VERN STEFANIC: Hi, and welcome to AAPG's Energy Insights, our new podcast
offering interviews with people who are defining, influencing, and leading
today's world of geosciences. I'm Vern Stefanic. And this installment, once
again, is Digging Deeper by having a conversation with one of the speakers for
the AAGP Foundation's new Distinguished Lecture series. Our guest today is
Susan Cunningham, formerly Executive Vice President for Global Exploration and
Business Innovation for Noble Energy and today an advisor for Darcy Partners, a
research company connecting oil and gas companies with emerging technologies.
And as is the case this season, Susan's DL lecture is available for either
downloading or streaming on the AAPG website. And this is one that everyone will
find intriguing. Trust me on this. It's titled "What It Takes to be
Successful in Exploration." We'll talk about that much more in just a
moment as well as a lot more about those emerging new technologies that are an
important part of the profession's future. But first, we get to know a little
more about Susan herself and the experiences and success stories she's had
during her 35 years in the industry and, importantly, the passion that brought
her to this moment in her career. So Susan, welcome to Digging Deeper.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Thank you, Vern.
VERN STEFANIC: It is so good to have you here. And I know many people who
are listening or watching this podcast right now will associate you
automatically with Noble Energy.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Right.
VERN STEFANIC: You had an amazing career with Noble. And I want to talk
about that, actually, quite a bit in just a second. But before we ever even get
to that point, people who know you as the successful executive and the
successful woman that you are in that place in the industry-- I'll bet they
don't know why you like geology or how you even got into it. Could you tell us
a little bit about that?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, that's always interesting to hear people's stories
of getting into geology and into oil and gas industry, because that's often
convoluted. My mother tells me that when I was three or five that I would
always be asking-- as kids do, ask lots of questions. But it was always, why is
that mountain there? Why is that river there? Why are those rocks there? Why is
the sky blue?
And it was like, why, why, why, like every child does. But they seemed to be
much about the physical environment that we were in. And so I had never heard
of geology or anything like that, but I loved physical geography. That was what
I knew about from high school. And my favorite course was physical geography.
And so I decided that I was going to go into physical geography. And so then it
wasn't until I was figuring out what are my first-year courses going to be that
my counselor at McMaster University said, well, you might--
VERN STEFANIC: Excuse me. You're not from the United States. Is that right?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: That's right.
VERN STEFANIC: Oh, OK, I'm sorry. OK, you're from--
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: I'm from Canada, yes.
VERN STEFANIC: Which is why McMaster would be on your list.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: By the way, the woman physicist who just won part of the
VERN STEFANIC: Yes.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: --from McMaster.
VERN STEFANIC: Yes, yes, yes, saw that.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes, awesome.
VERN STEFANIC: Congratulations to all of you.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Go Mac. Go Mac.
VERN STEFANIC: OK, so I'm sorry.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: It's fine.
VERN STEFANIC: So you're looking at McMaster.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: So that was going to be my degree. And it was suggested
that I take a geology course. And I had never actually heard of geology before.
Believe it or not, I hadn't. And so I thought, well, this looks kind of
interesting, and I'll take it. So I took the course, had the best marks I'd
ever had in my life, got some money out of the whole thing, and said, hm, I
think that's what I'm going to do. But I loved it. And I have never looked
back. And so I changed over into geology. And it brings all the sciences
together. And that's what I really, really like about it, and that inquisitive
thing. And that's who I am.
VERN STEFANIC: Was there a specific course or a teacher or some moment where
you really knew that geology was something special for you personally?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: No, I think I just decided that when I took that first
course. Yeah, I mean, there were certainly very impactful people along the way.
I mean, McMaster-- the university at the time had some of the best
sedimentologists and geologists that the industry knows, I mean, Roger Walker
turbidites -- a study that is certainly world renowned. He was a professor
there. A textbook by Black, Middleton, and Moore on sedimentology, and
Middleton was there. So there were several people-- it was a good place to be
in, for a lot of the thinkers of the time were at McMaster University. It was
just really interesting.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah, yeah. OK, speaking about thinkers-- we're not going to
dwell on the first part of your life for the rest of the podcast. But I don't
want to be casual and just overlook the part of the curiosity that you had when
you were younger. Did that come from parents, from your environment? How does
something like that happen?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, and of course, I don't know that we ever really
know. I suspect a lot of it came from my parents. I'm the middle child of five.
