February has been a somewhat of a quiet month, with most of my travel being work-related. I did attend NAPE, and there was a very good crowd in attendance with a lot of energy and the mood was very upbeat. At NAPE I usually see a lot people from Midland. This year was very different, as Midland got snowed in with 6-10 inches, depending on whom you talked to. The people who planned to fly to Houston on Wednesday to attend NAPE did not make it. The airport was closed – Midland has no snow removal equipment for the occasional big snow we receive every three to five years!
Global Super Basins Leadership Conference
The following week I was back in Houston area for the Global Super Basins Leadership Conference in nearby Sugar Land, Texas. Charles Sternbach and Bob Fryklund put together a great program with more than 20 talks on super basins around the world. A super basin is a basin that has produced 5 BBO and has 5 BBO remaining.
The conference was kicked off by Misfir A. AzZahrani, executive director of exploration organization for Saudi Aramco, with his talk “Arabian Super Basin: What Next?” This was a great presentation and set the tone for the 2020 super basins conferences. Misfir spoke not only to the current super basins, discussing their geology along with the history, but also spotlighted what may be the next super basin in Saudi Arabia (see page 8 of this issue for more information).
The conference had a luncheon talk on the first day by Barbara Lowery-Yilmaz, senior vice president of exploration from Hess, and she spoke on “A balanced Portfolio of Super Basins for Exploration and Exploitation.” Barbara did a great job in demonstrating how Hess has production from super basins in the Gulf of Mexico and the Williston Basin of the Bakken play. Barbara also discussed that Hess, along with ExxonMobil and others, may have discovered the next super basin in Guyana.
Emeliana Rice Oxely vice president of exploration for Petronas, gave an excellent talk on “Historical and Emerging Petroleum Super Basins of South East Asia.” This was especially timely since the International Petroleum Technology Conference will be in Kuala Lumpur next year.
On the second day Martin Stauble, vice president of exploration for North America and Brazil for Shell, gave a presentation on “The Future of Deepwater Exploration.” He discussed the areas around the worlds that have deepwater drilling, potential problems, and technologies that are helping to overcome some of these problems. Again, hats off to Charles and Bob on a job well done.
Adapting to the New Economy
This Executive Committee and the past five EC have been working hard on your behalf. AAPG had a couple black swan events (or, at least, gray swan events) in 2014 and 2015. The first such event was the massive commodity price drop that occurred after Thanksgiving 2014, which triggered the start of restructuring and layoffs and sent major shockwaves through AAPG. The following year, the scheduled Annual Convention and Exhibition was in Calgary, Canada. That spring, the oil and gas industry in Calgary took a hard turn down with layoffs and office closings. With companies around the world curtailing travel, the attendance for the convention was down so low that we barely broke even.
The Executive Committees during these few years have been working very hard to cut costs and bring the budget into balance in this new commodity price environment. The result was dropping programs that were not cost-effective, and a massive restructuring was undertaken at the Tulsa headquarters. The restructuring at headquarters resulted in a 30-percent reduction of staffing costs from 2014-18. The hardest part for any organization is reorganization of staff. We have a very dedicated staff in Tulsa, and this was a hard process. To deliver the service that our members have come to expect, the current staff is doing a yeomen job of making sure everything is running as smoothly as possible. They are for the most part doing the same amount of work with fewer people.
Also in this time period, the Global Events Oversight Committee was charged with looking at how we could make ACE better. Looking at the numbers, it was obvious that our best attended conventions are in Houston. AAPG is a convention/conference organization, as roughly 80 percent of revenue is generated this way. From ACE, the annual International Conference and Exhibition, the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference, NAPE, the Offshore Technology Conference, IPTC, the Middle East Geosciences Conference and Exhibition and geosciences technology worskshops – all are events we run ourselves or in cooperation with other organizations that generate profit for AAPG. In comparison, dues account for only 10 percent of our revenue stream for AAPG.
As mentioned earlier, companies are limiting travel to events, so having the ACE in Houston, where a large part of our membership resides, makes perfect sense. Talking with the Corporate Advisory Board – which is a group of representatives from the top tier of management from 20-25 companies, who oversee the geosciences personnel within these companies – they have confirmed that if events are in Houston, where there are no travel-related expenses, only registration fees, they do not have a problem with large number of personnel attending from their companies.
The next part of the equation was to create a convention that is a must to attend. “If you build it, they will come.” Look for the convention announcement and I feel that you will agree that this is the most comprehensive ACE meeting ever! Cindy Yeilding is general chair, Morgan Sullivan is general vice chair of content/Technical Program, Art Donovan is general vice chair of programs, Pinar O. Yilmaz is general vice chair of the special session and Steve Sonnenberg (who will be the general chair next year) have put together a great team that will deliver a great ACE program. Plan to join us and see for yourself!
The bottom line to all this is that in five years we have righted the ship, bailed the water, and are sailing once again. With a successful convention in Houston this year, averaging the gains and losses of the last four years will overall show a modest profit.
But we are not stopping there. AAPG is looking at new programs that will benefit our members and deliver the science to you. Bob Merrill as elected editor is looking at ways to push out more content and put information into the hands of the members that they want to read. You will see the content of the EXPLORER changing, one example being that we are reaching out to the sections and regions, looking for articles on presentations from upcoming section or region conferences that can be highlighted to our membership (see page 20 of this issue for details on the upcoming AAPG Pacific Section Annual Meeting). If you remember, prior to the ICE meeting in Buenos Aires, a couple of articles ran on the Vaca Muerta play of Argentina.
Improving Member Involvement
Membership is another issue on which the EC is working hard with the new committee within the House of Delegates through a program referred to as the “Membership and Retention Initiative.” This program is not only geared toward getting and retaining members, but also to understand what makes our members tick.
What do you as a member expect from AAPG? Rick Fritz, president-elect, has been heading up this initiative, and they have been talking with members who are willing to take a few minutes to answer questions and give feedback.
The current EC is also working on ways that AAPG and the sections and regions can work together for the benefit of all of in the geosciences community. To that end, the new convention model has a provision that will push a portion of the profit from the ACE meetings out to the sections and regions. This percentage is determined by attendance from each of the sections and regions. The intent is that the section can then distribute back to their affiliated societies to help with events locally. The region leadership will use their proceeds for events within their respective region.
Finally, here are a few other issues on which the EC is working. AAPG has upgraded its servers, so in many parts of the world you should be seeing faster speed when accessing the AAPG website. We have put in place a committee to look at content on the website, as well as to make more modifications and upgrades to ease navigation on the site. Our hope is to make your experience of accessing the website as easy as possible.
A list of new events that AAPG can support has been compiled, and we have started working on one of them. One is a URTeC-style conference on carbon capture, utilization and storage for next year in Houston, and plans and personnel are being assembled with more information to come.
Over the next several months, more of these concepts will be reviewed and possibly moved forward.
The new budget process for next year is about to start, and this EC has been constantly reviewing spending to make sure that we are good stewards of your money and spending it in a way that you as a member would approve.
If after reading this you wonder when the EC sleeps, I cannot speak for the rest of them but here I am at a recent quail hunt in Georgia. I think of the quote, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.” That is what the past six Executive Committees, along with the great staff at AAPG, have done. We are not the Titanic, instead we are the phoenix – the symbol of strength and renewal!