President's Column

A Message From 2009 SPE President Leo Roodhart

Greetings to young professionals around the world. You now make up 21% of SPE membership, up from just 14% in 2000. My goal as President is to reinforce for all of our members that this is Your SPE. Our society is about inclusion; it is about globalization; it is about a shared vision. SPE is about each and every one of us—it is by us and for us. Your SPE is quite simply a global society of volunteers working together to make an impact at a local level through the sharing and dissemination of knowledge.

SPE has an active community of young professionals. We want to meet your needs and engage your talents in tackling the important issues that our industry faces to ensure security of supply across the globe. In the coming decades, we must deal with a step-change increase in demand, struggling supply, and increasing environmental stresses. These challenges are so enormous that individual companies cannot solve them alone. I am convinced that global cooperation is the only way forward and that SPE can be the glue.

The current global financial crisis is affecting economies around the world and has slowed demand for energy. But I have seen many crises affecting our industry during my career, and in the long term, the world will always need energy. It always amazes me how much energy there is in a gallon of gasoline. Nothing can and will beat that. Therefore, we must find ways to enthuse young people and encourage them to choose our industry for a career. As SPE President, my particular message to the young is that the world is not running out of oil. There is plenty for the next 100 years, but it is increasingly difficult to extract and we will need the best and brightest minds to do that. That’s a challenge that young people can relish!

Hydrocarbons will be the energy source of choice for many decades to come, but alternatives will complement this more and more to meet world demand. The emerging technologies that are likely to have the most impact on the industry going forward are those that will allow us to access new territories, such as ultradeepwater and the Arctic, but also technologies that allow us to extract the so-called unconventionals, from oil sands and sour gas. This needs to be combined with new technologies to capture and sequester CO2. I also see electricity playing a greater role in transportation, so we need a few breakthroughs in storage (battery technology) and transportation (DC power and superconductivity). Even in my professional lifetime, I can see countless examples of the transformational power of technology innovation that drives our industry.

How do we achieve these big dreams and lofty ambitions? Someone described this process as “think globally, but act locally,” or implementing a global vision at the local level. Some may say this cannot be done, but as a Chinese proverb says: “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”

We’ve taken a number of steps towards the globalization of SPE. One is to rotate SPE’s Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition to non-US locations, with the first taking place in Florence, Italy in October 2010. We’re overcoming language barriers with the online Glossary of Oilfield Terms in four languages, and a new Russian-language regional periodical. If there is interest in other regions, we can do similar publications in other languages. We are launching a Chinese professional network, where Chinese engineers working around the globe can come together in an electronic community to share information and ideas in their own language.

We need to work on increasing the number of members we have in national oil companies. I’ve had meetings with leaders of companies in China and Russia to share SPE’s value proposition—that SPE is a member-led society of volunteers who cooperate and disseminate knowledge at a global scale.

It is vital that we convert our student members into full members and continue to attract the young from around the globe to make SPE their SPE. Young people are coming to our profession from India and China, not from Western Europe or North America. At the moment, 70% of our student members are from the nontraditional regions outside of Western Europe and North America. We need to ensure that your SPE is providing initiatives and programs that are attractive and relevant to Generation Y. For that, we will need to look into new ways of disseminating knowledge, using new media. What next? Our own SPE Island in Second Life, with our avatars debating new technologies while we work!

The industry’s shortage of people and increasing workloads have made big constraints on volunteerism, which is the core of SPE. At the same time, the demand for knowledge is going up—more conferences, more workshops, more technical papers, and more opportunities to network with counterparts around the world. To meet the technology demands requires knowledge-sharing on an unprecedented scale, and SPE’s mission of global knowledge exchange is going to be more important than ever to energy professionals and to the industry.

Our young members have done an outstanding job of making SPE their own. You’ve taken over the reins to ensure that our programs meet the needs of young members, both in local sections and at the global level. I encourage you to continue your efforts to coordinate globally and act locally.

I applaud your initiatives to make this My SPE, Your SPE, Our SPE.


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