AAPG’s Latin America and Caribbean Region started 2020 with a strong lineup of technical and business events.
First semester activities included a Mexico Pre-Salt Section Hedberg Research Conference in Mexico City and a Geosciences Technology Workshop in Barranquilla, highlighting Colombia’s offshore potential. The second semester included the Latin America and Caribbean Region Energy Opportunities Conference in Mexico City and the first-ever Latin America Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in Buenos Aires.
Organizers hoped to build on successful momentum from events in Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, Bolivia and the International Conference and Exhibition in Argentina in 2018 and 2019. The year 2020 was the year of promise.
The Hedberg Conference went well in February, but one of the participants from China canceled travel plans because of a coronavirus outbreak in the country.
One month later, the world turned upside down. Countries closed their borders, companies sent workers home, and sponsors canceled support.
In-person conferences were not just risky but prohibited in most cases. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
Region staff and leadership reacted quickly, revising contracts, holding meetings and shifting into response mode. They launched a series of virtual lectures, meetings and regional conferences to reach students, professionals and displaced workers who craved connection while working and studying from home.
Their #TuesdayTalks Virtual Visiting Geoscientist lecture series connected hundreds of people each week. The LACR Young Professionals Conference highlighted the geology of nine countries throughout the region. The Imperial Barrel Award competition ran smoothly, and more people than ever connected with the region to enjoy the free events.
With virtual strategies for educational programs set in motion, AAPG LACR leadership set their eyes on events.
AAPG LACR Region President Elvira Pureza Gómez said retooling events has been an important priority for the leadership team.
“Our educational outreach is the heart of everything we do in the region,” she said. “To keep our educational programs alive, we need to do what we do best, work hard and adapt to circumstances. A huge priority for us is finding a way to organize events that generate revenue for our region and for AAPG. Without revenue, the programs cease to exist, and all our hard work comes to nothing.”
AAPG LACR leadership and staff began looking at every event and deciding what to do: cancel, postpone … or transform?
To date, none of the 2020 events have been canceled. The Colombia Geosciences Technology Workshop moved to March 2021 and the in-person Energy Opportunities and Latin America URTeC Conferences were rescheduled to September and November 2021.
The Latin America URTeC Conference will continue to have a presence in 2020, with online offerings coming in November.
In the meantime, leadership has offered two completely new initiatives: Energy Opportunities Virtual Experiences and the Latin America and Caribbean Region Virtual Research Symposia.
Energy Opportunities Virtual Experiences
Like the in-person regional conference, Energy Opportunities Virtual Experiences are designed for decisionmakers and industry leaders seeking the information and the connections they need to meet their business objectives.
The Energy Opportunities Virtual Experiences portfolio includes executive forums featuring panel discussions with industry leaders followed by roundtable discussions with participants, and country showcases highlighting investment opportunities and hydrocarbon potential throughout world.
While the in-person conference focuses on the Latin America and Caribbean Region, Energy Opportunities Virtual Experiences have a global reach. Sessions start at 8 a.m. Houston, 2 p.m. London and 9 p.m. Singapore to enable participation from throughout the world.
“Energy Opportunities started as a regional initiative, but now it’s a global enterprise,” Gómez said. “The internet has no borders, and neither does AAPG. We’re covering topics that are relevant in Bogota, Brussels and Beijing. I am thrilled to be a part of this.”
Launched in June, the executive forums take place the last Thursday of each month and feature 60-minute executive level panels with moderated Q&A followed by virtual roundtable discussions for participants.
Gomez said executive forums provide a great opportunity to discuss topics of interest to decisionmakers working in all aspects of the energy sector.
“Forum topics are very timely during this challenging period in our energy industry,” she said. “This is a way for us to help people have conversations and to connect with others who have ideas and strategies to move forward and stay connected.”
Forum registration is provided free of charge to attendees and expenses covered by sponsors.
Chevron, an Energy Opportunities conference supporter, opted to sponsor the virtual forums in 2020.
