October 2010

The 2010-11 CCGS season is now fully underway with the first of a slate of excellent luncheon talks. Our first technical luncheon, Wednesday, Oct 20th, features Gregg Robertson of First Rock Inc. describing the discovery of Petrohawk’s Hawksville field, which kicked off the entire Eagle Ford shale play. Over the last 12 months or so the Eagle Ford has become the hottest resource play in the country. Dennis Taylor, our VP/Program Chair has lined up this very timely talk you won’t want to miss, so please RSVP promptly. Bob Critchlow, Technical Editor, has received an exclusive paper on the 32 Bcf Kilroy Wheeler #1 well in McMullen County, written by micropaleontologist Woodson Godfrey. Read how what we all thought was Sligo production may in fact be from the Austin Chalk and Edwards formations. Also, check out this month’s “Life in the Patch” entry submitted by an anonymous member. Feel free to try and guess the author, but be forewarned, you’ll never know if you are correct unless the author chooses to “out” himself (and you’ll note when you read the piece I have given nothing away by identifying his gender!). If you have an entertaining or unusual episode related to geology in your life please share it with the rest of us – anonymously or not!

Our annual Kickoff event was a success as 79 people enjoyed a fun social evening at the BBQ Man Cantina. Many thanks to CGG Veritas for sponsoring the bar. During the evening festivities we unveiled our “Boulders in Schools” pilot project. This is the 3rd part of the wildly successful educational initiative started by Owen Hopkins 4 years ago. The idea is to place 1 large boulder of each of the 3 major rock types in local schoolyards with descriptive signposts next to each. At the Kickoff, large posters of the boulders substituted for the real thing, while the actual engraved signposts stood nearby. We are testing this program at two area schools, Schanen elementary, and the brand new Gloria Hicks elementary. Delivery and dedication at both schools are scheduled for later this month. I will send out an email notification of the dates for those wishing to attend.

During the Kickoff we also unveiled another project your Society has been working on this year, a graphic display documentary chronicling local changes in sea level during the latest ice age cycle. Dr. Jim Garrison, recently a faculty member at our own Texas A&M CC and now with Texas A&M Galveston, conducted the literature review (some of which included his own research), created the maps and cross-sectional displays, and also wrote the dialogue for the documentary. This is another creation inspired by Owen Hopkins from an idea suggested by Alan Costello. Currently the material is in PowerPoint format. Alan is talking with Quadrant Productions about high-grading the material into either an animated PowerPoint display or a full-blown video. The goal is to make the finished product available to schools, libraries, museums, and other public institutions as a teaching tool. Sea level and climate changes are not new!

Last month I suggested we as an industry need to communicate more effectively to the general public about all aspects of our business. Ours is an industry vital to the security, economy, and high standard of living of our nation. And yet I would wager that the average American has little idea about the technical, economic, and political complexities we deal with every day. Not that the average citizen needs, or even wants, a detailed primer on our business. I don’t need to know, for instance, the complete manufacturing sequence of the microchips that run the computer I am using to write this. But it is useful to understand the basics, such as what a semiconductor is, why it is useful, and the materials used to make it. Likewise a basic understanding of reservoirs and traps, how wells are drilled and completed, costs, energy content of oil and gas compared to alternatives, how the product is priced, etc, would help all Americans make better decisions about our energy future.

Outside of investment forums, the only time our business gets in the news is when it’s bad. I think we need a ‘national face’, an industry expert that can appear on TV and radio news broadcasts, news commentary programs, and printed news reports explaining the realities of all forms of energy production and consumption. Goodness knows we sure could have used such a spokesperson during the BP Macondo well blowout. Many other news sectors have experts that appear regularly to offer insights on complicated issues in law, business, weather, environment, health and medicine, consumer advocacy, and politics (there seem to be more of these kind than any other). Some have become household names. Do you remember Dr. Neil Frank of the National Hurricane Center, who could be seen on just about every media outlet interpreting complex weather data? Or Jack Ford, who made a career as a network legal analyst, breaking down complicated legal issues for general TV audiences. Currently, Judge Andrew Napolitano is a well known legal expert in the broadcast media. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is another familiar figure currently seen providing medical expertise in both television and print media. Jack Hannah is another household name frequently seen on television promoting animal issues. And if you’re of my age, you probably remember Wally Schirra, the astronaut who provided years of expert analysis to CBS during the Apollo space missions. Such a person representing the oil and gas business could provide the general public with insights not currently available on issues such as alternate energy, resource plays, hydraulic fracture stimulation, common drilling and completion practices, targeted tax changes, and a whole host of other critical topics affecting our industry that are currently in the news.

Now, it’s true that dialogue regarding these topics goes on behind the scenes in Washington in the form of lobbying by various PACs and trade associations, including AAPG and API. And while that is essential, I would argue that a more informed public will also influence legislation and policy, not to mention possibly improve our image. Recently, T. Boone Pickens has been making the media rounds to promote natural gas and wind utilization, and he certainly qualifies as an energy expert, but his focus is much narrower than my proposal.

The Division of Professional Affairs within the AAPG, and the Media Center within the API are staffed with very accomplished professionals, that work in all aspects of our business. I suggest one or more of them could be groomed to effectively provide expert analysis to the general media. Or perhaps a joint effort between AAPG, API, SEG and SPE to sponsor a nationwide “talent search” could be conducted among the combined membership, and provide funding to support the winning candidate. Our industry has within its ranks many qualified candidates. I know. In my career I’ve met or worked with quite a few. Surely one of our colleagues would be eager for such a high-profile opportunity.

I think we have a very good story to tell, and I think it’s time the American public heard it. In the meantime, keep telling your friends, neighbors, and children the realities of energy in the modern world.

Rick Paige
CCGS President, 2010-11