My dad is a PhD in engineering and physics, and my mother is an English
teacher. I mean, she was an English undergrad. My dad brought us up in the
scientific method. And so, I mean, literally at dinner table time on Sunday
nights, it would be, I had this idea. Oh, what's your hypothesis? Oh, my
hypothesis is-- and what is a hypothesis?
So I learned what does that mean. And then, so what data do you have for
that? What's your thinking about it? And back it up. And everybody would be in
it. It was loud and raucous. And everybody would be in the conversation. And
then you'd get curious about somebody else's hypothesis. And you'd be
critiquing them. And what's your thinking? So the whole logical thought process
also came into play. And my dad's got massive interests. And he was always
bringing up different ideas. So does my mother. They complemented each other. They
were very curious and reading and had lots of interests. So I think it just was
part of what I grew up in.
VERN STEFANIC: What a great, nurturing environment that was to--
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, absolutely.
VERN STEFANIC: --start out with. And we'll talk a little bit-- in the
lecture that you give, you talk a little bit about leadership. And we might
talk a lot about your lecture as we go on. I don't know. But I do know that in
it, when I was listening to it earlier, that you talked about the fact that
leaders can be made.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes.
VERN STEFANIC: So what I'm interested in-- I do want to hear more about your
thinking that goes into all that. You became a leader in the industry. Did you
know at a younger age, as you were just starting your career, that that was the
path that you may have been going off?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: No, I did not, to be honest. I expected to continue on and
do graduate school and go in more academia. That's what my dad was-- I mean, it
wasn't what he did, but he was always very involved. He always had PhD students
with him and stuff like that. And so it was just an environment where I expect
to be more in that direction and get advanced degrees.
But I got this job opportunity that I thought, oh, this sounds like fun, and
I can make money. This is a thing to do. So I decided to go. But I was just
thinking about my craft and just being a really good scientist and really being
good at what I could do. I mean, there must have been something that led people
to think that I was capable of leading, but it was never in my thought process
earlier on, although some of my siblings, and especially my younger sister,
might say, well, yeah, but you were always kind of bossy--
VERN STEFANIC: Well, well--
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: --which might be one of those little fledging leadership--
--possibilities that you've got to work on.
VERN STEFANIC: Well, let me ask you-- you're competitive.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I am competitive.
VERN STEFANIC: Does leadership require people to have that competitive
spirit, do you think?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: That's an interesting question. I have never thought of
that. It does seem to me that that probably needs to be an ingredient in there
as a motivator, as a driver, maybe because you're competitive, meaning you're
always wanting to do more, learn, expand your possibilities, whatever that is,
be better. So yeah, that's probably not inconsistent with that possibility, but
I don't know.
VERN STEFANIC: Who knows? But you seem to have this-- you have a drive--
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: I do.
VERN STEFANIC: --like people who know you--
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: I do.
VERN STEFANIC: --have mentioned that to me before. And I've been around you
now on several occasions when you've spoken and watching you in action with
your job. And you have a definite drive--
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: I do
VERN STEFANIC: --to communicate the passion and the possibilities that we
have in the profession.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, absolutely. No, I do. I do have a drive. I still
feel that drive. And it's to make a difference. And I think, actually, all
people have it, but perhaps it's expressed and they don't really know how to
point it in a helpful direction and all the rest of it. I think it's in the
core of everybody to want to make a difference. I've been fortunate enough to
be able to figure out how I might be able to do that. And that, I think, has
only accelerated the drive as I started to see where my passions were and
therefore where I might be able to make a difference.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah, yeah. And if you could just give us a little brief
rundown of your career, because you had this amazing journey from Canada to
your first job in Houston. Now, I know about that. If you want to tell the
other people about it, that's fine. No, you drove this cool car, right?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I didn't have a car when I moved from
Toronto to Calgary in my first job working with Amoco Canada there. I was able
to finally buy a car. And I was very excited about this. So I bought a black
Turbo Trans Am with the eagle and--
VERN STEFANIC: Well, cool, yeah.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: --everything. It was a long time ago, but it was an
awesome car. And I had just bought it, and I had this opportunity to transfer
to Houston. My goal was to work international at the time. And that was in
Houston. And Amoco wouldn't even look at you until you had at least four years
experience. But all of a sudden-- Justin's father, by the way, was in power--
Trudeau. And he nationalized the Canadian industry. And now all of a sudden,
they needed to downsize-- Amoco did-- in Calgary.