For Ken Yeats, technical relations manager for Chevron Global Exploration, the virtual series aligns well with company objectives.
“Chevron is excited to sponsor the new virtual Energy Opportunities Executive Forum series as a leading-edge digital way for industry leaders to stay engaged and keep communicating during the global pandemic and beyond. Attendees will gain valuable insights from world-class experts on a variety of timely and relevant industry topics. Our hope is that this initiative will establish an informative virtual space that expands access and facilitates interaction among leaders well into the future,” he said.
The inaugural Energy Opportunities Executive Forum, New Roadmaps for Unconventional Resources: Moving Forward in an Uncertain Energy Market, took place June 25.
The executive forum session featured panelists from Chevron, Shell, Enverus and Texas A&M University and included panel discussions about the role of unconventionals in the global market, transferring technologies and workflows from North America to other parts of the world and applying expertise and technologies to other industries.
The July 30 session, “COVID’s Effect on the Energy Sector: from Crisis to Transformation,” included panelists from Ecopetrol, Norton Rose Fulbright, FTI Consulting and included roundtables covering the impact of COVID-19 on the energy transition, on innovation and on legal and commercial strategies.
Upcoming 2020 executive forums include:
- Carbon Capture Use and Storage - Making Petroleum and Industrial Processes More Sustainable – Aug. 27, 2020
- ESG and Sustainable Development: What’s the Difference and Why Do They Matter? – Sept. 24, 2020
- Net Zero by 2050 – Where Do We Stand Now? – Oct. 29 2020
The second phase of Energy Opportunities Virtual Experiences, country showcases, starts in September.
While executive forums feature hot topics and panel discussions, country showcases include presentations directly from countries promoting global opportunities.
Showcases provide 60 minutes of presentations and Q&A from energy ministers, geoscientists, government licensing authorities and national oil company executives, who provide a detailed look at licensing rounds, open blocks, hydrocarbon potential and exploration activity.
Gina Godfrey, managing director of AAPG’s International Pavilion, said virtual country showcases are a perfect complement to the current International Pavilion program offered at onsite AAPG events.
“The virtual aspect of country showcases give NOCs, ministries and government the ability to reach out globally in real time to continue promotion of their exploration opportunities and current activity,” she said, adding that virtual participation gives countries longer presentation times and larger audiences than what they traditionally enjoy at in-person conferences.
“It’s all about being able to get their ‘complete story’ across. With this platform, countries will have a much longer amount of time to go into greater detail and be able to interact directly with a global audience,” she said.
Godfrey added that attending the online sessions will provide a great source of information for executives and new business professionals who are unable to travel during the pandemic.
“With a showcase format of 60-plus minutes of multiple in-depth presentations related to licensing rounds, hydrocarbon potential, current activity, etc., those who register can expect to come away with a complete and informed view from each country,” she said.
Upcoming 2020 showcases include:
- Peru (Perupetro) – Sept. 10, 2020
- Namibia (NAMCOR) – Oct. 8, 2020
- Morocco (ONHYM) – Nov. 12, 2020
- Greenland (Ministry of Industry, Energy and Research) – Dec. 10, 2020
Virtual Research Symposia
While Energy Opportunities reaches the global business community, AAPG LACR leadership is focusing on another initiative reaching technical professionals who have an interest in the Latin America and Caribbean Region, the Virtual Research Symposia series.
Gomez described how the LACR leadership team spent recent months reflecting on the region’s identity and what they wanted to provide to members.
“We decided we wanted to focus on our roots, on geoscience,” she said.
Gomez met with Flover Rodriguez, education director for AAPG LACR and executive director of the Colombian Association of Petroleum Geologists and Geophysicists. They discussed ideas for revenue generating opportunities in the region and noted the success of technical initiatives like ACGGP’s “Geosciences in Quarantine” conference series that took place from March to June 2020.
“‘Geosciences in Quarantine’ brought thousands of people together and featured different countries, and we thought we could put our own spin on it with AAPG,” Rodriguez said.
