Study Groups: Our Bread and Butter

Intelligent wells, ultradeepwater drilling problems, testing of lower tertiary reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico, San Andres acid stimulations, development of a new deepwater floating production unit, impacts of pressure variation inside hydraulic fractures, coupling powered rotary steerable systems with rotary steerable bit technology, fracture conductivity, new methods for rapidly obtaining history matches with reservoir simulation models, combining openhole horizontal gravel pack completions with intelligent well technology.

If I were to tell you the above is a complete list of the technology topics covered at various Gulf Coast Section Study Group luncheons last year you might be quite impressed. But I would be misleading you. That is a list of the technology topics covered in just September and October of this year. And you can add to that list broader business topics such as innovation in the oilfield, a large independent’s deepwater Gulf of Mexico strategy, politics of energy resource development in central Asia, the National Petroleum Council’s Global Oil and Gas Study, MA&D updates, and master limited partnerships. All in just the first two months of the 2007–08 program year.

The opportunities in the Gulf Coast Section to learn about leadingedge, but practical, technologies and business practices at cut-rate costs of about $35 (lunch included) are really astounding. Even more astounding is that all of these programs are conceived, arranged, conducted, and “treasuried” by dedicated SPE volunteers working on one of the 14 different Study Group committees. During the 2006–07 program year, these volunteers conducted almost 100 different meetings servicing 5,700 attendees. Wow!

It took some searching, but I eventually found a published definition of the idiom “bread and butter”: The essential sustaining element or elements; the mainstay. Perfect— our Study Groups truly are the bread and butter of the Gulf Coast Section.

The technical knowledge, business networking, good food, and good time available from attending these events are invaluable. None of them would be possible without the many hours volunteered by your SPE peers. Please remember to thank the committee members at the next meeting you attend. While it takes some time and energy, serving on a Study Group or other committee brings rewards much beyond just being in the audience. Just ask them, and then ask them if they could use any help; you'll be glad you did. Typical duties include Programs (identifying topics and lining up speakers), Arrangements (choosing and coordinating the venue), Registration, and Treasury—something for every interest or talent. My Study Group involvement started when a fellow SPE member that I only knew through playing spirited lunchtime pick-up basketball games with (MB, you know who you are) asked me when I was in an exhausted state to take over his treasury duties for the nearby Study Group. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but my brain was too depleted of oxygen to come up with an excuse so I said I’d give it a try...and somehow a few years later I find myself writing these articles every month. I am glad he asked, but I seriously regret not volunteering with SPE much earlier in my career.

So, if you haven’t attended a Study Group meeting lately, it’s cheap, it’s good for you professionally and personally, and it’s fun—so register and go. If you've attended a few lately, take the next step and ask about volunteering-it is even more rewarding and fun. And if you already volunteer, thanks!

If you have any questions or comments about Study Groups, volunteering, or any topic at all, contact me at