Conference Take-away

October 1, 2021
Zack Warren
SEG | AAPG image, International meeting for applied geoscience and energy

I spent much of the week at the AAPG/SEG joint convention – a quick read for those who couldn’t make it!

Having spent most of my career in subsurface roles as a reservoir engineer, I’ve always been “geoscience curious”.  With the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) and Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) joining forces for their 2021 IMAGE conference in Denver this year, I took the chance to walk the exhibit floor, talking to vendors, operators, and getting to see lots of old friends.  Note that I did *not* attend the technical presentations, but talked to friends who did.  A few takeaways:

01. Similar to URTeC, the smaller and newer vendors showed up!

But the Big Boys largely stayed home. No booths or visible presence for big, important geoscience service providers like BakerHughes, Core Laboratories, Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Weatherford.  IHS Markit had a large and lively booth, but Enverus didn’t stand one up (after having a big presence at URTeC).

02. Geoscience as a discipline is going through enormous change.

I’ve been seeing this in pieces for several years, but wow, does it seem to be accelerating – the world of North American unconventional geoscience is separating from the rest of the field.  Talking to vendors, they seem to either serve the “manufacturing” world of tight oil (and gas) development, where cost control, outsourcing, and consistency rule.  Or, they serve the international/conventional/CCUS worlds, where advanced petrophysics, core analysis, seismic attribute extraction, and 3D modeling rule.

03. Unconventional geoscience is being commoditized.

I don’t love this trend, but it’s hard to deny – the North American tight oil (and gas) executive teams don’t seem to be investing in geoscience technology and expertise in the way that international and conventional companies are.  Core geoscience functions like well planning and geosteering are increasingly available for hire from large, well-run outsourcing firms.  With the core areas of NAM plays already well-defined, the demand for static reservoir characterization in that space still feels slow despite the runup in commodity prices.  Are we really done learning about the rocks in the Wolfcamp, Bakken, and Eagle Ford?

04. There are some COOL things happening in dynamic reservoir characterization and ESG.

Time-lapse seismic, hydraulic fracture characterization, and gravity-magnetic technologies, oh my!  I saw a lot of really cool stuff in the geophysics world focused on showing how reservoirs change over time – interesting measurements at reasonable price points.  There was also a lot of energy around ESG topics like methane detection, geothermal energy, and well abandonment.

As always, huge thanks to the AAPG and SEG committee members that pulled off an excellent conference in a crazy 2021.  I’m glad to hear they’ll continue to be meeting jointly through 2025, it’s a great way to bring the disciplines together.  Hope to see you in Houston next year!

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