NEWS FROM SPE ATCE 2013 New SPE president sets ambitious agenda for 2014
BY KURT ABRAHAM, Executive Editor
NEW ORLEANS -- If initial comments are any gauge, the Society of Petroleum Engineers will be in good hands, under the leadership of its new president for 2014. Jeff Spath, V.P. for Industry Relations at Schlumberger, took over the SPE’s leadership reins from outgoing President Egbert Imomoh of Afren during the President’s Luncheon Wednesday at the organization’s Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. A 30-year industry veteran, Spath comes to SPE’s top spot with solid credentials, having earned BS and MS degrees in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University, as well as a PhD from the Mining University of Leoben in Austria. He holds 14 patents and was an SPE Distinguished Lecturer during 1999-2000. Spath also served as SPE’s technical director of Management and Information during 2005-2008, and he was elected an SPE Distinguished Member in 2011.
“Our balance sheet is strong, and SPE can do even more in the future,” said Spath, who laid out an ambitious agenda for the organization during 2014. “One goal would be further globalization of the society. There is no doubt that SPE has made huge strides internationally from what was once a mostly North American society. Today, more than half of our members reside outside North America.” He advocated following the activity trends of the industry by focusing on “emerging regions” that include the Arctic, Greenland, East Africa, the Caspian and others.
“Secondly, we need to increase the degree to which SPE collaborates and cooperates with other organizations and institutions, including other industries,” continued Spath. “SPE has an incredible reputation as a professional society, and I want to capitalize on this reputation.” Another goal that he intends to work on is expansion of educational opportunities for young people, so that they can enter the upstream oil and gas industry. “Right now, there are only two countries that graduate more petroleum engineers than they employ, and those are Venezuela and China. Everywhere else, in the world, the industry is screaming for more petroleum engineering graduates.” He went on to say that the biggest problem in graduating more students is not the young people, themselves, but the lack of sufficient instructors. “We need to work on attracting and retaining petroleum engineering faculty,” said Spath. “The industry needs more graduates, but there is not enough faculty to teach the people.” He suggested that one solution might be to encourage more 50-plus-year-old industry professionals to go into teaching at the universities. He also is working on convincing the deans at leading engineering schools to drop a requirement that faculty members must have PhD’s to teach undergraduates.
Spath also wants to improve “the dissemination of technical information. One thing that we’re focusing on is the quality of technical material.” He said that SPE will also focus on more proactive education of the public about all the many good benefits that the upstream industry brings to society.