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President’s Column

Great Rewards

mugshot of Ganesh ThakurAs I approach the end of my term as SPE president, I reflect not only on the past year but also on what led up to this wonderful year. I think about how SPE has affected my life in so many ways, all of which stem from three simple decisions.

First was my decision to join SPE. How do individuals determine value, and why do they choose to belong to a professional organization such as SPE? For me, it was a natural decision. I would be working in one of the most important careers in the world; in what other profession can you make a difference in the lives of millions of people every day? It logically followed that I wanted to be the best I could in that career. I have always viewed SPE as the foremost professional association for those working in oil and gas exploration and production (E&P). With its many technical resources (including its unrivaled collection of technical papers, its respected magazines and peer-reviewed journals, and its excellent conferences); the commitment exemplified by its mission, vision, and values; and its ability to connect E&P professionals globally, SPE was the best association to help me achieve my goal.

Second was the decision to learn. Why do people seek continuing education, and how can a membership organization such as SPE meet their needs? I took continuing education courses to keep up with the advancements in technology and to continue to sharpen my skills to become more productive and prolific in my work. I was privileged to take SPE short courses taught by world-class professionals such as Dr. Aziz Odeh. I kept learning more and more, especially early in my career. During 1990–91, I started to teach a course on integrated petroleum reservoir management with Dr. Abdus ­Satter, and, later, we wrote a textbook on this subject that became popular in the industry and with many universities around the world. Although I learned a lot by taking SPE short courses, I learned even more from teaching courses attended by some of the best minds in our industry. I remember, for instance, a course in the 1990s that included Bob Schneider (he passed away a few years ago), retired from Shell, and W. John Lee, a very distinguished professor from Texas A&M now at the University of Houston. This was one of the best courses I have ever taught because we not only taught the course but we also facilitated an enriched discussion that led to a superb learning experience for all the participants, including me.

I strongly believe this is one area on which SPE can continue to focus more. I know SPE has done a tremendous job in training and education this year. For example, now we are offering 120 courses in 2012, a 200% increase over what we were doing just a couple of years ago. I see even more growth opportunities in this area as membership grows in developing countries and our responsibility to educate the young professionals takes a clearer path around the world.

Third was the decision to volunteer. Why do people give their time to their professional organization? For me, this decision was based on wanting to give back to an organization that has given me a so much professional growth and experience. I feel any professional should give something back to his or her organization or profession. I have been a member of SPE for more than 40 years. I have held all types of volunteer positions in SPE, including technical reviewer and Distinguished Lecturer, and served in all types of ways, including as a technical director on the SPE International Board of Directors.

SPE members give their time to SPE for many reasons, including

  • To learn new skills, hard and soft
  • To serve others
  • Because they believe in our mission to collect, disseminate, and exchange technical information
  • To stay engaged in their profession and to network
  • To connect with their daily work
  • To help a cause that is important to them, such as energy education

If members have a good volunteer experience, they will keep coming back.

I am passionate about my work in SPE and proud of all of our programs. There are many I could speak eloquently about that foster volunteerism and learning, but, today, I would like to briefly touch on just a couple.

One inspiring example of the power of volunteers and learning is the SPE Research and Development (R&D) Technical Section. The section boasts more than 650 members from 53 different countries. The section arranges a number of webinars that are open to all SPE members. In these webinars, two expert speakers give presentations on R&D needs, opportunities, and projects associated with a specific new technology or technical challenge facing the E&P industry and then answer questions from listeners. Topics have included unconventional resources, global energy economic perspectives, flow assurance, underground carbon sequestration, human factors in oilfield decision making, in-situ molecular manipulation, increasing recovery factors, and higher resolution subsurface imaging. Over the past 12 months, almost 700 people have attended these webinars—that’s around 140 at each event.

Another example of volunteers in the society coming together to make a difference in the industry and the world, beyond technical processes, is SPE’s safety summit. “The Human Factor, Process Safety, and Culture” will address the issues raised by the US National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which set out the need for reforms to the oil and gas industry’s safety culture. The summit’s goal is to map out mechanisms and actions that will accomplish this from organizational and individual standpoints. It will focus on how E&P professionals make use of the information they receive during critical events and how this translates into decisions that lead to specific actions.

This has been an exciting year. I’d like to end my last JPT column by thanking you all for the honor of serving as your 2012 SPE president. It has been so rewarding to give back to a society that has given me so much. I am grateful to be a part of SPE, not only for the professional advancements it has afforded me but also for the relationships I have developed, friends I have gained, and the ability to call myself a member of the SPE family. SPE has given me a lot of professional growth and experience, and accepting the role of the 2012 SPE president was one way to return the favor.

I would also like to send a message to the young people in our industry and to the students we hope will one day join us. This is a rewarding profession that gives you the opportunity to contribute to the welfare of people everywhere, to do exciting work with advanced technologies, to travel the world meeting diverse people, and to make lifelong friends. It is very satisfying when you use technology and see the benefits and the value that come from it in terms of increased oil and gas recovery and production or safer operations for your company and for the industry. The outlook for this industry is bright for the young professionals and students coming into our business. I would encourage young professionals to become active and take a leadership role. I also would encourage college and high school students to join the petroleum industry because this a very important industry and it is going to be here for the next 50 years or even more.