AAPG in 2035?

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

One of the goals the Executive Committee has set for this year is to instill a longer range view in AAPG – a 20- to 25-year view. To that end, we have asked the Advisory Council to review the current AAPG Strategic Plan, which was crafted in 2004, to determine whether the plan’s assumptions are still valid – and if so, whether the conclusions are still valid. That task is under way. The AC has reviewed the underlying assumptions and has proposed several changes.

We also want to consider what changes AAPG could experience in the next 20-25 years and determine what AAPG needs to do to accommodate the potential changes.

Some of these potential changes are fairly easy to predict. By 2035:

  • Over 50 percent of our members will live outside of the United States.
  • We will have offices in every Region.
  • The average age of our membership will be younger than it is now.
  • Our gender ratio will be near 50:50.
  • All of our publications will be digital.

Some of the other changes we may experience are a little more difficult to predict with a reasonably high level of confidence.

  • As U.S. oil production and, eventually, gas production decline, we will see more mergers and a potential contraction of the U.S. petroleum industry to Houston and Denver. This could prompt two or more U.S. Sections to merge as the demographics change.
  • As the Regions grow and establish their own annual meetings, the AAPG International Conference will cease to be relevant. At that point, the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition will become a truly international event.
  • By 2035, China could be AAPG's seventh Region.

The accompanying graph indicates that if the membership trends of the past five years persist, the Sections and Regions will reach membership parity in 2023 – and by 2035 the current demographics of 62 percent-U.S. members will have flipped to 62 percent non-U.S. members.

If you believe the graph, our total membership will be approximately 64,000 by 2030. That would be 49 percent higher than our record membership of approximately 43,000 in 1986. This is an attainable goal. The only question is, "Do we have the mechanisms in place to get there?”

At present, approximately 50 percent of our members are over the age of 50. By 2030, the youngest of that group will be 70. A steady influx of young professionals is necessary to merely sustain our membership.

It is not inconceivable that we could merge with another professional society by 2035.

The changes that we foresee for AAPG will mirror the changes we can expect in the petroleum industry:

  • There will be a structural shift from West to East.
  • The supply crunch may be delayed until after 2020. The international oil companies are stuck in declining, mature markets. Companies will merge to sustain their reserve base, not to grow it.
  • The international oil companies will become true joint venture partners of the national oil companies.
  • The national oil companies will maintain or increase their two-thirds share of the world's oil reserves.

The need to institutionalize a long-range view within AAPG is driven by the fact that our system of governance does not lend itself to long range planning.

Each AAPG president brings a unique view and vision of what AAPG should be to the Executive Committee. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with that, but when combined with a turnover of the Executive Committee every two years, AAPG's corporate memory is short. For all practical purposes, our corporate memory resides with the staff, whose jobs are to implement the strategy set by the Executive Committee and the Advisory Council – not create it.

By their very nature, none of the forecasts noted above are certain, but change is inevitable. It is how we plan for it and react to it that will determine our future.

I particularly want to thank President-elect Paul Weimer for his input into the scenarios expressed in this column and for his support for a long-term view for AAPG.

On another note: We have received a number of positive comments on the new Search and Discovery Digest, which is only available digitally. Please send me the digest

If you did not receive a copy, it is probably because we do not have your current e-mail address in our records – so please update your information.

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President's Column - David G. Rensink

David G. Rensink, AAPG President (2010-11), is a consultant out of Houston. He retired from Apache Corp in 2009.

President's Column

AAPG Presidents offer thoughts and information about their experiences for the Association. 


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