PROSPEX: It’s All About Deals & Networking

Mike Bowman, Head of Geoscience for BP until 2010, and now Professor of Development and Production Geology at Manchester University, is President-Elect of the UK-based PESGB (Petroleum Society of Great Britain) and Chairman of PROSPEX, which will be held in London in December. We talk to him about this prospects fair – and whether there are too many events to attend in the industry now.
This article appeared in Vol. 8, No. 5 - 2011


Mike Bowman Source: Guy Eliott/PESGB What is PROSPEX and how long has it been going?

PROSPEX was launched by the PESGB in 2003 to promote licence opportunities, initially only within the UKCS; it offered a combination of exhibits and presentations enabling people to promote and assess opportunities, and to discuss topical issues. It also provides a vehicle for the Government and other groups such as DECC (UK Department of Energy and Climate Change) and UK Oil & Gas (formerly UKOOA) to get information across to the attendees and beyond. Working for BP for many years, I had heard of PROSPEX, but I had never been involved – it was perceived by the majors as being of interest primarily to the independents – but the more I hear about it, the more I can see that it should appeal to a broad range of exploration companies irrespective of size. It’s all about deal-making and understanding the commercial framework surrounding these, together with the regulatory framework in the UK and surrounding areas.  

What is your involvement?  

The President-Elect of the PESGB chairs and co-ordinates PROSPEX as part of the role and, in conjunction with the organising committee, puts together the programme, although much of the leg work is done, in outstanding fashion, by the PESGB office team; I am really impressed by the enthusiasm of people to participate in, sponsor and sign up to attend PROSPEX – it already looks as though 2011 will be one of the most successful ever.  

How many people do you expect to attend and where do they come from?  

The highest number of attendees we have ever had was 730 in 2008 and we could easily equal that number this year, coming from places as far apart as the United States and Poland. We already have 65 confirmed exhibitors, so it looks as though all of the available space will be sold out. I think it reflects the vibrancy of the industry, with many people looking for opportunities to do deals.  

What differentiates PROSPEX from events like NAPE and APPEX?  

Appex is similar in its intent, but with the backing of the AAPG it has a different, more international focus. Since PROSPEX is promoted by a UK-based organisation, it is more UK focused. Having said that, PROSPEX has now extended its boundaries and not only covers the UKCS but also surrounding areas of North West Europe, from Norway to the Faroes. It’s a great vehicle for smaller and larger companies to talk deals together.  

Do you think we are in danger of having too many shows, seminars and conferences?  

While there is demand, I can see no problem in having them all BUT I also feel that there has been a proliferation of conferences and events in recent years – we must not overload the system. It is important that the heads of the various organisations like PESGB, the Geological Society of London, AAPG, EAGE and SPE all work together to make sure that the balance is correct; competition will not help any of us – collaboration will be the key to on-going and future success.  

What are you looking forward to in your year as PESGB President?  

My predecessors, Steve Garrett (2011) and Henry Allen (2010) together with Guy Elliott (the new PESGB Executive Director), have worked hard to get more structure and business focus into the organisation; I believe that this will allow me to concentrate on some of the bigger issues of relevance to our community and members. I am keen to promote collaboration with other organisations, such as the Geological Society and EAGE, for our mutual benefit, ensuring that we are all aligned and catering to the needs of our members and the broader business community. I am also keen on outreach and education, being particularly anxious to continue our work to help promote the earth sciences in schools. We will continue to respond positively to the recent cut in central government funding of UK MSc grants by helping establish sponsorships. The PESGB already sponsors a number of Masters students, as do several large companies, but I want to find ways for smaller UK-based organisations, which could not afford to sponsor an MSc student alone, to be able to contribute towards a central ‘pot’ for funding future students.  

One of the best things about holding office in an organisation like this is that you meet great new people, both on the Committee and the office team, as well as in the organisation itself. It is also fascinating to be able to take part in things like House of Commons advisory committees, being able to really find out and participate in the important issues confronting our members and the business we work in.  


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