So now they were looking to transfer people. They had needs in both Denver
and in Houston. And so I really wanted to do international, and now I could go
to Houston, although I was a little worried about it. But anyway, that's
But I had my car. And so everyone was packing up, and they accepted the
positions to either of those places. And I said, thanks. This is great. I'm
looking forward to going. And I accepted.
And then I realized that I was going to have to sell my car. And I didn't
want to do that. So I said, can I drive instead? Can you give me a week, and
I'll drive to Houston instead? And so they said, yes. And so I drove down
through West Texas in my black Turbo Trans Am.
VERN STEFANIC: I'm sure there were some heads that were turning.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Seeing some amazing geological wonders along the way.
VERN STEFANIC: And that's what I remember you talking about.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: It was awesome.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. And it's the passion that you speak of whenever--
because you've actually told me that story twice.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes, I think I have.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. And the excitement and the passion you had on going
through all of the geologic splendor of the American West.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Unbelievable.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: How could you not get excited about geology when you see
VERN STEFANIC: No kidding.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah.
VERN STEFANIC: You wanted to do international, so that's why you're down in
Houston with Amoco.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yep.
VERN STEFANIC: Did that happen for you there?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes. My first job was actually working on the appraisal
well for Saja Field in the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi. And so, yes. And
I worked international for almost my entire career. I was with Amoco for 17
years, and everything but the last four was international.
VERN STEFANIC: Oh, gosh.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah.
VERN STEFANIC: And it was the international experience that brought you to
Noble. Is that how that worked?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes. That's right. That's exactly right. But there were a
couple of things in between. I got to head up an office in Denmark when I was
with Amoco. I learned so much from doing that, because I was now heading up an
office that was far away from the mother ship. And it was very small, and it
was in a different culture and a different language. And so that was an
opportunity I am forever grateful to Amoco for, amongst many others. But that
one in particular was a turning point for me. And then I worked for Statoil and
Texaco, and then made my way to Noble Energy.
VERN STEFANIC: OK. And what position with Noble when you started out?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: So I was a Senior Vice President of Exploration when I
VERN STEFANIC: So your career with Noble was kind of spectacular. I mean,
people who know anything about the industry know that you were a leader in
several areas of exploration around the world. And two of the leading
discoveries that I want you to talk about a little bit more in just a second
are Tamar and Leviathan.
But one other thing that I was wanting to talk about, just in terms of your
international experience-- I remember listening once to you give a talk about
the social responsibility that oil companies had, especially when they go into
all of these parts of the world. And it was fascinating, and it was inspiring,
because of you talking about some of the benefits that were being brought to
other parts of the world because of the industry. Could you talk about that a
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. I actually believe very strongly in that. The oil
and gas industry is an amazing industry. And actually, it's more global, and
knows how to work safely, with security, providing energy, and helping out all around
the world, in almost any place. And so who better that understands, or knows
how to connect-- you've got connections with high people in government, than an
oil and gas company to make a difference, not only through finding and
developing that country's hydrocarbons, but connecting with people and seeing
how can you help them to grow in the process? How can you help that country and
the communities you're in to grow in the process in other ways?
And so the whole idea of social responsibility-- when that started, I was
actually really drawn to it. I remember, when I first even heard the concept,
and it was at a women's conference, a Forbes women's conference, and there was
a woman from California that talked about it. And it was just becoming new at the
time. And I thought, wow.
It connects you with the community. And you're going to benefit as a company
from that connection. But you are also just doing what you can to enable.
I always just think, if you're in a community, they're yours. You're part of
them. They're part of you. There's no other way around it. And it's probably
how I look at the world. I really just think that we all should be helping each
other out in any way we can. It's just one tribe on the whole planet, helping
each other out. That's how I look at it.
