The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) gathered in Dallas this week to explore new technology, advances in practice and thought, and their collective future. There is a dark demographic cloud approaching the oil industry that crosses all professional boundaries � the ultimate retirement of one generation of professionals and the creation a new class of professionals.
In a forum, "The Future of the Upstream Oil & Gas Industry," sponsored by The Leading Edge, the SEG's magazine, and moderated by Bob Tippee, editor of the Oil and Gas Journal, a distinguished panel of industry leaders examined the question and the response needed by industry. The presentations and discussions that followed settled onto two key action points:
• Industry's refocusing to a broad sustainable development agenda
• An outreach effort to tell the industry's positive story to a new generation.
Sustainable development is a catch phrase that incorporates a philosophical shift to repeatable benign industrial processes that leave a small environmental effect on the globe. John Gibson, president and CEO of Halliburton Energy Services Group, presented an example. By shifting the focus to reducing toxic discharges, the company replaced over 20 toxic components across their drilling fluids systems. This lead to an unexpected 30% improvement in drilling performance using biodegradable esters while reducing toxicity liability from the drilling fluids.
With the average age of geophysicists exceeding 45, the need to face the coming "crew change" is critical. Raoul Restucci, CEO of Shell E&P Americas, expressed it best when he said the industry is not reaching the science-minded student. The industry was able to attract only 15% of the graduates entering the workforce during the 1980s. The industry has a significant story to tell of technological advance, challenge, and the ability to operate in an environmentally sensitive manner, he said, but the story is not reaching the students. Shell is shifting back to a functional division form to help address the increasing complexity of its operation environment.
As to where the next generation of oil finders will come from, if the traditional US oil industry colleges cannot provide the new talent, Restucci said, Shell will find them wherever they exist from overseas, if necessary.