SPE News

Listening to Our Members

Opening additional channels of communication with our members provided important feedback to move forward with the Strategic Plan.

Blue hydrogen panel discussion at ADIPEC.
Blue hydrogen panel discussion at ADIPEC.

As we return to a full schedule of meetings in person and I get a chance to visit with a large number of our members and discuss the various services and programs SPE offers, it became clear that more communication is needed to make all of us aware of the benefits and value of SPE membership. I plan to describe these services in detail and discuss developments in the SPE Strategic Plan, this month and in future columns.

Let me start with mentioning two services of interest to all members. For more than a year now, the SPE Board of Directors has communicated the highlights and major decisions of its quarterly meetings with all the Society’s section chairs and asked them to share the information with the membership at-large at section meetings and newsletters. Probably, a more direct method of sharing this material is needed. The information from the most recent Board of Directors meeting (October 2022 in Houston) and highlights from all 2022 meetings are posted here. Information from future meetings will be posted regularly after each meeting. This practice is important to share the work and decisions the Board is continually making with our members, and it offers an invitation for them to provide any feedback they may consider helpful to continue advancing the mission of our Society.

The other point I’d like to mention is that despite the financial challenges we have experienced recently, the contribution of our members to the technical content has never decreased. The number of papers presented at our conferences continued at the same pace. A good example is that during the month of October 2022, a total of 1,382 papers were presented at six SPE events in North America, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. Attendance at technical sessions at SPE-managed conferences are continuously increasing to reach the pre-pandemic levels. I recently participated in the SPE Middle East Artificial Lift Conference in Bahrain, ADIPEC in Abu Dhabi, and the Earth Energy and Environment (E3) Conference at Marietta College, where attendance was higher than expected.

Other programs and services available to our members will be highlighted in future columns.

Keynote address at the exhibit of E3 Conference at Marietta College.
Keynote address at the exhibit of E3 Conference at Marietta College.

SPE Strategic Plan

As we are getting closer to the final Strategic Plan from the planning sessions, I wanted to share some of the input we have received from members around the world. The key to getting the Strategic Plan right is feedback from our members. Throughout this process we reached out in different ways to solicit diverse opinions about what is important. Members gave feedback through

  • One-on-one virtual interviews with the SPE Foundation Board of Trustees, SPE committee members, industry members/key sponsors, academia, and SPE section leaders or members.
  • Focus groups with members including past presidents, advisory councils, young professionals, and academicians.
  • The SPE Connect General Discussion community.
  • An online survey with mostly open-ended questions.

Also, the Board Officers held a special session at ATCE to gather input from members firsthand about what we should consider while updating the Strategic Plan. It was well attended and highlighted the diversity of our Society, something I have been seeing for some time now. From all the feedback received, common themes were identified, including the following.

What are some trends, critical issues, or challenges affecting our industry and which do you think is most important for SPE and our industry in the next 5–7 years?

Three of the top answers were:

  • Attracting and preparing a next-generation workforce
  • Energy transition and our place in it
  • Industry reputation/public perception

Attracting new talent and preparing the next generation of workers to the industry is not a new challenge. The next generation starts at our educational institutions. A potential goal is for our educational institutions to collaborate through SPE to adapt their curricula to meet the needs of students entering the oil, gas, and other related energy sections where they innovate and evolve to meet the world’s energy needs. Increasing collaboration between academia and industry, expanding the “energy mission” of traditional petroleum engineering and geoscience programs, and creating evolving curricula—which are reviewed and updated on a regular basis and include subjects like CCUS, minimizing emissions, and data analytics—may progress membership development.

Opening session of the SPE Middle East Artificial Lift Conference.
Opening session of the SPE Middle East Artificial Lift Conference.

What could potentially stop SPE from accomplishing its mission?

The biggest issue most SPE members see as a potential hurdle is public (and government) perception of our industry. The topic of public perception is not a new challenge to us, but I am not sure everyone understands how difficult it is for many countries. I recently heard a member from the Germany section speak about the difficulties in attracting young people to the industry with no petroleum engineering schools left and the negativity around doing business with petroleum companies and organizations. It is a problem that is not easily solved but there are ways we can make the industry and Society more attractive to young professionals.

Another concern for members is the energy transition and our place in it. This also highlights an internal struggle for SPE in that we are divided on our focus around the energy transition. We are at a crossroads. We have members in jobs and regions where their focus is petroleum and nothing else. We also have members in jobs and regions where their focus is beyond petroleum. These two seemingly opposing sides have a common ground—SPE.

It is in our best interest as a Society to embrace all opinions and be seen as a solution to energy demand, not the problem. That is exactly the reason I chose the theme Petroleum ++ to express our direction. As explained in previous columns, petroleum refers to our current work to continue producing oil and gas at increasingly higher rates; the first plus refers to our effort as part of the solution to the climate change concerns; and the second plus refers to the work in expanding our domain to other energy forms related to our competencies.

What are we doing that we must retain?

The top answer from members is to remain the industry’s key source of technical content. This is our mission, and we must center everything we do around this point. SPE should provide petroleum engineers technical and professional support in their development while having a fulfilling career that makes them look forward to proudly show up for their jobs every day. We need to work with oil, gas, and related companies to attain technical development of their employees through SPE programs and services. We should also engage with governments and regulatory bodies, both locally and globally, as a key resource for industry information and technical expertise to create a sustainable energy future.

Until next month!