VERN STEFANIC: Is there a country that actually sticks in your mind, that
you remember amazing, good things happening for the local society, the local
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: There's probably several. But the one that immediately
comes to my mind is actually in Equatorial Guinea, where at Noble, we had,
also, a string of discoveries. And we got them online. And people may or may
not like different things that are going on in different parts of the world,
but that bringing your technology, your capabilities, your passion, to a place
and helping out the local communities, bringing-- getting a water well, so they
have fresh water. Education. Teaching the children how to swim when you had
access to a pool. That one's even simpler.
But helping to build-- there was a town that I went to, a very small
village, that they needed a teacher and a school. And they had one, but the
school had become rundown, and so had the teachers' quarters. And they needed
to attract a teacher from somewhere else.
So the community, the people that were living in Equatorial Guinea, and the
community around them, the employees, they'd volunteered with, again, some help
from the company to restore this school-- it was literally a one room school
house-- and get good equipment, and desks and things that worked and weren't
falling apart, and then fixed up the little house for the teacher, so that they
could attract someone, a good teacher, that saw it as an opportunity for them.
There's a lot more other stories. But those are the ones that, to me, they
really connect with real people. There's other grander ones about hospitals and
things like that, that are also important. But those are the ones, for some
reason, that kind of connect to me when you ask that question.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. I know about it, because I heard people like you talk
about it, and others. The general population doesn't always get that side of
the story, right?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: No.
VERN STEFANIC: I always wonder, and I don't know if you have any insight-- I
mean, you've been on the side of the people who are actually doing the great
work. What can be done to share that message?
You know, sometimes, the energy industry doesn't always have the best
reputation in the public. And who knows why? I guess we could talk about that
for a long time.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: That's a whole other topic.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. Right. But even in that world, why doesn't the message
get through, or what can we do to get the message through? I don't know. Do you
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: I think part of the problem-- part of the challenge. It's
not a problem. Part of the challenge is that it's become the thing to do, with
companies, to do social responsibility.
It's easy to be cynical in saying, well, they're only doing it because they
need to. And of course, there's societal pressures that say, this is a good
thing to do. But what's wrong with that, first of all?
But I think somehow, sometimes, I've seen some companies that will make a--
it's like a big production, kind of to show how great they are. And it's almost
too much of a production. If people can see the stories and hear the stories,
and see people talking authentically to other people, and talking about how it
impacted them to be part of this-- and I've seen some of those, by the way. But
I just think it's the stories that people connect with that are authentic, that
you could tell that person wanted to do that, and saw the difference they were
And it comes back to that thinking that I have, that everyone at the core
really wants to be part of something bigger themselves, and wants to make a
difference. We don't all know how to do it. We don't always get in touch with
it. But whether it's true or not, it's how I choose to believe, because I'm an
optimist. But I think it's true. I really think it's true, that at our core, we
all want to connect with other people and have a positive influence. That's
really what we want to do.
And so when people can tell the stories of doing that, it's powerful. And
sometimes, I think, it's too much of a PR or production. And it just needs to
tone down just a little bit, make it a little more real. I don't know. There's
lots of other--
VERN STEFANIC: I don't think we're going to solve the whole problem today.
But there are great stories to be told.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: There are. There really are.
VERN STEFANIC: Well, we'll work on that one too. But right now, I want to
talk about Tamar and Leviathan.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah.
VERN STEFANIC: Thank you. Because those were, perhaps, unexpected success
stories. They're big success stories-- unexpected, perhaps, in the parts of the
world that they were in. Could you tell us a little bit about those projects,
how they came, why you thought they would be exciting? And then I want to ask
you a little bit about the teams that were assembled to make those possible.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. There was a point when we were figuring out, what is
our long range plan at Noble, that I really wanted exploration to be. I didn't
feel it was as impactful as it could be. I really thought that there was-- in
all candor, even though this is out to everybody, I really wanted to do
something amazing at the exploration at Noble, or else it was not where I
wanted to be. I mean, I just had this drive to do something.
