With oil reaching historic lows, massive layoffs, a growing stigma against fossil fuels, and new fields of science with a futuristic feel, it is understandable why studying the geosciences – particularly for careers in petroleum – might strike a student as a bad idea. Most would agree the oil and gas industry has a major public relations crisis on its hands. To remain relevant, it must demonstrate the growing need for geoscientists in forward-thinking positions where job security is all but a given.
'Attracting investment capital looked like a challenge for the oil and gas industry heading into this year, as investors put increased emphasis on profitability and steady returns. At first that situation appeared to be an emerging problem. Then prices fell off a cliff, with damaging results for exploration funding. The worldwide spread of the coronavirus gutted oil demand while a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia left both sides threatening to increase crude production. OPEC+ eventually reached a compromise on cutting output, but most analysts felt it was too little, too late, putting oil and gas in a money crunch.
As geoscientists, we have a deep appreciation of the rocks themselves, whether they are in the field or in the lab. We also know that the one constant in geological history is change, and those changes can be both gradual and almost instantaneous (think Chicxulub). Now, COVID-19 is challenging educators to force face-to-face learning environments, including classrooms, laboratories, and field courses to move online. Here is a quick summary of best practices and lessons learned when it comes to transitioning from face-to-face to online learning.
It has been said that wise people surround themselves with the smartest people they can find and then listen to them. I am always looking for opportunities to learn something about the future of oil and gas from people in other disciplines. In late February, with that thought in mind, I attended a luncheon hosted by the Unites States Association for Energy Economics at the Federal Reserve building in Houston.
What a difference a month makes. I discussed black swan events in last month’s President’s Column. Let me tell you, the AAPG and the oil industry just got hit with three black swan events all at once: the coronavirus, the stock market’s major drop and the oil price plunge. While the drop in the stock market and the drop in demand for oil have a direct tie to the coronavirus, the unwinding of OPEC+ has added to the oil price drop. Understandably, the events of this past month have caused an increased amount of anxiety for many people.
“Normally one would talk about an event like this in terms of recent discoveries and trends.” That’s Neil Hodgson, AAPG Europe president, talking about what happened – more to the point, what didn’t happen – at the recent APPEX Prospect and Property Expo in London. He has good reason for the non- announcement: recent discoveries and trends in the industry are, he believes, an ongoing occurrence for explorationists – it’s part of their DNA. What is needed right now is a re-focus – a rebirth. Listening to Hodgson, there is a sense that while he sees the clouds on the energy horizon – especially in Europe, he is more excited about the sun peeking through them.
On Feb. 11, Colombia’s state oil company Ecopetrol signed a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell granting the company 50-percent working interest in the Fuerte Sur, Purple Angel and Colombia-5 blocks located in the Southern Colombian Caribbean. Shell is not the only company taking note of Colombia’s offshore potential. Noble Energy entered the country in 2018 and obtained its first acreage position with a 40-percent operational stake in the COL-3 and GUA OFF-3 blocks in March 2019. Ian Gordon, Colombia country manager for Noble, said the country has a lot to offer to companies seeking offshore opportunities.
In the wake of a long hiatus from discoveries that nearly made Oman obsolete in the industry, potential is brewing again. This time, it is offshore where Eni recently began drilling the country’s first deepwater well. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi announced, “The first drilling that we are doing in the region will be in Oman in February. It will be the first (deepwater) offshore drilling in Block 52 in Oman, so it’s quite important.” Block 52 is a vast area of approximately 90,000 square kilometers off the southern and southeastern seaboard of Oman, with water depths up to 3,000 meters. The exploration well was planned just seven months after the completion of seismic data acquisition and is likely to show gas-condensate.
In the oil and gas industry, the size of a discovery matters. And these days, so does the environmental footprint of extracting its resources. As the world continues to research sustainable energy sources, one geologist – in a rare twist – is looking to giant deepwater oil and gas fields for solutions. “If we’re looking for efficient sources of energy with manageable environmental footprints, deepwater may be the place to look,” said AAPG Member Henry S. Pettingill, consultant and former geologist for Shell and Noble Energy. While it often seems that environmental strain related to energy consumption is the focus, Pettingill suggests considering the environmental cost of extracting and producing that energy.
The worldwide spread of the coronavirus demonstrates how disruptive a medical pandemic can be for the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry. In addition to presenting a huge health challenge, the crisis also means a substantial decline in world oil demand. The expectation of reduced consumption has already resulted in a sharp drop in crude prices. But for the U.S. exploration and production sector, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic might not be completely negative, according to at least one analyst.
Courtesy of AAPG and AAPG Datapages, two Discovery Series data sets have been donated free of charge for use as online teaching materials. Discovery Series 10 – Sandstone Petrology: A Tutorial Petrographic Image Atlas 2nd Edition and Discovery Series 15 – Carbonate Petrology: Interactive Petrography Tutorial, both authored by Kitty Milliken, have been posted online for easy accessibility.
Claudia J. Hackbarth, a Houston-based geologist who has held a variety of management and leadership positions for the Royal Dutch Shell Group, assumed the presidency of AAPG on July 1.
AAPG publications are widely read by geologists, geophysicists and reservoir engineers. Are they your target audience? Then take advantage of the many advertising opportunities available in AAPG’s news and journal magazines.
Executive summary of the AAPG 2022 Member/Customer Planning Survey
Results of the 2022 AAPG Member/Customer Planning Survey.
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