of which will appear in the December EXPLORER), which discussed how diversity affects decision quality, recognition and rewards and cultural overprints. In addition, an evening panel discussion entitled “Leadership — Technically-Adept and Business-Savvy in the Petroleum Industry,” moderated by President-elect Denise Cox, explored what it takes to be an effective leader in the petroleum industry.

ICE 2017 was a fantastic event, made possible by the dedication of our leaders, members, and volunteers, our sponsors and exhibitors. I’d also like to recognize our staff’s efforts to ensure this was a successful conference. Congratulations and thanks to all.