In addition to the fundamental knowledge in the appropriate scientific disciplines, in the future, it will be more important than ever to be able to think creatively, and to bring communication and problem-solving skills to their work. Welcome to an interview with José Guzmán, Equinor, who shares with us his experience, lessons learned, and observations about the kinds of knowledge and skills that the future geoscientist will need. Jose also serves on the technical committee for AAPG’s Hedberg Research Conference on the Geology and Hydrocarbon Potential of the Circum Gulf of Mexico Pre-Salt Section, 4 – 6 of February in Mexico City.
What is your name and your current position?
José Guzmán. I am currently a Leading Geologist with the Gulf of Mexico Regional and Access team at Equinor US in Houston.
What is your background? How did you first become interested in geology?
I was born and raised in Venezuela and have worked as a Geologist for nearly 40 years. I obtained a B.A. Degree in Geology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1980, a Master’s in Geological Sciences at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1992, and Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 1999, under the supervision of Bill Fisher, an extraordinary mentor and friend. I first became interested in Geology in High School in Venezuela. My Senior project was on a series of limestone caves located near my residence in Caracas. But it was when I moved to Colorado in the late 70s that I truly felt in love with rocks and especially with sedimentology of sands and sandstones.
Where have you worked as a geologist? Which geological locations? (fields, basins, etc.)?
I spent the first half of my career working for the Venezuelan Oil and Gas industry, mostly in reservoir geology and sedimentology in the Maracaibo and Eastern Venezuela basins, and in Intevep, the research branch of PDVSA. Later in Austin, I worked as a Research Assistant involved with a Delaware Basin project at the Bureau of Economic Geology. I also worked as a consultant in Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico and got acquainted with the shallow-water Campeche region. Back in Houston, I spent five years with C&C Reservoirs, writing field reports and special studies in nearly every basin in South and Central America and in Mexico and in the US Gulf Coast. Then I worked as a consultant for Addax Petroleum, where I was involved in exploration in Cameroon and in the pre-salt section of the South Gabon basin. Since 2013, I have working for Equinor in Gulf of Mexico exploration, including the eastern and SE Mexican margins.
Please describe a memorable experience for you in your profession as a geologist.
Nearly every place I have worked has provided me more than one memorable experience. If I were to rank these moments, then at the top are the years I spent working alongside some bright professionals, extraordinary colleagues, and unforgettable friends at what used to be one of the world’s foremost petroleum research institutes in the world – PDVSA Intevep in Venezuela. Another memorable moment was the day in 2008 when I received the Jules Braunstein Award for best poster presentation at the AAPG Annual Convention.
What do you think about the future of oil and gas exploration in deepwater, sub-salt, and pre-salt conditions?
In my mind, we are clearly running out of real estate, and of time. This is one reason why I think that the pre-salt, or rather, the pre-Callovian interval in the Gulf of Mexico is so important right now. Many world-class analogs suggest that given the right petroleum systems parameters, it is only a matter of time before a major commercial discovery is made. My expectation is that the technical contributions to this Hedberg conference and the resultant collaboration amongst researchers and industry will help us ‘move the needle’ in the right direction.
What are some of the tools and techniques that will be necessary in the future?
In this era of artificial intelligence, automation, and digitalization most companies are already taking the right steps. But this is not enough. What will ALWAYS be necessary is creativity and ingenuity – thinking outside the box. These ‘tools’ cannot be replaced by machines or robots.
What are some of your personal opinions about the science of petroleum geology today? What will future geoscientists need in order to succeed?
I think there is still plenty of room for petroleum geology to continue to grow as a science that will ultimately provide business value. But it is also clear that the world has begun the necessary transition into renewables, and it is important that this makes business sense in the long term. I am proud to work for a company that takes this very seriously.
You ask about ‘future geoscientists’ and not ‘petroleum geoscientists’. I am glad that you make this distinction, because my advice to this younger generation of bright geoscientists is to maintain their strength in the core disciplines of geology and basic science so that they can apply them in any other industry requiring knowledge of the earth’s systems. This circles back to the previous question in which I respond with the critical need for creativity. Being a proficient “clicker” will not help you survive as a geoscientist in the long term. Also, keep your writing, presentation, and networking skills sharp because they will always be essential. In this conference we have an excellent representation of courageous students that are very clear about this. And lastly, I encourage this new generation of geoscientists to get involved in professional committees. One of my most rewarding professional experiences has been to serve in various AAPG committees, especially with the Publication Pipeline in which I have been with for several years and currently serve as Chairman.
Can you please recommend a good book?
Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee, published in 1998.