Letter from the President- November 2011

Expanding the Vision of Our MindsIt was the legendary Wallace Pratt who famously said, “Oil is found in the minds of men.” If this is so, then we as explorationists should always work at expanding our skills and the vision of our minds. The Continuous Improvement process used by successful businesses then can then also work for us and our careers.  The nature of onshore exploration has dramatically shifted over the past few years due to the “Shale Revolution.” The rapid increase in drilling in these unconventional reservoirs requires a different skill set than what traditional prospect generation uses. Suddenly previously niche topics like geochemistry and rock mechanics are critical aspects of what makes a play work. To be successful in finding oil and gas now, we find that we need new skills and new understanding about geological processes; we need to expand the vision of our minds. It was not so long ago that any fine-grained rock got labeled a “shale” and was immediately ignored. Now we are going back with an improved understanding about these mudstones and can ask meaningful questions:  What is the organic carbon content? Where are the kerogens? What is the maturation? Where are the pores and how are they distributed? Are there more brittle units that can be fractured? What is the distribution of these brittle units in the formation? Are natural fractures present? What is their orientation? What is the current stress field? Where do the fractures go when we hit the rock with our hydraulic frack?One good thing in all this is that it has forced us to go back to the rock for answers to some of these important questions. Cores have always been critical data, but are more so now than ever. We need to understand everything the rock can tell us. At the same time, new logging tools are being developed and used. Seismic techniques that have been slow to develop are suddenly relevant and are being deployed in a major way—techniques like multi-component, full azimuth, and microseismic.  If you like change, these are indeed exciting times.So, how do we gain these new skills? How can we expand the vision of our minds?You won’t be surprised when I tell you that the Houston Geological Society has a number of resources available to help. We offer the equivalent of an annual convention’s worth of technical talks spread out over the year. Maybe the most popular of our meetings is Legends Night, and for the coming January, Charles Sternbach and John Tubb have collaborated to put together an outstanding evening. The HGS Bulletin is an outstanding publication that captures all the abstracts and provides several other features. We also offer multi-day events like the popular Mudstone Conference coming up in February and the Africa Conference, and we run several continuing education classes throughout the year. Throw in one of our field trips and you can see we offer a fairly complete package. We are able to run all these at bargain prices for you because we keep our overhead low.Since you are reading this in our Bulletin or on our website, there is a fairly high probability that you are already an HGS member. If so, tell your friends who are not.  If not, you are missing out on a great value and you and your colleagues should sign up immediately.HGS’s ‘parent’ organization, AAPG, offers a very complimentary set of resources for its members. They have an excellent set of publications, from their technical journal, the AAPG Bulletin, and Explorer newsletter to a broad assortment of books. They offer access to an online library of reference material. AAPG runs its own set of continuing education classes and field trips. And of course, AAPG also organizes the Annual Convention and Expo (ACE) and the International Convention and Expo (ICE). While it amazes me that we have members who belong to the HGS but not the AAPG, and there are geologists who belong to the AAPG but choose not to join their local society, it dismays me that there are geologists who choose not to join either society. Personally, I don’t think you can call yourself a petroleum geologist and not belong to one, preferably both (just my opinion).What I have ignored in this discussion so far is the value of networking. I worked for major oil companies for almost 30 years, so I understand that networking may not seem like a high priority to some folks. I can promise you that at some point in your career, you will realize a strong network truly is an invaluable asset. I can’t emphasize this point enough to young professionals. Again, both HGS and AAPG can help by providing many networking opportunities.Taken together, the HGS and AAPG provide a rich menu of resources to help its members stay current with new technology, to be involved with new ideas, and to actively expand the vision of our minds. They are great means to network and to earn educational credits as well. I suggest that you make the HGS and AAPG your partners in this career you have chosen. Geology is a wonderful and fascinating science. I can't think of a happier way to make my living. If I can leave you with one thought, it is this: being a professional means that you must be continually improving your skills and continually expanding the vision of your mind. Enjoy the upcoming holidays.

Steve Earle
Monday, October 24, 2011
From the President