Conference Provides Truly Global Perspective

Dr. Bernie Vining, Regional Director for consultants Gaffney, Cline & Associates, is Chairman of the Technical Committee for the 7th Petroleum Geology Conference. He talked to GeoExPro about the Conference and the issues to be discussed
This article appeared in Vol. 6, No. 1 - 2009


Dr. Bernie Vining has extensive experience of the hydrocarbon industry, having worked for Exxon for 25 years in a variety of technical and managerial assignments throughout the world. He is a European Geologist and Chartered Geologist and has particular interest in geoscience research, particularly university / industry collaboration. Photo: PESGB
How do you explain the success of the ‘Barbican' conferences and what makes them unique?  

The "Barbican" or Petroleum Geology Conferences have evolved from their north-west Europe roots into truly international events providing a global perspective. I firmly believe that this success is due to the reputation and tradition developed over 35 years. They are distinguished as being scientific conferences and have been the conference to attend if working on the petroleum geology of north-west Europe. A key ingredient has been the "Proceedings", which have become the definitive text on the petroleum geology of north-west Europe. The 5 year frequency of the conferences is just right to facilitate the release of new data and scientific findings.  

The theme of the 7th conference is ‘from Mature Basins to New Frontiers'. In which of these do you envisage most activity in the next decade?  

In exploration, I expect some wells and marginal projects will be deferred, with only the best opportunities being drilled. Effects of the downturn in the global economy, such as a shortage of special steels, may result in project delays. In production, the emphasis will be on increasing recovery and optimal use of current infrastructure.  

Activity in Mature Basins over the next decade will probably therefore be focused on increasing effectiveness and efficiency of production. Asset portfolios, predicated on a high oil price, will be reassessed and I expect several players will be lost to the industry. New Frontiers, like the circum-Arctic, have long lead times, and deferral of operational activities is expected. The future of unconventionals is intriguing. The economics of many of these projects are based on a high oil price - geopolitics, especially security of supply, will inevitably play a role.  

One thing is for certain and that is nothing is for certain. What is considered an issue for one player may be an opportunity for another.   

The 7th Conference includes debates on modern geo-controversies. Which of these is most significant to the future of the industry?  

The geo-controversies debates are a new feature which we hope will add an extra dimension to the conference. We have three interesting debates in store. The first discusses Peak Oil and is directed to society at large, while the second debate is entitled: "Are NOCs the future of the petroleum industry?" This subject is very significant to the global industry, as it pertains to access to new opportunities. Our final debate is entitled: "Is exploration in the North Sea finished?" For those involved in exploration in the North Sea, this is a key question!  

What is the most important thing you would like to see achieved through the conference?  

It probably goes without saying that I should like to see sharing of differing perspectives of the geoscience issues of today and identification of the challenges of tomorrow; to have some fun and learn some science! However, personally, the most important achievement would be to enhance the tradition and reputation of the "Barbican" conferences by completing the transition from a successful north-west Europe-centric conference to one truly global in stature.  

A specific interest of yours is university / industry collaboration. What new areas of collaboration would you like to see?  

Yes, I have had a longstanding interest in geoscience research. I find it a lot of fun to work with bright, young minds who question established dogmas and develop alternative scenarios to the geoscience challenges facing us today and in the future.  

University / industry collaboration is beneficial to both parties, giving academia access to extensive, high quality datasets, while exposing industry to the rigour of scientific research. For both parties, it provides different perspectives on the issues to be solved.  

I should like to see collaboration that increases the geoscience understanding of the challenges facing society today, such as between various organisations providing new water wells in humanitarian aid programmes. Secondly, and very differently, collaboration across scientific disciplines; for example, new insights into geoscience through collaboration with medical research.    


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