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President’s Column

A Look at How the SPE Board Works

pic of SPE PresidentIn my April column, I talked about how SPE’s Board of Directors uses a Strategic Plan to better prepare for change and the need for responsiveness. While the Strategic Plan is formally reviewed once a year, the board uses it to guide its discussions and decisions throughout the year.

The full board meets three times annually following an ­early-year meeting of the Board Committee on Finance and Administration. One of the three meetings is held in conjunction with the Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. The other two meetings are held in various locations around the world where SPE has members. The board held its first meeting of 2012 in Perth, Australia, 2–4 March.

At the Perth meeting, the board approved the budget for Fiscal Year 2013 (which runs from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013). The budget’s operating plan calls for completing a number of important activities, including the following:

  • Develop the pilot for the PetroWiki, an industry-knowledge website using SPE’s Petroleum
  • Engineering Handbook as a base to which SPE’s global membership can contribute information
  • Expand the use of mobile technology to meet the needs of our members, including mobile applications for such things as the Member Directory and events calendar, and SPE’s online communities
  • Organize more than 140 events globally, with a combined budget of more than USD 40 million
  • Continue to grow our professional and student memberships
  • Deliver more than 500 in-person Distinguished Lecturer presentations and extend the Distinguished
  • Lecturer program through use of webinars
  • Hold several technical section webinars
  • Award USD 560,000 in scholarships and fellowships
  • Publish more articles about global issues and technologies in JPT
  • Hold 120 training courses in SPE’s Houston and Calgary training centers and in conjunction with SPE events and as stand-alone courses around the world
  • Further globalize SPE’s energy education program
  • Organize summits on key industry issues
  • Fully implement a new system to improve submission of paper proposals and manuscripts for meetings

Holding our board meetings in different places all over the world gives us an opportunity to meet with local sections, student chapters, and industry leaders in the region. In Perth, we took the opportunity to meet students and faculty at the University of Western Australia. The board also had a very productive meeting with executives from the region.

Fifteen executives from Australia and Southeast Asia met with the board in a 2-hour session in which they gave their views on the issues facing the industry over the next 10 to 20 years and offered some ideas on ways SPE could help.

After introductions, Zhou Shouwei, former vice president and nonexecutive director of China National Offshore Oil Corporation, talked about the challenges and opportunities faced by China and the emerging technologies likely to become more significant in the next two decades.

John Boardman, SPE Regional Director Southern Asia Pacific, then facilitated a dialogue session for which he set the scene by asking five questions:

  1. How well do SPE’s mission and current business activities meet the needs of the industry from your perspective?
  2. What is it that you would like SPE to do more of/less of?
  3. In 20 years time, what is the industry going to look like and what will SPE have to do to not only remain relevant but to have increased its stature/credibility, both in the industry and the wider community?
  4. What are the immediate issues in which SPE could play a greater role?
  5. In the long term how can SPE be more proactive?

Many great suggestions came out of the session. The following are highlights of the feedback received.

Health/Safety/Environment (HSE)

  • SPE is a tremendous partner in recruitment and technology dissemination. However, SPE could play a greater role in increasing the public and governments’ confidence in the industry.
  • SPE could help the industry talk about HSE standards. The Technology Summits are an excellent way to do this and should be continued.

Industry image and promotion

  • SPE has a role to play in providing objective, unemotional commentary on incidents or community issues that involve the industry. SPE could provide fact-based commentary and materials for industry and media to use. SPE might consider addressing young people, who are increasingly seeing the industry portrayed negatively and may be put off from joining the industry.

Best Practices

  • SPE has a future role in being the custodian of best practices rather than standards. It’s up to the regulators whether they want to use them.
  • The SPE Petroleum Resources Management System (PRMS) has become universally used by the industry. SPE should think about broadening the PRMS to more rigorously address unconventional hydrocarbons and issues such as booking hydrocarbon volumes produced under service contracts as reserves.


  • To what extent are we likely to see an increasingly mobile workforce? Is there a role for SPE in developing effective communication mechanisms to engage and educate this workforce?
  • The industry is overlooking a significant and highly valuable source of professional resources—females. SPE might be well positioned to develop programs specifically targeted at attracting more females into the industry.


  • SPE needs to put visibility around emerging technologies and should look more at practices and technologies already in use by other industries.

Risk Assessment

  • Engineers may not always think rationally in the area of risk. Exploration is all about managing risk and explorationists are much more comfortable with the concept of uncertainty. Can engineers learn from this?

Our board found this to be an extremely valuable exercise. Many of the comments made will generate new ideas to better serve our membership and the industry. After all, SPE is about the members and those of us that serve the membership should remember to listen. The American television and radio host Larry King once said, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

If you have any thoughts about any of these items, please write to me at ­