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SPE Awards: The Oscars for Petroleum Engineers

Join thousands of the industry’s best by participating in the SPE annual awards nomination process.

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Nominations for SPE International and Regional Awards are open. Identify your colleagues who best qualify and submit your nominations soon. International Award nominations close on 15 February, and Regional Award nominations close on 1 March.

I attended my first SPE awards banquet in 2007 at the Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) in Anaheim, California. I was a new assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin and relatively new to SPE and the industry.

I was mesmerized by the whole awards banquet experience: the entertainment, dinner, flashing lights and music when winners were announced, fancy awards, and speeches. It was like the Oscars, but for engineers!

At the time, I only recognized the names of a few of the winners but would later learn that these were the professionals that wrote landmark books, developed impactful equations, and made discoveries that changed the trajectory of our energy future.

Since that first memorable experience, I have attended the awards banquet annually, nominated dozens of colleagues, and written dozens more letters of recommendation. I was honored to receive the 2014 SPE Regional Young Professional Outstanding Service Award, 2017 SPE Distinguished Membership, and most recently the 2022 SPE Lester C. Uren Award.

Receiving these awards were some of the most exciting, fun, and humbling nights of my life. I hope to share that wonderful experience with as many SPE members and colleagues as possible.

My advice to anyone aspiring to nominate a colleague, or be nominated, is as follows.

1. Start the process early. Although nominations are due 15 February for International Awards and 1 March for Regional Awards, it is important to identify a candidate for nomination, letter writers, and supporting documents as early as possible.

2. Identify a nominee and the award most suited for their accomplishments. Have a discussion with the nominee about their career and where they best fit in and be sure that they meet the eligibility requirements. I suggest reviewing recent winners of the award to determine if the nominee’s accomplishments are comparable. If you believe that there is an award for which you are best suited, don’t be shy about approaching a colleague about nominating you.

3. Consider a Regional Award before an International one or a technical award/SPE Distinguished Member Award before the more prestigious ones like the SPE John Franklin Carll Award for Distinguished Professionals or SPE/AIME Honorary Member Award. Importantly, winners of Regional Awards are automatically nominated for the International Award the subsequent year. Also consider awards that are historically overlooked by nominators, for example the SPE/AIME Charles F. Rand Memorial Gold Medal and the SPE/AIME Robert Earll McConnell Award.

4. The nominator should work closely with the candidate to develop a thorough nomination form. I recommend including very specific accomplishments, possibly in bullet form, that the review committee can consider and compare to other nominees.

5. Identify and contact up to six colleagues to write letters of recommendation for the nominee. Ideally, these colleagues should be very familiar with the candidate’s accomplishments, willing to write a thorough letter, and are well-known and respected within SPE (consider past winners of the award and other SPE awards for references). I suggest providing the referees with the completed nomination form and any other helpful material to write the reference letter, including a discussion with the candidate and/or nominator about their most impactful accomplishments. Remember that the referee is providing a service and favor so be respectful of their time and provide sufficient notice, at least 1 month.

6. The candidate should try not to be too humble when sharing accomplishments with the nominee or referees. There will be plenty of time for humility when you see the impressive group of colleagues on the stage and the previous winners of the award.

7. Don’t get discouraged if you or your nominee are not selected for an award. The selected SPE winners are an impressive group, and it is an honor to be considered. Nominations at the international level remain active for 3 years, and very few people are selected for an award on their first try. Many are even renominated after 3 years and may then be selected as an awardee.

8. Regardless of whether you or your nominee wins an award, attend the SPE awards banquet and support your colleagues. It is a lot of fun and the closest most of us will get to attending the Oscars!

When it comes to SPE award nominations, Wayne Gretzky, former professional ice hockey star and coach, said it best: “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”

Unfortunately, there are countless accomplished SPE members that are never considered for these awards and the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Learn more about SPE awards and how you can get involved.