AAPG ICE 2019: Expanding Frontiers and Unlocking Resources for Future Generations

The AAPG International Conference and Exhibition 2019 took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a key focus on expanding frontiers and unlocking oil and gas resources for future generations. This conference round-up is brought to you in association with Indalo International Ltd.
This article appeared in October, 2019



‘Expanding frontiers and unlocking resources for future generations’ was certainly an ambitious theme for the most recent American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) international conference, but one which it lived up to well. The conference was held in the fascinating Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, and for many of the visitors, including the GEO ExPro editor, it was their first visit to the city; new frontiers indeed!

This was also the first time that the conference had been held in Buenos Aires, and provided a great opportunity for many petroleum geologists from South America, particular from the younger generation, to attend and participate in such an event, which they did with great enthusiasm. At the Opening Ceremony the general chairman, Carlos Colo, said that the technical committee had received over 600 abstracts, selecting about 360 for presentation, and a large percentage of these had come from Latin American delegates. In all, 53 companies were represented and there were nearly 1,500 attendees.

  • Opening Ceremony with the general chairman, Carlos Colo. © AAPG.

  • A busy exhibit floor at the AAPG ICE 2019. © AAPG.

Key Focus on Oil and Gas Activity in Latin America

It is not often that the industry focuses so strongly on Latin America, despite it being a region with a long history of petroleum exploration. Here, however, there were plenty of opportunities to learn about the countries involved, with regional integration being one of the key objectives of the conference. There were sessions on Latin American super basins and on the history of exploration of the region, as well as plenary discussion panels devoted to local NOCs and IOCs working in the region. The six main producing countries - Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, which between them deliver in excess of 5.7 MMbopd - each had a dedicated session where presenters outlined the key trends, challenges and emerging plays in that country, also touching on the political and economic outlooks impacting the E&P business. These above ground issues and challenges were a feature of many presentations throughout the conference; as several speakers pointed out, it does not matter how good the geology is, it will all be for nothing if the political, social and economic aspects are not appropriate. As evidence of this, it was notable that Venezuela had little presence at the conference, despite holding the largest total reserves of any country in South America, and there were very few presentations which did more than mention the country in passing. Also raised as a matter of concern was the fact that, after several years of awarding licenses in Mexico to international companies following 'Energy Reform', the Mexican President has put further licensing rounds in the country on hold.

  • The Argentina Country Session. © AAPG.

The general session themes covered the usual overarching topics, including petroleum systems, structural geology and geophysics, deepwater exploration and mature fields. Most of these the talks and posters understandably concentrated on Latin America, with some detailed unravelling of the complex tectonics of the Andean mountain range, as well as introductions to some relatively unexplored basins in the region. The prolific Argentinian Vaca Muerta Formation (see GEO ExPro article: The Vaca Muerta Formation: How a Source Became a Reservoir) alone featured in something like 60 different presentations, with many speaker stressing its importance to the region, and there were also some interesting insights into the possibilities of exploring further unconventional resources in the region. It was not exclusively about the continent, however, as there were many chances to look at associated regions, like the conjugate margins across the Atlantic (see GEO ExPro article Is a Conjugate Margin an Analog?) and opportunities to make comparisons with similar plays around the world.

Energy, the Environment - and Students

Issues and challenges around sustainable energy provision and mitigating the effects of climate change were discussed, with a whole afternoon’s session devoted to the subject, as well as individual talks throughout the conference. There was also a poster session, which covered topics as diverse as dealing with community relationships in Colombia and examples of geothermal energy exploration from throughout the world. Unfortunately Scott Tinker, one of the most charismatic speakers in the industry on this topic, was talking at a $65 topical luncheon. Hopefully, the young professionals and student delegates, who will be the ones working in this challenging future, will have the opportunity to hear him on another occasion.

  • Enthusiastic students at the AAPG ICE 2019. © AAPG.

On the subject of the younger generation, it was lovely to see so many young Argentinian students at the conference and exhibition. They and their lecturers had obviously realised what a great opportunity this was for them and they were making full use of it, attending presentations, eagerly crowding round posters and taking a great interest in everything at the exhibition – including GEO ExPro Magazine! Their enthusiasm and excitement was a joy to behold and it was delightful to talk to them. By some quirk, students and young professionals won a disproportionate number of the prizes in the GEO ExPro raffle – and they were uniformly delighted with their winnings. There were a number of events at the conference aimed at students and young professionals, including a fascinating sounding round table discussion entitled ‘Career challenges and opportunities for geoscientists in an unconventional 21st century’.

Cutting-Edge Technologies in Oil and Gas

The exhibition was not as big as the AAPG ICE sometimes is, but it was good to see that some smaller South American companies had taken advantage of it and decided to exhibit, some of them for the first time, and also to meet the South American representatives of some of the bigger service companies.

The ever-popular International Pavilion featured about a dozen countries who all enthusiastically demonstrated their opportunities, and there was always a high attendance at the International Pavilion theatre.

As ever, the innovative technological nature of the E&P business was demonstrated in many talks and presentations as well as on stands, with some particularly cutting-edge ideas demonstrated at the U-Pitch theatre. Now a firm fixture at these conferences, this is designed to showcase innovative transformative technologies and services and is proving very informative.

AAPG ICE 2019: A Successful Event!

Unusually for the AAPG ICE, this was a bilingual event, with headsets and simultaneous translation into Spanish or English supplied during many of the larger sessions, which was very helpful. As a typical English-speaking monolingist, the editor is always impressed by the way in which people of many nationalities describe highly technical ideas and theories in her native tongue rather than their own, but for many at the conference it was obviously more comfortable for them to be able to use and understand Spanish, which was facilitated by the translation services.

Altogether, a very successful event, in a delightful country – and, having watched the video at the opening ceremony extolling the delights of Argentina, one that we want to revisit at the earliest opportunity!

  • GEO ExPro Managing Director, Tore Karlsson, pictured with winners of our raffle.

  • GEO ExPro Managing Director, Tore Karlsson, pictured with winners of our raffle.

Further GEO ExPro Reading on Oil and Gas Activity in Argentina

Geological Treasures of The Puna Plateau
Olivier Galland; Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, and Caroline Sassier
A tour of the geological treasures of The Puna Plateau in northern Argentina and Chile. Continuing Olivier and Caroline’s epic cycle journey through South America.
This article appeared in Vol. 15, No. 4 - 2018

Prospectivity of the Malvinas Basin, Offshore Argentina
Dariusz Jablonski; Searcher Seismic
New regional reprocessed 2D seismic reveals the prospectivity and hydrocarbon potential offshore Argentina.
This article appeared in Vol. 15, No. 2 - 2018

Hydrocarbon Prospectivity in Northern Argentina
Hannah Kearns, Karyna Rodriguez & Steve DeVito; Spectrum
State-of-the-art seismic acquisition technology and advanced geological concepts, unlock new hydrocarbon potential for offshore Argentina.
This article appeared in Vol. 15, No. 2 - 2018

Argentina: The Final Atlantic Margin Frontier
Ian Davidson and Ian Steele, Earthmoves Ltd.
An enterprising company will be required to find oil, and to boldly drill where no drillship has drilled before!
This article appeared in Vol. 13, No. 4 - 2016

Argentina: Unconventional Discoveries
Spanish international oil company Repsol has made its biggest ever oil discovery after drilling 15 wells in the Neuquén province of western Argentina.
This article appeared in Vol. 8, No. 6 - 2012


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