Chair's Corner - October 2020

Chair's Corner - October 2020

SPE Volunteerism During Unprecedented Times

I was asked a few months ago why SPE-GCS charges a registration fee for its webinars. Shouldn’t webinars or virtual events be free if there’s no in-person networking or lunch provided? If someone is attending from the comfort of their couch at home, should they pay? These are all relevant questions. I will share a few thoughts on event finances, the scholarship program and volunteering with SPE.

SPE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. SPE-GCS relies on the proceeds from events organized by volunteers to operate, carry out the mission of SPE and support the scholarship program. During great times, the section benefits from strong sponsorship support from companies. Sponsorships help balance our event revenue and expenses, lower registration fees and allow our events to be more profitable. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and during industry downturns, we receive fewer or smaller sponsorships, and event registrations also decline. The section has less funds to operate and fund scholarships. Not keeping our commitment to students and their families would be unacceptable.

The section is very proud of its scholarship program. It provides up to four-year scholarships for high school seniors in the Houston area who attend US universities to pursue petrotech (engineering, geology, etc.) and other STEM degrees. The program also provides scholarships for at-risk students in the Houston area in partnership with Communities In Schools of Houston (CISH). In the past, the section supported over 90 scholars and up to $300K per year. We currently have a total of 39 students in the program and a $175K estimated budget, with scholarships of $4,000 per year for petrotechs. A Scholarship Endowment Fund (SEF) was established a few years ago to secure a more consistent source of funds in the future; an SEF status update will be provided at a later time. 

Webinars and virtual events are less cost-intensive, provide a different experience than in-person events and require lower registration fees. The section offers reduced prices for MiTs and students. SPE volunteers dedicate their personal time and human energy to organize great technical events for members to participate from home. They seek out top industry speakers who also volunteer their time and expertise, at no cost, in support of SPE. The effort required to organize webinars is very similar to in-person events.

The difference is the physical presence. This is what volunteering with SPE in unprecedented times looks like. I encourage our members to continue to register for events to support our hard-working volunteers and help raise funds for scholarships.

In international news, Bloomberg reported that “Saudi Arabia cut pricing for oil sales in October." There’s a lot of speculation about what this means to the industry recovery. This is a reminder that the world is still recovering from the pandemic and its cascading effects on the industry. In the last few months, there was optimism that the oil price was steadily increasing and slowly stabilizing after the sharp decline in March. One way to describe the last few months is that the rate of change of the oil price curve was reducing over time, until September. This demonstrates the unpredictable nature of commodity prices and their high dependence on supply and demand forces.

Within SPE-GCS, I am pleased to see that the section held many events in September, mostly virtual. This illustrates that the section is embracing the challenges we face and using technology and creativity to share technical content. I will highlight a few events this month: SPE Virtual ATCE 2020, drilling geomechanics training organized by the Continuing Education Committee; and the SPE Distinguished Lecturer presentation on fracture model calibration for conventional and unconventional rocks. You can find more information and registration details in the section events calendar.


Until next month,