You cannot, at least not for very long, talk about this year’s Norman H. Foster Outstanding Explorer Award recipient Susan Morrice without mentioning the Central American country of Belize. There’s a symbiosis. Without her doggedness, many an AAPG member night never have heard of the place, but decades ago, Morrice saw something in the country – more to the point, decided to take the time to look for it.
“There were 50 dry holes and everyone said, ‘There is no oil in Belize!’ and most people thought I was nuts,” she said.
But she wasn’t, there was, and she found it.
In the 1980s, she was asked by an old friend, noted inventor Sir Ian Rankin, if, in fact, there was any oil in Belize, and she took it as a challenge. She researched many old papers on British Honduras and concluded Belize was part of the greater Mexican Basin.
But that research was just one part of her motivation for her pursuit.
“I fell in love with the people of Belize and that gave me an extra passion and purpose. I also had great fun exploring in the jungles and getting to know the entire country and its people,” she said.
Morrice and her Belizian partner, Mike Usher, shot seismic and caused a deep offshore well to be drilled, but to no avail. She credits her attendance of an Educo Seminar with her getting their “ducks clearly in a row” before they returned to Belize to set up Belize Natural Energy in 2003.
Less than two years later, in June of 2005, she found what her her heart told her was always there: oil.
“When everyone told me there was no oil in Belize and no oil company would join us to drill, we went to Ireland where 76 small Irish investors joined us on that Mike Usher No. 1 well.”
Many of these Irish investors didn’t even know where Belize was. Usher had died unexpectedly in 2004, and BNE decided to name the first drill site in his honor.
“We commenced preparations to drill in May 2005 and on the exact day, the anniversary of Mike’s death, we struck the first discovery in the first well on 24 June, 2005!” Morrice related.
Even the geologists said, “This is about something bigger than us!”
Since then, BNE has discovered and developed Belize’s only two commercial oil fields, as well as developed ancillary and related oil and gas infrastructures, drilled over 62 wells, which have produced 11 million barrels of crude oil.
It has also – and this is dear to Morrice’s heart – sold 20 percent of crude production to local industries, thereby lowering local production costs.
The country is better for her being there.
Accessing the Unconscious
The Norman H. Foster Outstanding Explorer Award is about honoring those with great exploration histories, but Morrice said her life is more than the sum total of her finds. She said it has been about the people who are positively affected by her work and empowered to follow their dreams, as well as the environment that must be protected. In Belize, she sees a microcosm and case study for the rest of the world, and something that must always be considered alongside exploration.
“Humanity lives united in goodness, one world, in partnership with life the way we were all born to be,” Morrice said.
That, she added, takes more than just technical know-how, an innate sense of where to drill, and a ledger sheet.
“Science and art are said to be differing parts of our brain or mind. When we learn how to use our whole mind, it brings these different areas together and we can fully utilize our innate potential,” she said, adding that both the conscious and unconscious mind must be utilized. “Accessing this deeper area connects us with our passion, imagination, creativity and energy. Everyone has this dormant potential and can access it when they know how,” said Morrice.
Keep in mind, this is a geologist talking, not a self-help guru, but it’s how she overcame her own doubts in tackling the challenges of Belize.
Morrice reiterated that she credits the Educo Seminar she attended more than 15 years ago for awakening her understanding and encouraging her passion and developing her full potential. When the seminar was over, it was clear to her what she was going to do.
“I immediately went to Belize and set up Belize Natural Energy,” she said.
That challenge from Ian Rankin, apparently, never left her. A decade and a half later, she still sees the Educo Seminar’s impact on her life and career and the need to keep pushing out those boundaries.
“I researched the globe for an educational system that understood the mind. I wanted a course that had studied back through time to Socrates and Plato, had tight PhD requirements and excellent practical results,” she said.
It is something she now makes part of her corporate business model.
“So not only did I attend the Educo Seminar 15 years ago, but I send all the people from BNE so they too can follow their dreams and be all they can be,” she added.
Morrice said the Educo business model that is at the core of BNE and is what enabled them to win the prestigious Getenergy Global Education and Training Award in 2017, beating out companies from 50 other countries, such the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Oman.
Finding Oil in the Minds of Women
As for those who helped bring her to this point of winning the Foster Award, she mentioned her parents in Ireland, her family, including her cousin Josh Stewart, who is a director in BNE.
But,she seems particularly touched by a more personal (and immediate) connection to the award’s namesake.
“I recently met Norman’s wife and daughter who became very emotional when I told them what we had done in Belize. They told me how glad they were I had received Norman’s award,” she said.
Morrice noted that success is also about paying knowledge, expertise and passion forward. During economic downtimes, she still mentors students and talks of the possibilities and successes. It is why she was so instrumental in founding AAPG’s International Pavilion, for which she was recognized by AAPG with its Distinguished Service Award.
“I am now bringing this understanding and educational model to other countries who took part in the International Pavilion and companies who want the same empowerment that BNE/Belize is now well known for,” she said.
That model carries the ability, when necessary, to change direction, change outlook and channel passion.
“Developing the full capacity of all in BNE means we have diversified into building a gas plant to convert our natural gas into cooking gas and electricity. Meanwhile, the employee group ‘Energy for Life’ continued to mentor young people from the villages all over Belize,” said Morrice.
Like many in the industry, she is fond of Wallace Pratt’s famous line, “Oil is found in the Minds of Men.”
“I wondered,” she said, for the longest time, “about the women and the mind as well.”
She found an answer by sending a young Mayan girl, Elsia Pop, to the same Educo Seminar,who was not only mentored in entrepreneurship by the BNE employees but won the Princess Diana Legacy Award.
“Pop was on a plane for her first time to London,” Morrice said, “as a guest of the Royal Family.”
Susan Morrice is the first female winner of the Norman H. Foster Outstanding Explorer Award, but she wants you to know that it’s not just about the gender.
“I would say once people understand themselves and drop their mindsets they can achieve all they want to, especially if it includes making a difference in the lives of others. Then the energy that propels you forward is phenomenal. So, I see many more females coming forward and indeed a greater diversity in leadership,” said Morrice.