AAPG members realize that finding oil and gas is at best an arduous, difficult task:
♦ We need to create a valid concept using imagination and data.
♦ Next, we must convince someone with financial resources that oil and/or gas can be found and profitably developed where no one else believes it exists.
♦ After the test well is drilled, we are either the hero or the goat – and most of the time we are the goat, because wildcat wells are still dry holes 90 percent of the time.
Without the incentive to look for oil and gas, it would be impossible to withstand the emotional pain of the dry holes that are part of the exploration process.
Incentive is one half of the ingredients necessary for having a healthy petroleum industry. The other half is freedom to explore; therefore politics plays a crucial role.
One of my favorite politically oriented quotes is from legendary geologist Wallace Pratt. It seems especially appropriate today. In 1952, he said:
“ … So long as a single oil-finder remains with a mental vision of a new oil field to cherish, along with freedom and incentive to explore, just so long new oil fields may continue to be discovered.” (AAPG BULLETIN, 1952).
Freedom and incentive to explore are still necessary today – not just for the United States, but for the whole world.
I heard a speaker in September at the AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Singapore say that the biggest impediment to developing unconventional resource plays outside of North America is politics.
The public around the world has been informed of potential catastrophes caused by hydraulic fracture stimulation of reservoirs. They worry about drinking water contamination and earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing – never mind that there is still no direct evidence to confirm those connections.
The unconventional resource play is the best and most recent example of the product of freedom and incentive. The play has provided the United States with great economic benefits. For example, in North America gas is $3/MCF versus $10/MCF most everywhere else. Even so, the United States teeters on the brink of taking away these two critical ingredients.
The current U.S. administration likes to point out that current oil import levels have fallen to the level that they were 20 years ago. That’s great news, but the U.S. government has made drilling on federally owned land more and more difficult.
Ninety-one percent of wells producing from unconventional reservoirs in the United States are on private land. To this point the federal government of the United States has discouraged the development of this valuable and critical resource that is responsible for the drop in U.S. oil imports.(See RELATED STORY)
Unconventional resource plays are beginning to take root in basins outside of North America. Basins with emerging unconventional plays are located in Argentina, China, India, Indonesia and Australia.
Will they have the same remarkable impact that they have had in North America? That remains to be seen, mainly because in many of those places politics is the number one impediment.
Past AAPG president Scott Tinker once noted that a member of the U.S. Congress told him he agreed that the petroleum industry is not the evil industry it is portrayed to be, but he would still vote against it because that was what his or her voters wanted. Scott told us that the only way to change anything politically is to convince the public, and the public will convince the politicians.
“Switch,” the energy movie featuring Scott, goes a long way toward doing just that. It is an entertaining and informative film.
In September’s EXPLORER, Tom Temples , president of the Division of Environmental Geosciences (DEG), said, “We geologists have traditionally been slow to react – if at all – to explain what we do and how it affects the environment and surrounding communities. This inaction – or ‘mis-action’ – has resulted in the imposition of regulations and created the image of the industry as an evildoer.”
In Tom’s EXPLORER column he explains further, “We need to get involved at all levels and get the word out to politicians and the public. How can you as a geoscientist get involved? Take any opportunity to speak to the public and the regulators.” If you aren’t a speaker, you can get involved with DEG and help compile facts and figures that can be distributed via the DEG website.
As professional geologists we have a duty to inform the public for their sakes, but also for ours.
So get informed – and start changing opinions one at a time.