Picture a large conference room with microphones for every pair of participants and individual name placards set on tables configured in a formal U-shaped arrangement for about 50 people. The SPE president 2005, president 2006, president elect 2007, and the vice president of finance are seated at the head table. The meeting is conducted formally using Robert’s Rules of Order, with opening comments such as “Madam President, I make a motion that…” followed by lengthy proposals. No, this isn’t the United Nations, and all business is conducted in English without the benefit of simultaneous translation. This is the final session of the SPE International board of directors meeting in Moscow.

The SPE International board of directors meets in live sessions three times per year. One meeting is held in conjunction with the Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE), and the other two meetings are held in oilfield centers around the world. Director Elect Production and Operations James Pappas, Devon Energy Corp., and Director-Elect Gulf Coast Region Susan Howes, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. had the opportunity to participate in the June 2006 board three-day meeting in Moscow. Janeen Judah, Chevron Corp., is in the final year of her three-year term as Director Gulf Coast Region.

On Friday, the board split into committee meetings grouped by regional director or technical directors. Pappas spent the first day at the technical directors’ meeting, which commissioned a study to determine which Technical Interest Groups (TIGs) might need to be consolidated or expanded. They discussed strategies and implementation of setting up Technical Sections, part of the new SPE Long Range Plan, reviewed issues about the initial Technical Sections, and approved the endorsement of an R&D Technical Section. They agreed to augment the Distinguished Lecturer program by adding the possibility of a fourth Distinguished Lecturer to encourage sections to use presenters for less popular but just as important topics, usually related to safety, projects, facilities and construction, or management. They discussed the ongoing revision of technical discipline categories and added a few new ones. Technical discipline categories are used to subdivide topics for presentations and meetings and to assign responsibilities to the appropriate technical director. They discussed the concept of scheduling an executive management forum, which could provide a springboard for corporate upper management coordination on strategic matters and technical cooperation, as well as add to the importance of SPE as a tool for open dialog and exchange of information.

Judah and Howes attended the regional directors’ meeting on Friday. The roles and responsibilities of the regional directors were compared and contrasted to those of the at-large directors and the technical directors. Best practices for selected regional award winners and working with student chapters was discussed. The committee reviewed ways to help struggling sections, how best to use regional councils, and perfecting the use of the SPE information chain.

Friday afternoon included a session with representatives of the SPE sections in Russia. They discussed the challenges in starting new SPE sections, as well as some of the success that they have achieved. There are now ten student sections in Russia, and many of the students are learning to speak English quite well.

Pappas spent Saturday at the Technical Programs and Meetings Committee meeting, which reviewed income and expense statements and attendance numbers from recent SPE meetings, forums, and workshops. They discussed strategies and tasks to continue the recent success in programs from a programming perspective. Upcoming conferences were previewed and voted on; several meetings were either not approved or were sent back to committee for lack of sufficient information. The committee then reviewed the most recent draft of its portion of the new Long Range Plan and made some additional changes. They recommended that a training workshop, complete with a manual, for technical session chairs be conducted at the ATCE. Several committee members addressed additional upcoming meetings that are being developed but are not yet ready for committee consideration. Of particular interest was the question surrounding joint meetings, policy, nonprofit societies, and organizations that are either for-profit or that have a politically motivated agenda, contract negotiation, branding, and marketing strategies, all of which is still up in the air and not clear cut, rather relying on a case-by-case review. They performed a key-performance-indicator exercise to both track technical programs and determine their success. They discussed having the ATCE outside the U.S., perhaps as early as 2010, to better meet the needs of the international society that SPE has become. They will look at locales that have strong SPE section support, provide ease of travel, have sufficient convention and exhibitor space, and are not prohibitively expensive to members who do travel.

Judah and Howes attended the Membership Committee meeting on Saturday where there was much discussion about the Membership Advantage Program, designed to spend approximately 1% of the reserve fund. The committee approved funding for eight new or expanded programs. The group also reviewed the awards, including the new regional awards. About half of the possible 154 regional awards were awarded in this first year, so the committee will collect best practices to improve the process of the regional awards nominations. The committee discussed introducing more awards for young members on topics such as safety, ethics, and the environment. The committee also discussed developing a protocol for the highest technical awards, such as the Lucas, Carll, and Uren Awards, to ensure that winners of multiple awards are selected for their other achievements after a sufficient duration of time has elapsed. The award of Honorary Member, the highest honor the Society bestows on an individual, limited to 0.1% of the Society’s total membership, will be reserved as the last award a member can receive. Three new student chapters were chartered; as of May 2006, we have 152 student chapters in 44 countries, with more than 17,000 student members. The student paper contest held at the ATCE on Sunday at 8 a.m. will be advertised to attract more attendees.

The entire board spent Sunday in full session. Because most of the work is done by committees before the final meeting, the board meeting is primarily used as a venue to inform and ratify or rescind committee recommendations or endorsements. The 2006 budget cycle was complete as of March 31, and SPE exceeded its estimated income by nearly $800,000, partly from investment earnings and partly from an extraordinary success of the biennial Offshore Europe Conference & Exhibition. They reviewed next year’s budget and discussed investment strategy. This year’s awards recipients were ratified, as was the slate of SPE officers and directors. Appointments were made to next year’s Nominating Committee and the replacement Mid-Continent U.S. Regional Director recommendation was approved.

The New Offices Task Force continues to evaluate office space needs and strategies. An SPE 50th Anniversary Committee will be developed to recommend celebration activities at the 2007 ATCE in Anaheim. A separate task force was set up to investigate board member absences. The Member Advantage Program was approved. A new officer travel policy was approved. Each committee (Membership, Education and Professional Activities, Print and Electronic Media, Technical Programs and Meetings, and Audit) had recommendations and updates, as did the director groups (At-Large, Regional, and Technical).

All in all, this trip was quite an experience for the SPE directors, who are proud to have the opportunity to serve the Society and its members.