The good news is that for oil and gas jobs, it’s about to get better. The bad news, of course, is that much of that is because there’s so little room for things to get any worse. And even then, don’t expect a quick bounce-back. With expectations properly managed, though, there is good reason for hope for those who adapt to the ongoing changes within the industry. The industry’s jobs outlook evolved as companies struggled through the 2015-17 downturn and then faced a new challenge from the COVID-19 pandemic this year. Fundamentally, the industry is getting: Leaner. Cleaner. Greener.

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“The public view of the oil industry and geoscience in general is on the low at the moment,” said Mukul R. Bhatia, executive professor and director of the Berg-Hughes Center for Petroleum and Sedimentary Systems, who added that even some who want to enter the industry have this view. “Enrollment in the geosciences and petroleum engineering courses has declined in most education institutes. The oil and gas development industry is seen as shrinking rather than growing,” he said. Bhatia, a Dan A. Hughes ’51 chair at Texas A&M University, said the challenge of attracting students back to the geosciences is compounded by the challenge of attracting them to the industry’s new frontier, both internally and externally.

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There is no question that sweeping technical advancements have pushed the petroleum industry into a new world – one of tremendous data and unimaginable efficiency in exploration and production. Geoscientists who began their careers decades ago hand-drawing maps and relying on hazy 2-D seismic data now plow through piles of detailed digital information, inching closer to the day when dry holes could become the exception rather than the norm. Are upcoming geoscience graduates prepared to enter this rapidly evolving industry? The American Geosciences Institute has reported a significant disparity between the skills of newly graduated geoscience students and their preparedness for the workplace.

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A new AAPG technical interest group is attracting international attention, and the founders hope to continue expanding the group’s influence. The Salt Basins TIG began in May 2020 as a way for geoscientists in industry and academia working on or interested in salt basins to connect, collaborate and share ideas, according to one of the co-founders, Rachelle Kernen of the AAPG Women’s Network.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
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“Bill always demanded that I show him why a prospect couldn’t be great rather than why it wouldn’t work.” That’s Jesse Sommer, one of this year’s Norman H. Foster Outstanding Explorer Award winners, talking about the lessons learned from his boss, Bill Armstrong, who is the other winner of this year’s Foster Award. They both work for Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas, and the company culture encourages explorationists to not only ask the right questions but to find both the science and the art in the oil or gas play.

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It’s natural to think of super basins as highly developed, mature play areas. When a basin has already produced more than 5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, there’s an established history of exploration and production. The Santos Basin, especially the basin’s pre-salt play offshore Brazil, is one of the more notable exceptions to that idea. This super basin area is almost all about the future. “There is so much running room, so much remaining potential. We’re going to see new reservoirs developed, new plays developed,” said James Deckelman, vice president of investment and program assurance for ION Geophysical in Houston.

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Sixty years ago this month, on Sept. 14, 1960, representatives from five oil producing gathered at the Al-Shaab Hall in Baghdad to form the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC was formally dedicated to “the coordination and unification of the petroleum policies of the member countries and the determination of the best means of safeguarding their interests, individually and collectively.” Public perceptions in the West about OPEC are usually negative. OPEC is viewed as an oil cartel, or even a monopoly, whose sole purpose is to control the oil market. The 60th anniversary of OPEC is an appropriate opportunity to review its formation.

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As discussed in part 1 of this article, when it comes to the attributes used in equation 1 for seismically determining shale capacity, it is difficult to make a manual choice for the cut off values. To alleviate such a problem, application of machine learning techniques could be useful and thus worth exploring.

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Beginning with the new fiscal year in July, the AAPG Young Professionals Special Interest Group bid farewell to its previous leadership, Robynn Dicks and Ryan Lemiski, and ushered in the new global co-chairs Juan Carlos Quinto and Telemachos “Telly” Manos.

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With nearly 24,000 AAPG members in 121 countries, we are working to find and deliver the energy that improves lives across the globe. In past years, to commemorate your commitment to AAPG, each member quietly received individual certificates every five years on the anniversary of their membership. This year, AAPG has decided to instead publicly recognize our members for their loyalty, support and dedication via the EXPLORER.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
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Later this month, AAPG will do something it’s never done before: conduct its first fully digital Annual Convention and Exhibition. We want you to be a part of this historic event. ACE 2020 Online will run live from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 and is your opportunity to connect with friends, colleagues and the global petroleum geoscience community during a year when our industry and profession have faced tremendous uncertainty.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
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Many new scientific discoveries are reported daily by the news media. These are evaluated and discussed in detail by scientific cable shows like you see on the Smithsonian Channel. These shows mix science and pseudo-science. I’m still waiting for the Loch Ness monster to show up at the pyramids in Egypt. I ask that you critically evaluate what you hear in the news media and from special interest groups. The facts might be distorted to make it more interesting. Try to make sure the environmental person is reputable. A good scientist will challenge what is presented. The goal is to find out the truth.

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If you remember from my last column, this is a three-part series on my thoughts on science, membership and budget. I talked about budget last time … we are still working on it, so let’s talk science. The reason most professionals join AAPG is for access to science. That’s not just my opinion – it’s what members tell us. AAPG is very good about disseminating the work of our members and other professionals around the world. That’s our mission.

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Education has faced unprecedented challenges around the world due to the current global pandemic, but the importance of geoscience education remains a priority for the AAPG Foundation. And thanks to generous donations from AAPG members around the world, the Foundation’s support of Earth Science Week continues this year, just as it has every year since the program’s inception in 1998. Earth Science Week, organized and administered by the American Geosciences Institute, was created to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth sciences by providing learning resources and activities that engage young people around the world.

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It’s AAPG membership renewal season, which will end soon. We know there’s a lot of competition for your priorities, both professionally and personally. Especially this year. And some parts of life always slip to our back burner. So please consider this note a gentle reminder: We’d like for you to remain part of our future.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
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