SPE News

Chapter 4: Opening the Sails

“Opening our sails” is a metaphor that the worst of the storm has passed or is passing, and it is time to get ourselves shipshape, making necessary repairs and preparations, and get back on course.

Approaching Thunder and Lightning Storm
John Lund/Getty Images

It’s Time To Look at the Horizon

“Opening our sails” is a metaphor that the worst of the storm has passed or is passing, and it is time to get ourselves shipshape, making necessary repairs and preparations, and get back on course. As individuals, and certainly as SPE, we must be ready to cautiously open our sails. The pandemic may be at or near its peak, and despite relatively strong economic performance in most sectors, we know that the global economy remains fragile. As an industry, we don’t have the luxury of waiting. We must provide energy and feedstock in advance of global needs, so it is time to get busy and plan not for what was but for what will be.

The energy map, meaning the needs, resources, economies, and priorities of the world, is changing. The oil and gas industry will continue to adapt, but as I have mentioned many times, the need for the service we provide is greater now than ever before. We need to be prepared for both increasing demand and public apathy for what we do. This is nothing new, and capital investments in oil and gas should begin to increase as we enter the new year. Perhaps not at the rates we saw during the “shale revolution,” but investors know how essential we are to a strong global economy and will act accordingly.

I believe Picasso was right. We must develop the discipline to sacrifice for our passions completely, for what we are doing is too important to wait and too important to sleep. Personally, I have a compulsive need to serve and to create. The service part probably came from having older parents who came from, let’s say, very modest circumstances, and the creative part perhaps from the desire to take things apart and put them back together with the fewest possible parts left over. I mention this because each of us has an artist, a writer, an engineer, a doctor, and maybe even a mad scientist inside them. And each of us has our own compulsions. In the post-pandemic, we need to channel that same discipline that Picasso implies. Our passions are our compass, and our energy derives from our compulsion to fulfill those passions.

My challenge to you, as an industry, is to align your passions. Someone recently told me that the pandemic had provided us the opportunity of a generation to realign our priorities. I believe it is the opportunity of a lifetime. We can choose to fear the future, or we can create it. It is that simple.

If I Worry, Will It Change the Future?

The astute reader will recognize this title line is from the early 1970s US television series Kung Fu, when the main character uttered this phrase as he was in yet another perilous state of life or death. The message is clear: worry causes a lack of focus, wastes our most valuable resources of energy and time, and perhaps most importantly, leads to paralysis due to low self-confidence—all of which lead to the failure that worry inspires. Young members and students continually ask me about the job market, and my answer remains the same: take any position offered and remember that starting at the bottom leads to the top.

I recently heard the phrase, “It’s your choice. You can run from it or run at it.” I am sure that many of you will wonder what that means, but the simple answer in the context of SPE is that it is time for us to state our mission and stick to it with unrivaled commitment. Oil and gas are essential, and our people are among the most intelligent, the most creative, and the most devoted in any industry. We have been successfully doing this for over a century. We know how to be safe, engage our constituencies, and be a sustainable resource for a world that demands reliable energy. We must decide that we will run toward a future with energy resource competitors with confidence. If we choose to underestimate our competitors, whether by ignorance or arrogance, we most certainly will be replaced by them.

In short, worry, and its cousin, fear, have no place in our vocabulary or our mindset in this industry or the SPE. I draw inspiration from the personal and professional commitment of my fellow members of the SPE Board of Directors, who choose to “tune out the fear” to create new paths and new initiatives for SPE to pursue. I firmly believe that our outlook will determine our outcome. Also, we are truly fortunate to have the devoted service of our SPE staff. Most members never see the “back of the house” and don’t know how hard the SPE staff works on our members’ behalf. These may be the toughest of times, but never underestimate our collective commitment to serve you, our most valuable resource, the member.

SPE in Action—Why Do We Serve? It’s What We Do!

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This simple statement explains a universal truth: the highest calling in life is to serve others with our talents, our labor, and our resources. Individuals who commit to SPE service look beyond themselves as they provide the essential energy and support to the organization. Along those lines, the pandemic-induced economic crisis has led many of our sections to become stressed in terms of membership and leadership. Unfortunately, many of our members have been adversely affected by pandemic-driven workforce reductions. While it’s hard to ask those who are busy to step up and take more responsibility, I learned as a young Boy Scout that it is easier to add a log to the fire than to start a new fire. Translation: Busy people get things done, and busy people are always ready for another task. As a personal request, I ask that those who can step up and take on more SPE service to please do so. We need all the help we can get, especially at the section levels.

As I am sure you are also aware, we are approaching what I refer to as “call for papers” season, as many events have requested submissions in the coming weeks, not the least of which is the 2021 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition to be held in Dubai on 23–26 September. Also, if you will take a quick look at the meeting calendar, you will notice that we will start having in-person events again in the April to May 2021 timeframe, conditions permitting. I know everyone is ready to be together in person, and hopefully, we will be able to do so at that time. If you are inspired or compelled to do so, submit your abstracts to these various 2021 conferences. One of my pre-pandemic themes was to encourage every member who is so inclined to write that “best paper” that is stuck in their heads. This is your opportunity to do so.

On a personal note, I am the type of person who is always inspired by the coming of a new year. I feel like I am starting a new chapter in life every January; I look forward to new challenges, new opportunities, and new realities. I encourage each of you to consider 2021 to be a year of progress and prosperity, and always remember it is not our path that is so important; it is the path we leave for others, just as has been done for us. The oil and gas industry is essential, but remember that those essential elements that surround us are often the same elements taken for granted. We have to accept that we must earn our place every day, our future is not in doubt, but our commitment to a bright future for our industry must be evident in everything we do. To put a point on it, we have increasing volumes of oil and gas that we will have to find and produce for many decades to come. Stay sharp and stay committed because we have a lot of work to do.

Finally, from my family to you and yours, all the best for a healthy, prosperous, and (very) busy 2021.

As always, I sincerely welcome your feedback. Feel free to contact me at president@spe.org.