They took the strategy to AAPG staff and held several brainstorming sessions.
“We wanted to find our own strategy for high quality technical content, massive participation and a low price point. And the Virtual Research Symposia were born,” he said.
AAPG LACR organized the first symposium along with ACGGP and the Colombian Geological Society.
The event, “Southwest Caribbean Basins: Recent Studies and Advances in Understanding the Geology of Colombia, Panama and Venezuela,” took place via Zoom Enterprise on July 23-24.
The symposia highlighted the geology of some of the region’s most fascinating and prolific basins. Focusing more on science than on business, the events were targeted to researchers and professionals working both in industry and academia. Each two-day event included four session themes with technical presentations, keynotes from highly renowned speakers and two panel discussions with experts in the field.
Presentations were recorded and will be made available on-demand for those who were unable to access the sessions live. Access to recordings will be available for six months following each symposium.
Gómez explained that virtual research symposia have some important differences when compared with the Geosciences Technology Workshops the Region has featured in recent years.
“GTWs are very focused on petroleum geoscience, hydrocarbon potential and where to drill wells. That is part of the virtual symposia too, but the primary focus is to share knowledge with our colleges. We want to have a broader audience in these events and create a place where people who may not normally participate in an AAPG event find their place and feel comfortable.” she said.
To increase participation from countries being featured, AAPG partners with affiliated societies that represent both the oil and gas sector as well as more academic geological societies.
Partners include the Argentine Geological Association and the Argentine Association of Petroleum Geologists and Geophysicists, The Colombian Geological Society, the Colombian Association of Petroleum Geologists and Geophysicists, the Mexican Association of Petroleum Geologists and the Geological Society of Peru.
Benefits and Trade-Offs of the Format
Symposium organizers recognize that the virtual format of the events provides both limitations and opportunities for the presentations.
In GTWs and other technical workshops, presenters often show confidential data because all recording and photography is prohibited.
“We can ask people to sign a form promising not to take screen shots, but we know it’s unrealistic to try to guarantee complete confidentiality during virtual events,” Rodriguez said.
Instead of trying to enforce confidentiality restrictions, the team decided to record the sessions and make them available to the largest audience possible.
“There’s a lot of fantastic research being done by companies and graduate students right now,” Rodriguez said. “Symposia provide great opportunity for presenters to showcase their work.”
About half of symposium presentations come from academic institutions and the other half from universities.
Another important difference between the virtual symposia and traditional AAPG technical conferences is the highly reduced registration price: $50 for professionals and $ 25 for students.
Gomez said conference fees were a concern even before COVID-19, particularly in countries like Venezuela and Argentina, the inflation rates of which reached double digits in recent months. The pandemic only exacerbated the situation throughout the region, and nearly all national oil companies eliminated all funding for employee training for the remainder of 2020.
“We are keeping costs very low because we recognize that many people in the region who want to attend will have to pay the registration fees out of their own pocket,” she said. “We understand the situation, and we want our members to know that AAPG cares.”
The Southwest Caribbean Basins Virtual Research attracted 198 participants from 77 organizations and 18 countries.
The team has five additional symposia planned through the remainder of 2020:
- Andean Basins: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – Aug. 20-21
- Southeast Caribbean and Guiana Basins: Barbados, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago – Sept. 17-18
- Pacific Basins: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile – Oct. 22-23
- Mexico Basins: Nov. 19 – 20
- South Atlantic Margin: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay – Dec. 3-4
They are also planning short courses about machine learning and geoscience communication – two fields that provide different career options for geoscientists.
“Our ultimate goal is to is to reach all members and non-members throughout the region and help to contribute to their professional development during this challenging time,” she said.
Leaders and staff are planning for both in-person, online and combined formats for 2021 and beyond.
“The world is changing, and we have to change with it. It’s an exciting time to be a geoscientist and to be a part of AAPG,” said Gomez.
To find out more about virtual events see latinamerica.aapg.org. To find out more about Energy Opportunities see energyopportunities.info.