VERN STEFANIC: You had a big goal that you wanted.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: So I created a big goal, exactly-- to really make a
difference. And so that goal, the billion barrels in five years, when the
company was finding 35 million, plus or minus a year-- it was very, very
volatile, as these things are.
But that goal-- and I did that with some help, by the way, of some
consulting. That's when I was studying leadership. And I realized, that as
leaders, if you can do this-- if you can dare to put out a goal that gets you
excited and scared at the same time, and then enroll people in it, that you're
never going to meet it if you don't, obviously. But you just might. And you
declare it and you enroll people in it, now you've got to deliver.
If you say it outside, you know, out loud like that-- so I really thought,
OK. I'm all in. It's either going to be good, or it's going to be bad. But I'm
So I set the big goal. Didn't have a clue how I was going to do it, and told
everybody that. But I got so much support. We became such a team, because we
knew what we were going after. We had to help. I told people, I'm going to
waver, because we'll feel stupid at times. But bring me back in. You're going
to waver. I'll bring you back in. You know, we're each going to do that. And
that's exactly what we did.
And so we had to think totally different. And so that was when we realized
that farming in and looking out for prospects wasn't going to be good enough.
We were never going to meet this goal that way. We were a small company at the
The only way this was going to happen was, we needed to find places that we
could see the possibility of something, and then if it worked, get the running
room, get other acreage, so that with the same kind of prospects being
possible, so you could really learn. And if it didn't work, it wasn't super
expensive to get access to that acreage. So that was part of the strategy that
So in Israel, we had actually-- when I joined the company, there was one
well called Mari-B that had been discovered. And it was really the only
production of any significance from offshore-- it may be the only production
from offshore that Israel ever had. It was a one TCF discovery.
And it started up when I first started working with Noble. There were no
other Mari-B's to be found. So people were kind of thinking, that's it for
And we did drill one exploration well. I wanted to test a play. And it
didn't work. But we did get some important information from it. And then-- this
is kind of looking back-- one of my groups, actually, some of the people,
became aware of this Tamar prospect, which British Gas was trying to unload, to
And Delek Drilling-- because I've got to give them credit-- Israeli company
was a partner with them. And they really wanted to see this prospect drilled.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. I remember that. Yeah.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. And it was named Tamar after the daughter of the
geologist, by the way, who-- yeah-- great story-- who was one of the main ones
on the whole project with Delek-- I think I was with Delek, but I'm not sure.
But anyway, so Delek had tried to find other companies to farm in. They
needed an operator, and take British Gas's interest. There was nobody that was
interested, for all sorts of different reasons. Who knows what they all were.
We could guess on some of them.
But then, some people that worked for me got to see it, because we were in
Israel already with that one field. And they were very concerned that it looked
that it was a volcano, and that it was, you know, not a real prospect. So it
was actually, I was told, turned down twice before I even got to hear about it,
by my own organization. But this happens. This is what happens.
But luckily, there were two people that wanted to make sure that I was aware
of it, and were trying to get to me. And so they both told me about it, and
showed me a couple of things. And I saw it and was like, oh my god. Oh my god.
We have got to look into this further.
And so then, though, the people that turned it down, you don't want to make
them wrong. And they weren't wrong. They were doing what they knew best to do.
VERN STEFANIC: So what did you see that made you go, oh my gosh, oh my gosh?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Oh, it was clear to me. It was just really clear. This was
VERN STEFANIC: God. I wish we could have a parentheses at this point,
because that's one of the great things about what geologists bring to the
table, is the creative way of looking at things. And you can look at something
that's been done, that maybe a lot of other people have looked at-- but if
you're looking at it in a new way, you see the new possibilities.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely.
VERN STEFANIC: And that's what happened.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: It is what happened. And if you're coming in-- I talk
about it in my talk-- if you're coming in from a totally outside perspective,
you're open to the possibility of what it could be. We've all experienced
this-- I certainly have-- where I know an area, or I know something so well, I
cannot see any other possibility but what I've already decided. And you just
can't see it.
And that's that outside thinking that I talk about in my lecture-- getting
people in. And there's lots of stories-- in Deepwater, Gulf of Mexico, sub-salt
-- that's how they happen, with someone coming in from another base, and didn't
have any preconceived notions, and saw something. A possibility. So that's an
important part of the creative process.
