Executive Editors of SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering
alternate writing the Executive Summary. This issue’s summary is by Birol
I would like to start this editorial by extending my best wishes for
2006—although by the time you get this issue, we will be well into 2006. I
would like to thank all the RCs, TEs, and SPE staff, especially Stacie Hughes
and Jennifer Wegman, for helping all of us to put together a great journal
that represents our collective efforts.
Toward the end of 2005, I was able to get together with some of my friends who
work in the oil industry. Some of the subjects that we casually discussed were
the SPE membership, the number of papers submitted during the last few years,
and other related topics. One of the questions brought up was the relationship
between SPE membership over the years and the oil price. Later on, I spent
some time looking at the actual data; I thought they were quite interesting
and wanted to share the results with you.
Please note that the following is not a thorough statistical analysis; rather,
it is just a snapshot of how the data look. In addition, there is some
seasonality in the data. For example, in some years there are more SPE
meetings than others (some meetings occur every other year), and there are
other meetings and journals besides SPE’s. I also would like to highlight that
we are using the SPE membership as a proxy of number of people (mostly
technical) working in the upstream industry worldwide. SPE abstracts submitted
during the last 10 years are shown in Fig. 1. As seen in this figure,
the number of abstracts submitted to SPE goes up and down from year to year.
Fig. 1—Yearly number of abstracts submitted to SPE (source: SPE).
Fig. 2 shows the total SPE membership per year since 1970. One thing
that is quite clear is that SPE membership climbed somewhat with the oil-price
outlook until the 1986 surprise. After that date, membership totals stagnated
from until 2000, although world oil production increases steadily in the long
run (Fig. 3). The message is that we are producing more oil with fewer
people. However, during the last 5 years, the oil price and the number of SPE
members have both increased steadily. Although there is always some political
dimension to how the data look on the paper, one implicit message could have
been that easier oil (or just the perception) did not need many people to
extract it, along with the new technological development and the price
fluctuations. After the end of the last decade, more people were needed, along
with the increasing demand to maintain the necessary levels of oil production.
Fig. 2—Total number of SPE members per year (source: SPE).
Fig. 3—World daily crude production (source: EIA; 2005 is estimated).
I also wanted to look at the SPE membership vs. oil price (Nominal Refiner
Acquisition Cost of Imported Crude Oil; see Fig. 4), as well as the
daily production numbers, while accepting that we, SPE members, also work in
gas production and gas-related businesses. During the last 20 years, the daily
production varied between 1,000 and 1,300 bbl/day/SPE member.
Fig. 4—Number of SPE members vs. oil price* for the period 1973–2005 (source:
SPE and IEA).
* Nominal Refiner Acquisition Cost of Imported Oil.
While my main point in this discussion was to figure out whether the number of
abstracts submitted in recent years (as a proxy of R&D and work activity) is
on the increase (or not) and why, the historical SPE membership data and their
relation to oil production and price also looked interesting. Therefore, I
ended up checking the SPE membership and the price pressure on the work that
we are doing. Based on the last 10 years of abstracts submitted to SPE, we can
perhaps conclude that the number of abstracts increases with the number of SPE
members and is inversely proportional with the monotonically stable oil price.
The scatter that we observe in Fig. 1 is reduced if we incorporate the oil
price and the number of SPE members (Fig. 5). The number of abstracts
submitted per SPE member is increasing, and at the same time, increasing price
is creating some pressure on the number of abstracts submitted due to
increased personal workload. What I have tried to show was more of a quick
“curiosity experiment” (and, therefore, I will not go into more detail here),
but if you want to study some of the subjects mentioned here, you can examine
the publicly available data by more sophisticated means and, thus, you may be
able to extract more from the data. What we can easily say is that the number
of abstracts submitted does not necessarily increase with the oil price, and
the SPE membership has increased steadily since 2000.
Fig. 5—Oil price vs. the product of the oil price and the number of SPE
abstracts submitted per SPE member for the period 1996–2005 (source: EIA and
Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2006!