Positive Steps Fuel Global Growth

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Contributors: Peter Lloyd, Marty Hewitt

A great deal of thought and hard work has gone into thinking through the AAPG’s globalization strategy (and putting in place all the financial and legal protection to do it effectively). But when the AAPG’s proposed Global Corporate Structure (GCS) was recently unveiled in Denver, some members were worried –very worried.

Most concerns centered around the suggested “North American Region” and an “Overseas Holding Company.” These concepts represented uncomfortable new territory.

There also was the spectre of extensive bylaws changes, and the GCS committee’s caveat – “One certainty in a major change such as this is that few things are created and perfected at the same moment in time” –was little cause for comfort.

It all sounded like a tough field to plough.

However, the last few weeks of detailed deliberations by the AAPG Constitution and Bylaws Committee (C&BLC) reveal a very different reality. Significantly, Executive Director Rick Fritz (with AAPG legal counsel’s advice and informed by SPE’s experience) advised that the holding company concept is premature if not completely unnecessary.

Further legal counsel advice has stated:

“Region offices, as incorporated now, are adequately protected in both the legal and financial sense. As to contract disputes, tort protection poses a more difficult challenge. But, in reality, no corporate structure gives complete protection, and such risk is probably nowhere more acute than in the United States.”

Take this – and the C&BLC’s recent opinion that the governance of the organization can currently support healthy international growth, without any need for radically restructuring the organization – and the future is bright indeed.

The global future of the AAPG will be in the hands of regional AAPG-HQ offices and the increasingly empowered and vibrant overseas Regions. To achieve success, the Regions will have to work closely with their local affiliates to offer cost-effective and tailored services, including cross-discipline collaboration with sister associations.

Back in the mid-1990s the AAPG was ahead of most other overseas geoscience organizations in how it managed big international conferences and mid-sized but more focused Hedberg research symposia, along with both its Distinguished Lecturer and education programs. The Association’s flagship Memoir publications – in Sequence Stratigraphy, Petroleum Systems and New Frontiers for Exploration and technical mastery in so many domains – made membership a very sound investment.

AAPG’s leadership reached out to the members in the Regions, opening positions in the HoD, the Advisory Council and the Executive Committee. Our international Active membership category increased, despite the difficult business environment of low oil prices, and we managed some exceptional international conferences and exhibitions. Active membership for internationals reached an all time high in 2001.

But then that growth in Active membership stalled. Cited reasons are that we missed opportunities to set up regional offices, lost ground with our overseas outreach education programs and we did not sustain close enough links with all our international affiliates. Competition from regional societies in our traditional overseas heartlands became significant as they set up regional support teams. Additionally, there was a withdrawal of personnel working on North Sea projects.

As a result, since that peak in 2001 our international Active membership has dropped 17 percent.

This decline in international “Actives” is clearly greater than the 14 percent experienced domestically in “Actives” in the same timeframe.

We have seen impressive growth in student membership, which is the main reason why total overall international AAPG membership has increased over the same period – but while our student initiatives in this period were a real highlight, only a modest percentage of those students could be expected to find employment, and thereby move on to become “Actives.”

The experience of these latter years tells us that the way to achieve more industry involvement and membership growth is to recapture all the positives we enjoyed as the AAPG went international at the turn of the millennium:

  • We must expand our overseas office infrastructure and differentiate AAPG regional offices from the many excellent local and regional society offices that also have come into being in the last 10 years.
  • We must leverage off the greater experience the AAPG has domestically with certification, environmental geoscience, non-conventionals and renewables – and export this experience to the Regions. The Visiting Geoscientist Program, Distinguished Lecture, education, Hedberg and Geoscience Technology Workshop programs all are tried and trusted offerings where the AAPG gives value added to our members.
  • We must continue to empower the joint HQ-volunteer teams who work our overseas offices to tailor AAPG products and services to meet the local setting.
  • We must reconnect and partner with all our international affiliates; they are just as important to the Regions as they are to the Sections domestically.
  • Most importantly, we must appreciate that successful globalization requires each of us to be sensitive, sympathetic and appreciative of the wide range of overseas cultures, by striving to complement, not control, when working in such settings.

See also See also "C&BLC Endorses Present System."

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Peter Lloyd, of Heriot Watt University’s Institute of Petroleum Engineering, is an AAPG Honorary member and International Regions Committee co-chair.

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