So for me, I saw it. But I wasn't the only one, because these other two
people brought it to my attention. So, just set the record straight for their
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah, OK.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: They know who they are, that also saw a possibility there
too. So anyways, I needed to get a group together to go through our process of
looking at things objectively, comparing it to other things that we had in
other opportunities in our portfolio for drilling, and what's the size of it,
what's the risk of it, and do a proper evaluation of it.
And there's a whole bunch of stories on that one. But suffice it to say that
we had to work through some things, that people started to get worried that it
couldn't be as good as it looked. And this is another, just basic human nature.
There's no blame anywhere on any of this kind of stuff, because I also know I
go there sometimes. These are our cognitive biases that we have.
If it looks too good to be true, you've got to find all the reasons why it
can't be. And so there was some of that going on. But we got to the right
And I will just tell a little story. When we went through it, I think we
gave it a 35% probability of success, was the official number that came out of
the group, going through the process that we had at Noble. We had a size range
for it. I think it was 3 and 1/2 TCF. That was the mean number.
And I do recall, when I was talking to Chuck Davidson, the CEO at the time,
and he was asking me what my thoughts were, because he knew I was pretty
excited about this possibility that I saw. And I said, well, Chuck, it's 35%
probability of success, and 3 and 1/2 TCF mean. But I said, but, between you
and me, it's at least 70% chance.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: And of course, it was a discovery, so.
VERN STEFANIC: It was.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: That's a story you want to share. I don't want to share
the ones where I was wrong. I'll only share the ones where I was right.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. Yeah.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: So, but before we were going to drill it, I had to make
sure that we had that leased up land, so that we could do the follow up. We
drilled it. It was a great discovery. It ended up being around 10 TCF. Now it's
online. Four years later, it's online. Four years later, we got it online, with
the largest subsea tieback in the world of 95 miles, which nobody hears about
either. Noble would talk about that very quietly. And it's producing almost a
BCF a day and providing 60% of the gas to Israel.
Now, this is where I get excited about the other impacts besides energy.
There's products, and so many things that the industry brings to the world. One
of them is, Israel was using diesel fuel and coal to power their power plants
beforehand. And they got a little bit of gas from Egypt at the time.
And now that this one field is meeting 60% of the energy needs for the power
plants, the air has cleaned up dramatically.
VERN STEFANIC: Oh, sure. OK.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: And you can see it in pictures. I mean, it is cleared up
dramatically. And you know, I've been told, it's the equivalent of taking all
the cars in Israel off for a year. That's how much fewer carbon emissions there
are from this one field, expected to be.
So that's another thing. It's their own pride of what they have, plus
they've got cleaner air. I mean, and energy and all the other stuff. Anyway,
I'm digressing a little bit.
VERN STEFANIC: But important. Did you anticipate that as a result? Did
anybody anticipate that?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: I think fairly early on, we started to, when it was
becoming real, that this was a possibility. So we did dig deeper into what
impact it might have. It's good to see it's happened. Again, because of that
way I look at the world, anything you can do to make it a better place could
include-- this as a bit of a fairy tale-- but it could include helping out just
that whole part of the world work together more. And I've always felt, if you
could do commerce together, that you are more likely to not hate each other.
Now, I know the issues are way, way deep, and all the rest of it. But it's
just these little seeds of possibilities that can grow, that if you can export
and import from each other and work with your neighbors, you might just
continue to build a possible relationship that improves. So, who knows?
VERN STEFANIC: Well, who knows. I happen to agree with you about that,
though, and that's why I think that was such an important discovery. It was
good in terms of a lot of the energy that's being produced, but yeah, the
bigger benefits to everybody over there, my gosh.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. And then with Leviathan-- so Leviathan was
discovered. It was a follow up prospect. And of course, it was 22 TCF, is the
current estimate of recoverable resources. And it's supposed to come online at
the end of 2019, and exporting gas to Egypt. And there's already gas that's
being exported from Tamar to Jordan. So there's already commerce being done
with some neighbors that is-- again, you kind of hope that it can only build
and be better.
