Pathfinders in Geology Series

Interview with Herman Darman

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Cover Photo: Group photo of INDOGEO leaders and fresh graduates

Welcome to an interview with Herman Darman, whose career in petroleum geology is now transitioning to geothermal energy, particularly in Indonesia, where there are volcanoes as well as repurposeable oil and gas wells.

What is your name and your background?

My name is Herman Darman. I'm an Indonesian geologist with almost 30 years of experience mainly in Central and Southeast Asia.

How did you become interested in geology?

Initially I like geology because it is related to nature and outdoor activities. Later I find that thinking in 3 dimension and 4 dimension are very interesting and challenging too.

Where did you study? What were your areas of interest?

I studied geology in Institute of Technology, Bandung, Indonesia and I took my second degree in petroleum geology from Aberdeen University, Scotland, UK. I'm interested on sedimentology, tectonics and petroleum system in general.

What areas have you specialized in?

Later in my career, I did more regional geology and new venture type of work. Having said that I still enjoy my work related to seismic interpretation, sedimentology and tectonics.

What are some of the new directions in technology and the energy transition that have most interested you?

Geothermal Gradient Map of Southeast Asia
Geothermal Gradient Map of Southeast Asia
I'm observing energy source transition from fossil fuel to geothermal energy. In Indonesia there are volcanoes as the source for heat, but the depleted or abandoned oil / gas fields can supply geothermal energy as well. They will not be as much as those from the volcanoes but the operating cost will be much lower because the wells are there already.

Geothermal Atlas of Southeast Asia

You recently posted a link to a Geothermal Atlas of Southeast Asia.

Would it be possible to tell us a little bit about it? Who did the work? What makes the work valuable?

The map was prepared by fresh graduates in geoscience (many of them under INDOGEO Social Enterprise) by compiling data from different sources, integrate them into GIS platform and contour them up to show anomalies. The map is showing the distribution of the geothermal gradient, which help to understand the potential hydrocarbon kitchen areas and also areas with potential geothermal energy. This will help explorers to predict and plan for their activities.

Let me give you a bit of background about this organization.

Basement geology workshop involving companies and fresh graduates
Basement geology workshop involving companies and fresh graduates
In 2016 I left Shell, as you know the oil price dropped and our strategy in Indonesia didn't work well. So I returned back from Kuala Lumpur, my last posting in Shell. I worked for Shell for 21 years in Indonesia, Brunei, the Netherlands and Malaysia. Those fresh graduates thought that I came home to open Shell business and they were excited, expecting new jobs to be opened. I told them that I went home because there is no job for me anymore and they were sad. Even worse, many other companies in Indonesia also down sized and closed. Indonesian Universities produced about 2400 new geologist and geophysicist per year but job opening in petroleum industry was like less than 20 per year.

I feel bad about the situation. AAPG also faced difficulties because we lost members during transition from student to professional. Many good AAPG students can not join as a professional members because they don't get jobs.

Later in 2016 I gathered some of them and ask if they want to work together with me, but I can not pay salaries from my own saving. They agreed to joined me to work virtually. I assigned tasks to them and through my industry network I try to get some money. Then I set INDOGEO Social Enterprise, just to get some branding. There were more fresh graduates joined me and now we have 120 members. They are very 'fluid', easy come, easy go, but they do the tasks I give them. Using their skill in GIS and digital drafting, they managed to produce many products (e.g. geology map, sediment thickness map etc, and geothermal gradient map is the latest product). They help people who need to make digital drawings for their publications. Sometime we can help people to digitize logs too.

Well site geology course for professionals and fresh graduates
Well site geology course for professionals and fresh graduates
My goal is to help these skillful young geoscientists to apply their knowledge during their gap years (between graduation and permanent job). I give them letter of acknowledgment, to explain what they have done in INDOGEO. This letter will be useful to support their job applications. Meanwhile I give them opportunities to apply their skills, trained them, and promote them to my contacts in the companies. When I get sponsorships (e.g. TGS etc), I distribute the money to give them some encouragement.

We don't have an office, we work virtually - part time. We use all free facilities (Google, Zoom, Skype, Yahoo etc.). Now we have COVID-19 issue but all of us already started working from home since 2016.

We are constantly looking for projects and maybe you can help. We can digitize old maps into GIS, or convert old black-white figures to color.

In 2019 I joined PETRONAS in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) until 2022. So I keep INDOGEO projects for my after-office-hour activities

What Can I Do?

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