Strengthening Our Core Disciplines
From the beginning, SPE has focused on knowledge dissemination in four fundamental areas, which I refer to as the core disciplines: drilling, completions, reservoir (including geosciences), and production operations. These disciplines make up the bulk of coursework in most petroleum engineering degree programs, as well as the content of the SPE Petroleum Engineering Certification test. Still today, most of our members can identify themselves as being either a drilling, completions, reservoir, or production engineer.
However, there are many other disciplines within our industry, such as HSE, management, economics, facilities, and materials, to name a few. Over time, SPE has added content and programs covering topics outside of the core disciplines, and our membership has grown as a result. Most of us work on multidisciplinary teams and collaborations that extend beyond the core disciplines, so it made sense for SPE to adopt this expansion strategy. While we must continue to welcome all disciplines and professions involved with providing the world’s hydrocarbons, we must still deliver quality content and programs for fundamental petroleum engineering disciplines at the field level—closest to the wellhead.
In 2019, two-thirds of our total professional membership listed their primary discipline as being a core discipline. Note that some members still appear in the legacy drilling and completions category because they have not updated their profile after completions became a separate category.
In response to the digital revolution our industry is currently experiencing, the SPE Board of Directors recently redefined the Management and Information discipline into Data Science and Engineering Analytics (DSEA) and Management.
As we continue to expand and welcome more disciplines, we must ensure that we do not dilute the offerings and erode the value of being an SPE member for those in our core disciplines. At the same time, we need to ensure that these offerings are easily accessible, as many of these members work at field locations.
I recently compared the technology focus areas covered in JPT in 2000 to focus areas of today. Over the past 20 years, JPT has been able to expand its coverage into other disciplines without compromising articles and features focused on the core disciplines. For a magazine, this is relatively easy, as one can simply add pages. Next, I compared the technical sessions for our Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) from the years 2000 and 2020. Having served on the ATCE program committee in the past, I know there are a finite number of sessions available for allocation among all the disciplines. I found there was approximately a 30% reduction in sessions for reservoir and geosciences at ATCE in 2020 compared to 2000. This decrease is not due to the encroachment of new disciplines but primarily because of the increased activity into hydraulic fracturing and the doubling of sessions allocated for the completion discipline. The ATCE program committees have done an excellent job of being able to include sessions of interest for a wide variety of disciplines while still serving the needs of our members in the core disciplines.
In March 2001, SPE established technical directors on its board to serve as champions and advisory resources to the board, committees, and staff for their discipline in all SPE programs. One of their roles is to encourage and promote coverage of their technical areas across all SPE programs and services. That information, including their advisory committees, can be found in the Explore Your Discipline section on SPE’s website. SPE’s technical directors have played a vital role in maintaining our content for the core disciplines as SPE expands its tent into other areas. I believe that we can still do more in terms of increasing the value of having an SPE membership, especially for our core discipline members.
In 2019, I approached our incoming and outgoing technical directors for Drilling (Jeff Moss and David Reid) about piloting a program that would provide exclusive content to our SPE members in the drilling discipline. Working with SPE staff, we began to collect feedback from the drilling engineering community as to what they would envision this program, now called an engagement hub, to provide. This pilot program was scheduled to launch by the summer of 2020. However, it has been delayed due to the impact of the current global crisis on SPE’s resources. I am committed to seeing this pilot through during my last 1.5 years on the board. If successful, other engagement hubs will be created, starting with the other core disciplines.
At the same time, I want to ensure that these offerings are accessible to the many core discipline members who are based in field locations. Typically, these are members early in their careers and in need of materials for their technical development. I can relate to the needs and challenges of these members as I started in this industry as a young rig supervisor based in the remote town of Fox Creek, Alberta. During that time, the closest SPE section events were a 2-hour drive into Edmonton, Alberta, and events held in winter were even more challenging due to poor road conditions.
Today, SPE can deliver content through our website and the SPE app for mobile devices. However, being able to listen to and participate in section or SPE international events can be challenging, if nonexistent, for those in field locations. Offering virtual events could be especially valuable to reach those in field operations and provide the education needed by our young professionals. SPE did a pilot early this year to livestream the opening session of the International Hydraulic Fracturing Conference to prove out the platform and work out the glitches.
Little did we know that a few months later we would be amid a global pandemic and that SPE would quickly have to expand its knowledge and offerings in the virtual event space to reach any of its members. We will be launching some of these events in various formats as soon as we can and making improvements as we learn. While many of us are used to attending or presenting at an event in person, we need to seize this opportunity to embrace the virtual event model. I will delve into this subject more in my column next month. As we emerge from this global crisis, SPE events may include more hybrid events with options for those attending in person and remotely, as well as some completely virtual events. A benefit of these changes is the opportunity for those in field and well operations to learn about the latest techniques faster and in a more engaging way.
As our industry evolves, there will be the emergence of more unique disciplines that SPE will need to include in our large “family” to solve our grand challenges and drive innovation. I am confident, given our history to date, that we can continue to expand our reach while still delivering accessible, quality content and programs on fundamental petroleum engineering and field operations.
Do you feel that SPE has maintained its level of content and programs for the core disciplines? If not, where are the gaps and how can we improve? Please send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. To hear Shauna’s President’s Column via podcast, please go to www.spe.org/en/podcasts.
Strengthening Our Core Disciplines
Shauna Noonan, 2020 SPE President
01 June 2020
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