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President’s Column

The Progression of the SPE Strategy

Jeff Spath, 2014 SPE President

SPE President Jeff SpathAs you may remember, SPE adopted a new Strategic Plan in March 2013. The plan revolves around four major objectives:

  • Capability development
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Promoting professionalism and social responsibility
  • Public education about the petroleum engineering profession and industry issues

Since then, the Board committees and several Board-level work groups have been examining high-priority initiatives in each of these areas. Many of these were discussed at the recent Board of Directors meeting in Yangon, Myanmar. I would like to share with you updates on some of these important initiatives.

Capability Development

Our industry will continue to undergo a significant demographic shift over the next decade. SPE is devoting resources to support competency development (technical and soft skills) and assessment, assistance with the challenges of university faculty development and retention (to educate new engineers), and efforts supporting engineers in lifelong learning. So far the work group has addressed competency assessment and development in two ways. First the group mapped SPE products and services against several stages of life-cycle learning (pre-university, university, early career, mid-career, late career, retirement). SPE will be conducting a gap assessment and developing an action plan including a competency assessment.

Ensuring that we have enough petroleum engineering faculty is a key element in capability development. This is a topic that is close to my heart. I strongly feel SPE should help support faculty to gain and retain the brightest for the future of our industry. For this initiative, the work group made several suggestions to tackle this issue that the Board approved.

SPE held a Forum in August 2013 that resulted in a white paper, “SPE Forum Series: 2020 Foresight—Ensuring Educational Excellence for Upstream Engineering Resources,” available from OnePetro. Two pilot regional task forces are being established in the eastern US and Nigeria to identify and address local issues for university petroleum engineering education and to recommend actions.

SPE’s Board agreed to enhance its faculty awards and grants program and to launch an R&D competition. Also, the Board approved a modification to the SPE bylaws to include a permanent Board position for academia.

Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge transfer is the backbone of SPE. It is our mission. So the quality, timeliness, and delivery of knowledge are imperative for the industry’s growth. This covers a number of initiatives, including maintaining the highest technical quality within SPE programs, enhancing volunteer participation, making knowledge available on demand and in user-friendly ways, and taking full advantage of communications technologies to disseminate information.

A work group on the technical quality of SPE’s programs reviewed conference and journal-subscriber surveys over the past 10 years and met with focus groups at the 2013 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. Their findings confirmed that technical quality has been very high during the society’s rapid growth. To ensure continued top technical quality, SPE is implementing enhanced review guidelines for the peer-reviewed journals and paper proposal questions for conferences, both of which tie to an SPE technical director’s definition of technical quality. SPE also has put in place processes to identify plagiarism in SPE papers, and has established a staff position to focus on technical quality.

Another key focus is using communications technologies to provide members easier and faster access to knowledge. From the launch of Petrowiki and HSENow, to the redesign of OnePetro, to the more than 80 webinars hosted in 2013, SPE is expanding its reach and using all media available. Continuing this effort is a focus of the Board Committee on Communication and Knowledge Sharing.

Professionalism and Social Responsibility

For the future of SPE and the industry, we need to promote the highest level of professionalism and social responsibility among our members. This professionalism needs to be ingrained in our everyday work life and passed on to the future generations. For these reasons SPE has revised the SPE Code of Professional Conduct to enforce the need to be more responsible. SPE is also offering courses on ethics with greater frequency at our conferences and webinars.

To ensure SPE and its members are communicating together about social responsibility, a committee was developed, led by industry experts, to adopt a definition of sustainability. This definition was approved by the Board in March and will be published later in a full article on sustainability and social responsibility.

Public Education

Perhaps one of the most important initiatives the SPE Strategic Plan tackles is increasing our emphasis on educating the public about our industry and our profession. SPE has made some strides in energy education so this was an obvious focus for the Board. The Board work group focused on how SPE can attract more young people to the industry and increase public awareness programs based on providing factual information about our technologies.

In support of these goals, SPE launched a website in September 2013 explaining hydraulic fracturing. Building on the educational energy4me.org website, the hydraulic fracturing site uses facts from SPE papers, articles, and other vetted resources to explain the hydraulic fracturing process and technology in an easy-to-comprehend way. Also, SPE is expanding the global energy4me program with more teacher workshops, working more with similarly focused local organizations, developing a 5-year plan that establishes geographic priorities, and adding staff resources.

Also related to public education, a work group focused on how SPE can serve as a technical authority and trusted source of unbiased information. The group developed guidelines and processes for SPE technical reports to ensure technical information is of the highest quality. SPE published its first technical report, on “The Human Factor: Process Safety and Culture.” The report provides guidance on the human factors risks in E&P operations, and what can be done to reduce those risks and increase safety. The report can be found in OnePetro.

With all of these new programs and initiatives within SPE, the value versus cost of SPE membership is strong and has increased significantly. Currently, SPE dues allow members to have access to an abundance of technical knowledge either complimentary or at a heavily discounted rate. Members get:

  • Access to the Distinguished Lecturer program
  • Copies of JPT and HSENow online
  • Access to SPE Connect online communities
  • Discounts for papers on OnePetro and books

Discounts at technical conferences, training courses, webinars, technical workshops, and forums

There is also an intangible benefit to being an SPE member—pride. Being part of an organization that is making our industry stronger and more educated creates a sense of pride in your work. I know it has for me over the last 30 years.

Each month, I post my JPT column topic on the SPE LinkedIn group for comment and conversation. I invite you all to join in this discussion and look forward to hearing your viewpoints.