December 2007 President's Letter

Geo-Celebrities: People Who Inspire
Today's Oil Finders

by Linda Sternbach
HGS is hosting another stellar event in the Geo-Legends series! T. Boone Pickens will speak at the HGS January 14 dinner meeting at the Westchase Hilton hotel. Pickens began his career as a geologist and then founded the company that became Mesa Petroleum. He was one of the first independent oilmen to grow a company by the acquisition of other oil and gas companies. He currently pursues a wide range of business interests. We look forward to having him share his stories and views at the January HGS dinner meeting.
Geo-Legends is an original HGS dinner meeting series that began seven years ago with a "Legends in Wildcatting" panel discussion in January 2000. This was followed by a second "Legends in Wildcatting" in 2003, "Geo-Legends" in 2006 and "Legendary Fields" in January 2007. This series is one of the most popular technical meetings that HGS organizes, and we anticipate a sell-out of tickets for the T. Boone Pickens talk. This January 2008 program was initiated and organized by Vice President Gary Coburn and HGS Director
Bonnie Milne-Andrews.
When HGS puts together a Legends program, the people on the wish list to invite have characteristics that make them "Geo-Celebrities" in our business. Geo-Celebrities are successful individuals who fulfill the dreams of the regular geoscientist. Geoscientists attend the Legends series because they are looking for role models for their own careers. They seek insight into how to become financially successful from winners in the oil business and also to hear a "hero's story," in which the celebrity started from humble beginnings and rose to prominence in the profession. I think one reason both men and women choose petroleum geology as a career is because they have internal hopes of "hitting it big," whether in finding oil, making a scientific discovery or creating a business.
Geologists are keenly interested in collecting and comparing information to create a "big picture" of the natural world. They also enjoy travel, adventure and making predictions. Deep down inside, in their quiet internal world, geologists imagine what it would be like if they were wildly successful. It would be all the more sweet if their success is the result of being smart enough to figure out the play, or the formula, before the competition does. Geologists also imagine that because they are so smart, they will also be lucky, too.
The way I see it, there are three kinds of Geo-Celebrities. T. Boone Pickens is the empire builder. Geologists admire the empire builders' ability to make connections, to see value in fallow land or a string of small fields, and to grow a company that builds and revamps oil assets into profitability. They also have the insight to foresee potential in oil and gas properties out of favor in the mainstream. Pickens has invested beyond the oil business and diversified into other resources such as water, wind and alternative energy. Past Legends panelists that are "empire builders" include Gene Van Dyke of Vanco, Joe Foster of Newfield, Marvin Davis of Davis Oil and Joe Bruso of Sovereign Oil. These types of Geo-Celebrities are very ambitious, very imaginative and incredibly tough business people.
Another type of Geo-Celebrity is the wildcatter. Geologists admire the wildcatter story: a geologist who rose from humble beginnings, learned and survived through failure, and finally found wealth and success through an oil field discovery. The HGS Legends panel in 2003 was one of the last opportunities to hear the late Michel T. Halbouty talking about his decades in the oil business and the optimism and dogged persistence that kept him successful. Other wildcatters from the 2003 Legends program included Tom Barrow (Exxon-Prudhoe Bay) and Bill Barrett (Cave Gulch field). The wildcatter Geo-Celebrity appreciates the benefits of science and business training but realizes that it takes savvy beyond books to win at the game of finding oil. Intuition takes wildcatters to places where they have more hope than facts. Geologists especially love the part of the story when there is a big discovery that makes up for dry holes.
The last type of Geo-Celebrity is the geo-hero. The Geo-Legends program of 2006 featured great teachers that have returned tremendous knowledge to the geologic community. Our speakers at Geo-Legends 2006 included Peter Vail, Albert Bally, Arnold Bouma and Pete Rose. Geologists admire the ability of these Geo-Celebrities to write, lecture and communicate the big picture back to the ordinary geologist stuck in a close-focus world. They see patterns in chaotic nature. We ask: how did they get the insight and the intellectual discipline to execute all their publications and teaching efforts?
I hope the HGS can continue to inspire today's and tomorrow's geoscientists with speaker programs like Geo-Legends.

Linda Sternbach
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
From the President