Straight talk in Singapore

Lecturer to Give Advice (Be Prepared to Duck)

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

“Some are idiots that were born into money or got lucky. Most are clever and hard working. Either trait alone is not enough.”

Longley will talk about “The Secrets of a Successful Geological Career in Modern Western Oil Companies,” this year’s special lecture at the AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Singapore.

Graphic courtesy of Ian Longley
Graphic courtesy of Ian Longley

He is co-owner of GIS-Pax, a GIS software company in Perth, Australia, and at the Singapore ICE he’ll also be teaching his short course on “The Petroleum Geology of Southeast Asia.”

He partnered with and later inherited the course from Exxon veteran Richard Murphy. Longley has further developed and refined his course based on his experience in working all the major petroleum basins in Southeast Asia.

As for his special lecture, well … those expecting a sterile, corporate view of that topic from him, guess again.

“It will be advice on how to survive management fads, engineers and human resource departments,” he said, “which are the source of much pain for working geologists in western companies.”

That’s right. Longley, a geologist who’s had huge life experiences both inside and outside the industry, may annoy, offend, irk and embarrass just about everyone in the room.

In fact, he has a flow chart (see figure) on how to actually do that – and the tools you need, namely, a sense of humor, because as the chart shows, the higher up you go on the geologic food chart, the fewer laughs you’ll find.

That’s something that Longley both mocks and deconstructs. And that may be part of the “secret” of his special paper.

The Epiphany

You may ask, how does a man who held senior positions at both Woodside and Oil Search as well as with Shell in Houston, arrive at a point in his career where he loves the profession, just not always the professionals in it?

Longley says his epiphany occurred at about the midway point in his career, when a very senior executive at the company where he was then employed told him the future of the company was in the Gulf of Mexico.

Longley said it wasn’t so much that the Gulf was a bad idea ­– he believed it to be, in fact, “a fantastic basin with amazing geology” – but the CEO wanted to do it “on the cheap, with half a team and half the data in the world’s most competitive arena!”

“I managed amazingly not to laugh, nor shout profanities at him,” Longley recalled. “I think I stared off into the middle distance knowing at that instant that such self-control meant that in my early 40s my adolescence was finally over and that I would have no further career progression, nor a clubby life with an executive pension plan.”

Making matters worse was the fact that the executive “had partnered with a group I thought was from the shallow end of the Jurassic gene pool.”

That moment sparked a new perspective on both his career and life – and that might be why a lecture like this, as “silly” (his word) and subversive as it seems to be, is worth doing.

Initially, he wanted to do a presentation titled “Are All CEOs Tossers?” but thought that might end his career rather than just limit it.

Also, in his short course he’ll have the chance to talk about his software program called “Player,” which is an advanced GIS Play tool. Seeing a major gap in what geologists needed to be successful and what was available on the market, Longley and his partner, Tom Giles (a GIS expert), formed their own company and developed the Player software.

Player automatically spots well results and prospect locations and makes available summary statistics for play-specific discovery size, success rates and failure analysis, and is currently Rose &Associates recommended Play software solution.

Longley has sold the software to more than 18 companies internationally, of which many have made it their tool-of-choice for their global play analysis work.

“This guarantees that prospect chance and volume assessments can be examined within the perspective of the play,” he said. “And I get to talk about it to a trapped audience.”

Lighten Up, Already!

If you haven’t guessed by now, Longley is equal parts funny, acerbic, impatient and a serious geoscientist.

And seriously, much of his experience will be on display during the short course, in which participants will get an overview of the overall geotectonic development of Southeast Asia and the geology of the major hydrocarbon occurrences – the major sources of information in the region.

Participants also will get a chance to enhance their ability to do independent work in the regional geology of Southeast Asia.

“The course covers the geological evolution of the entire region,” he said, “and the petroleum geology, exploration history and future potential of all of the major hydrocarbon-bearing basins.”

But much of his perspective also comes from the fact that he knows he is lucky to be talking about anything, considering he has survived skin cancer, thyroid cancer and a shark attack.

Of that last event, he recalls it as if it happened not last decade, but last weekend.

“It was very unusual, as it was the first fatal attack in Perth since the 1920s,” he says of the events of November 2000, “and it happened right in front of the landmark cafe in Perth called the Blue Duck.”

One person died in the attack – Kenneth Crew, a father of three.

“(I was) Just lucky,” he says, which is all he says about it.

(In fact, the details of which, he doesn’t reveal – he simply points others to “Google” the story.)

Ask Longley about the business of geology, though, and it’s clear the industry and its future matter to him – and matters that the best people are in place to do the job.

And that, he says, is getting increasingly frustrating to attain.

“My most recent epiphany is realizing that overpaid gas marketers and commercial people know absolutely nothing about the future value of gas,” he said, “and never get held to account for their historical predictions.”

He says it would be much better if they all picked a different career.

So, is there, in fact, a secret (or list of them) to success as an exploration geologist?

If there had been a rock nearby, he might have thrown it at me.

“It’s always about getting the rocks right first.”

But ask him again, though, if there’s one thing he would recommend to young geologists or even old ones, and he has an answer:

“Life’s too short,” says the man who has beaten a shark once and cancer twice.

“My best suggestion is to not take things – especially yourself – too seriously.”

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AAPG-DPA Special Lecture

Ian Longley
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AAPG member Ian Longley will give the AAPG-DPA special lecture, “The Secrets of a Successful Geological Career in Modern Western Oil Companies,” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at the AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Singapore.

Longley also will be leading a preconference short course titled “The Petroleum Geology of Southeast Asia” Sept. 13-16 in Singapore.

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