The Future Is Now: ACE Turns the Spotlight on Science and Creativity

The event featured a cast of thousands, sure, but the stars of the show definitely were those who were providing creative scientific thought, exciting tales of exploration successes and dazzling, cutting-edge technology.

The 2012 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, held for the second time in five years in Long Beach, Calif., and featuring the location-inspired film theme of “Directing the Future of E&P,” attracted 5,272 attendees from 72 countries.

Hosted by the AAPG Pacific Section and chaired by Kay L. Pitts, of Aera Energy, the meeting featuring a comprehensive technical program of 416 oral and 628 poster presentations, ranging in topics from emerging frontiers to active oil and gas fields; structural geology and neotectonics to geosciences principles and applications; and a healthy dose of carbonates, siliciclastics and unconventional reservoirs.

“We continue to hear how much people enjoyed the convention, how much they learned, the connections they made and how much they enjoyed Long Beach,” Pitts said. “One of the Monterey shale workshop attendees told me that it was the best core workshop they had ever attended.

“We’re very pleased the convention came off so well,” she added, “and (it) has every indication of being more financially successful than forecast.”

The technical program was complemented by the large, often high-tech dominated and always impressive displays found in the exhibits hall, which boasted 224 exhibitors, including the popular International Pavilion.

Indeed, other than a few technical session rooms that were filled to overflowing (the technical program was “timely and top-notch,” Pitts said), ACE 2012 proved to be a relatively crisis-free convention, allowing everyone’s attention to remain focused on the papers, posters and other activities.

“The History of Geology forum kicked off the technical meeting with one of the larger audiences it has had,” Pitts said. “The shale session and Discovery Thinking forum were both standing room-only, with folks waiting to get in between talks.

“The room was full for the Halbouty lecturer John Grotzinger,” she continued, “and the All-Convention Luncheon speaker, Robin West from PFC Energy, kept the near sell-out audience spell bound.”

Grotzinger’s talk, in a bit of a departure for the annual Halbouty lecture, focused on current exploration efforts of Mars; West talked about the future of deepwater exploration, and while he discussed the current success stories that can be found offshore Brazil and western Africa he also talked about North America as being the “world’s hottest investment destination,” a “stunning” development that is bringing about a surge in production that “is extraordinary.”

Although several events were slated earlier in the weekend, Pitts officially started ACE with Sunday’s opening session, held in a nearly filled-to-capacity ballroom and featuring the presentation of AAPG honors and awards plus Paul Weimer’s AAPG Presidential Address.

Weimer’s talk focused largely on AAPG historic, current and projected demographics – a topic also covered in his May EXPLORER President’s Column – calling those trends “critical” factors that the membership must consider.

Weimer, in endorsing past president Dave Rensink’s 2011 ACE address that challenged AAPG to think strategically about where it wants to be in 2035, presented detailed charts and data to provide a context for the decisions that loom – “a look at membership trends since 1979, and what the implications of our policies have been.”

The data showed AAPG membership trends growing older over the past several decades – “they show the overall migration of membership at this time,” Weimer said as he presented data showing what was similar to decline rates of a well.

“The point is actually pretty obvious,” he said. “The ‘Baby Boomers’ are now in a similar decline curve as the ‘Long-in-the-Tooth’ forefathers, and, obviously, for AAPG to maintain its large number of members we’re going to have to recruit a lot of new members to succeed the Baby Boomers.

He also talked of the need for AAPG to attract younger geoscientists from the world’s diverse talent pool.

“As we honor the past we also have to begin to ring in the new,” Weimer said. “I think our best path forward is the influence that we’ve already earned – apply it to new learnings to grow membership and long-term health of our organization.”

Other meeting highlights included:

♦ AAPG Foundation chairman Bill Fisher, in remarks to the All-Convention Luncheon, announced the successful conclusion of the Foundation’s financial campaign – donations have exceeded the original goal, standing now at $35.6 million. Additional pledges are yet to be recorded before the final totals are announced.

♦ For the first time ever, the awards ceremony for the Imperial Barrel Award finals competition was held on Sunday before the opening session and open to the public. The University of Louisiana-Lafayette won the top prize.RELATED STORY

♦ The International Pavilion in the ACE exhibits hall attracted representatives from 18 countries presenting available E&P opportunities.

In addition to exhibiting at the IP, the Lebanon Minister of Energy and Water, Gebran Bassil, briefed media and other interested parties of the country’s upcoming first offshore licensing round.

Bassil has said Lebanon hoped to have exploration contracts with international oil companies signed and sealed by the end of the year.

♦ A special showing of the commercial film “Switch,” featuring past AAPG president Scott Tinker, was offered to a near sell-out crowd at a large Long Beach theater. Tinker and director-producer Harry Lynch led a Q&A after the showing.

Pitts was quick to point out the meeting’s success was largely the result of dedicated volunteer workers.

“It was very gratifying to be involved with the wonderfully cohesive organizing and technical committees,” Pitts said. “The AAPG ACE continues to offer the highest value experience overall for petroleum and energy geoscientsts.”

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The top 10 most highly represented countries at ACE 2012:

♦ United States – 3,934 
♦ Canada – 275 
♦ United Kingdom – 242 
♦ China – 115 
♦ Norway – 63 
♦ Australia – 62 
♦ Brazil, Saudi Arabia – 53 
♦ France – 44 
♦ Nigeria – 34 
♦ Mexico – 30

Attendance by Region

♦ Europe Region – 275 
♦ Canada Region – 257 
♦ Latin America Region – 149 
♦ Middle East Region – 96 
♦ Africa Region – 84 
♦ Asia/Pacific Region – 82