VERN STEFANIC: And that probably-- I don't know if it probably-- but that
certainly was more evidence to you of the need for teams-- interdisciplinary
teams to go on, people working together.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes.
VERN STEFANIC: And I'm sure that that's still something that you believe is
crucial to the industry.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, so, I do believe, and I've seen this as I've studied
innovation more and more, when I was with Noble, and then since I've left, and
doing some work with Darcy Partners-- that the things that we're working on in
the oil and gas industry, and we're not alone, but we're talking about that
right now-- is so complex. You know, the problems you're trying to solve, the
things you're trying to get done, with this very volatile-- hydrocarbons are
something you've got to be very careful with.
So it's very complex. And the industry, I think, does an amazing job, that
bringing the multidisciplinary perspectives together, you've really got to do
that to do a good job. I think if you do it right, and you really bring the
people together of all different perspectives from within the company, and then
from without, as you bring in other perspectives and points of view you're
wanting to get access to, if you do that right, you can actually be
And there's a lot of people-- I think there's a huge diverse range between
good and extraordinary. And I really believe that doing that can be
extraordinary. My experience has been that no matter how smart you think you
are, no matter how much you think you've got the right view on something, or
you've got, oh yes, this is what we need to do-- by bringing those perspectives
in and really listening, and therefore seeing and being open to seeing that
maybe you didn't have the solution, that the end result is always, always
better. Always better. I cannot think of one time when that hasn't happened,
even times when I thought, I've nailed it. I've got this one. And then I'll
talk to someone and we'll be in a conversation and they'll make a suggestion
and I go, oh my god, that's so much better.
VERN STEFANIC: As wonderful as your time was with Noble-- and it truly was--
it seems like you still felt that there were some more challenges, perhaps some
different challenges, or a new direction in your life, because now you're with
Darcy. And that is a whole new exciting chapter of your life. Can you talk a
little bit about your decision to be doing different things, what it is that
you want to be doing?
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: So I did decide that I'd been with Noble for 16 years.
It's an awesome company. And like you said, it was a great time. I learned so
much. But I just decided last year that I needed a new, very different
And I left Noble, retired from Noble, and then I was trying to figure out,
what do I want to do next? And I got approached by Hossein Rokhsari, the CEO of
Darcy Partners. It's a new company that he created about three years ago.
And so I'm doing advisory work with him, because for me, it delves into
innovation, and its mission is to connect new technologies with upstream
operators. Very focused right now on the onshore unconventional space.
And this was a space that I have not been as involved in. It's on,
predominantly, the production side of things. And it's working with startup
companies, new innovators. And it's a rich, rich area right now. And so I just
really wanted to delve into what this possibility was, and understand that
world more, and see how I could contribute.
VERN STEFANIC: There's so much new technology that's coming on, it would be
foolish for us to think that we could even start to talk about any of them
specifically. But we can say, because of the new technologies that are coming
on, the industry, and perhaps even the profession, is going through a huge
change right now.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. Certainly on the unconventional side, this is really
true-- on the onshore, North America, and unconventional in particular, because
it demands some different technology. So I think it's almost like a little bit
of a creative boost for people, because there's a need that's new. And I think
that's part of the catalysts.
Plus, with the price coming down, people left and decided to do other
things. And so something that they see, that they thought of, they're starting
up new companies. And there is this explosion right now of people, and then
you've got the capital that's available. So people that are starting their own
companies, looking at new technologies, plus the whole digital-- I don't know
what to call it-- revolution. That doesn't sound right. But just all the
capabilities because of the technology behind being able to do the algorithms
and the machine learning and the algorithms so that you can do more and more
automatic things-- robotics, all of this kind of stuff. This is also emerging
right at this time.
So you bring those together, and I think, there's so many things that people
are working on. And I think they're excited about the possibilities, because
it's fairly new. And you've got an area-- you know, unconventional-- if you can
decrease costs, get more out of the reservoir, so to speak, so that you can
produce more and be financially more stable and all those other things that
it's all about, these are good things. These are good things.
And so there's a lot going on in this space. And what I've seen from going
from exploration at Noble and most of my career, and then I started working on
this whole innovation space and trying to understand what does it take to be
innovative-- but I don't mean necessarily like, as an operator, you have to be
innovative. You just need to be open. You need to be innovative in your
thinking, and open to new innovations. That's the sort of thing that I think is
There's these possibilities that are out here. And there's this industry
that's trying to figure things out. And I think if we can bring them together,
in a way to accelerate the adoption of the things that can make a difference,
that's a good thing.
So that's what Darcy Partners is helping to do. But for myself, as I'm
studying innovation-- and I talk a little bit about this in my lecture-- I
started to really see that being open to innovation, and being innovative in
your thinking of what's possible and therefore trying to solve different kinds
of problems, that's what geoscientists do. Geoscientists are scientists and
they're creative. It's this wonderful mix of different parts of the brain. And
that's what exploration is about.
And I'm just starting to see that the frame, the culture, the leadership,
that really enhances the ability for an organization to seek out, to hear, to
investigate things that can make their lives, their work, easier, or get new
insights, and make all those end results and outcomes that are successful. That
means the company is more successful-- that this is a place that geoscientists
can actually pivot to. And they can be a real catalyst, not thinking of
themselves as just geoscientists, but thinking of themselves as change agents
and catalysts for innovative thinking.
Now, you've got to think about, how do you interact with other people in the
organization differently. But it's not that hard. I really don't think it's
that hard. I think it's something that can be learned. And I know I've learned
a lot more about how to be way more effective that way. You've got to want to.
But I just think there's a whole area opening up here that's possible for
geoscientists to think of themselves as geoscientists and change agents.
VERN STEFANIC: I was going to ask you what advice you would give to young
people who are coming into the industry today. You just gave us a whole lot of
things that we need to be. And admittedly, there's some people who are part of
the profession right now who might be-- the cliche is, they're afraid of the
changes that are coming, or they're averse to it.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Well, this is human nature.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. You're right. And I don't want to be judgmental at all
about that. But people who are coming in now, they probably need to be prepared
in different ways for the industry.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. And if I was starting over again now, I'd study
psychology. I'd want to understand how people work. This is what I've been
doing a lot of, as I've gotten more into leadership. I would take that as an
elective. I would start to understand that, to therefore be able to figure out,
how do I connect with people who are not like me, that don't think like me? How
do I connect with them so that they can hear me, I can hear them, and together
we can see this possibility, create this environment for this possibility, or
for another possibility? That's what I would bring into your portfolio of
courses and training.
VERN STEFANIC: Because there is a future.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. Because this industry, and any industry-- and
I think you could even have this bigger than that-- but we'll stick with this
industry. It is changing rapidly. It's going to continue to change rapidly. We
know that's just the way it works. There's going to continue to be a demand,
for a least, I don't know how many decades. But there's still going to be a
demand for hydrocarbons and energy. And this could translate into other things.
But to be a catalyst of the geoscience, which continues to be important, but
not as critical, in the unconventional, in terms of the number of people as
there has been otherwise-- but to see yourself as a geoscientist who could
really help get the most out of the rocks in the end and understand them, therefore.
But also as someone that's a catalyst in that team of multi-discipline people,
that as a leader, you can bring in, and you understand how things work, and be
that seed, or be whatever the different possibilities are of having people
think about things differently, and therefore be open to new technologies and
new possibilities, so that the company and yourself benefit, and the community
that you're in. All those things.
VERN STEFANIC: That was perfect. And to have your passion. Thank you, Susan.
Thank you so much for being with us today.
SUSAN CUNNINGHAM: My pleasure. It's really been fun. I really appreciate it.
VERN STEFANIC: We've been talking today to Susan Cunningham, an adviser for
Darcy Partners, and a 35 year veteran of the geoscience industry. Be sure to
check out her lecture at aapg.org. And I'm telling you, you won't be sorry.
This is a great one.
And then watch this space for more AAPG podcasts that will continue to cover
a variety of important subjects, innovative ideas and intriguing people,
including our ongoing digging deeper look at this year's distinguished
The Distinguished Lecture program is jointly operated by AAPG and the AAPG
Foundation. We hope you will take a moment soon to check out the foundation's
website to learn about how you can be part of ensuring the future of
But for now, thanks for listening.