Journal of Petroleum Technology September 2012 : Page 30

2013 SPE President Egbert Imomoh John Donnelly, JPT Editor Egbert Imomoh, the nonexecutive chairman and a cofounder of Afren, a Pan African independent oil and gas company with assets in Africa and Kurdistan, is the 2013 SPE president. He will take office during the 2012 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in October in San Antonio.

2013 SPE President • Egbert Imomoh

John Donnelly, JPT Editor

Egbert Imomoh, the nonexecutive chairman and a cofounder of Afren, a Pan African independent oil and gas company with assets in Africa and Kurdistan, is the 2013 SPE president. He will take office during the 2012 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in October in San Antonio.

Imomoh joined the oil and gas industry in 1968, working with Shell in Nigeria as a petroleum engineer after basic training in the Netherlands. He worked in Nigeria, the UK, and the Netherlands and rose to the position of deputy managing director of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, a position he held until his retirement in February 2002. After that, he worked with Shell International in London as a senior corporate adviser on Nigeria during 2002–04.

Imomoh helped found Afren in 2004 and served as its managing director and executive chairman before assuming his current position. He led the growth of Afren’s Nigerian asset base, established a number of successful indigenous partnerships, and led the company to achieve its first oil milestone at the Okoro Setu project.

He has been a member of SPE since 1973 and was a founding member of the SPE Nigerian Section. He was chairman of SPE Nigeria Council in 1986 and was named a Distinguished Member of SPE in 1999. Imomoh served as the first regional director for Africa on the SPE Board of Directors between 2000 and 2003, and was the chairman of the Board Committee on Educational and Professional Activities during 2002–03. He has been chairman of the Board of Trustees, SPE Nigeria Council, since 2007. Imomoh was named an SPE Honorary Member, the highest honor that SPE presents to an individual, this past year. Imomoh graduated with a BS degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Birmingham, UK, and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Port Harcourt this year.

You served on the SPE Board of Directors during 2000–03. Coming back to the board as president now, have you observed any changes in SPE during the intervening years?

Over the years, SPE has become even more international, increased its membership, and has continued to seek ways to serve its members better by organizing many more conferences and workshops, starting up new publications, and by creating regional offices to move its services closer to our members.

SPE’s membership—now more than 100,000—has continued to grow even as other associations lose members. To what do you attribute this success?

Our success can be attributed to a number of reasons. The board and staff have always focused on member needs; they foresaw the need to attract young members and created a student membership program that took off like a rocket. Our technical information offerings have continued to grow and, where necessary, we have formed partnerships with other associations that have strengthened our ability to deliver first-class technical programs at very competitive pricing.

What about SPE’s future?

Our future looks bright, but we have to remember that this future relies mainly on our volunteers. There are many regions in which I believe we can grow faster than we are currently growing. This will require continuous energy to attract new members.

I once mentioned that SPE should grow and reach as many people as possible, and a fellow board director cautioned that we should not sacrifice service on the altar of growth. But if you look at what has happened to SPE in the past 10 years, that diminishing of programs and services to our members has not happened.

We have grown in the past decade from 55,000 members to 104,000. We have increased the number of regions in which SPE offers programs, which means that SPE has become more local than ever before. SPE has added more conferences, more publications, and more courses—all initiatives to make SPE even more service-rich. We have not reduced the quality of service with our growth; we have increased it.

And there is room for growth. The Middle East, for instance, has 55% of the world’s reserves but accounts for only 14% of our membership. I do not see why that is, and I think we need to take a closer look at that. In other words, there are industry professionals in the Middle East who should probably be members of SPE but they are not.

China and Russia clearly have potential for growth. I want to see how we can penetrate those areas, especially China. How we can meet the needs of these countries through SPE membership? In the next decade, approximately a quarter of petroleum engineering graduates will be coming from China and India. There is significant opportunity for both industry and SPE growth. The Western world, the US and Europe, are more attuned to the idea of volunteering so we may have to look at different models of participation.

The SPE Board of Directors is conducting a new effort on strategic planning. Why is this important? What do you hope to see as the outcome of this effort?

Most forecasts are consistent in stating that demand for hydrocarbons will continue to grow, and there is general agreement that the additional reserves necessary to meet this demand will come from more complex geological and geographical areas. Against this background is a world in which the use of new communications technology is spreading and there are demographic shifts occurring in our industry.

SPE must therefore position itself and direct its efforts in a way that allows members to play a meaningful role in meeting global energy demand in a safe, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective manner. Given this background, SPE must have a strategy in place that ensures that its programs and services meet this need. And I hope the strategy will address the possibility of increasing membership in some parts of the world where there is a mismatch between our membership and the hydrocarbon reserves that exist there.

SPE also must strive to help significantly improve the image of the oil and gas industry. Our society must remain financially strong to enable us to continue to deliver quality services to our members. And we need to anticipate the changes occurring in the communications/publication world to ensure that we are up to date in the best way to communicate with our members.

How have you benefited from your SPE membership?

My membership has enabled me to grow in two ways. First and foremost, it has helped me grow professionally. The access to technology, the ability to participate in various conferences, and the access to JPT has helped me throughout my career. Secondly, it has provided an avenue for social interaction both locally and internationally.

I became a member in a roundabout way. A few of us formed the SPE section in Nigeria so that we could belong to a professional body. Many of us had joined industry with different engineering backgrounds and we needed an organization to which we could anchor and grow our professional and technical knowledge.

When I first came back to Nigeria to work after getting my degree, I found out that although I was a mechanical engineer, I could not register as an engineer since I was practicing as a petroleum engineer. I discussed this with some Americantrained friends who were familiar with SPE and that is when we came up with the idea of starting a section in Nigeria that would give us a professional affiliation.

Your degree is in mechanical engineering, so how did you come to pursue a career in the oil and gas industry?

In the early 1960s, Shell embarked on a program in Nigeria to train local staff that would one day run the company. A number of us were offered scholarships to study mechanical engineering in England as the company believed this was a good engineering degree to build on. After graduation, I was offered employment as a petroleum engineer and was sent to Shell’s training school in the Netherlands where I underwent 5 months of intensive training in basic petroleum engineering. Further training took place on the job and in classrooms as the years went by.

The industry’s success is heavily dependent on the development and use of technology. How can the industry keep pace with the need for high-tech applications?

New reserves will come from increasingly complex plays and difficult terrains. This will require high-tech and innovative applications. SPE can help by publishing papers and articles on new technology and by ensuring that that knowledge is shared all over the world so that industry can benefit from the huge knowledge base that is out there. We have to narrow the gap between the proving of new technology and its deployment.

JPT has begun publishing a series of articles to showcase “young” technology. What other things might SPE do to support that effort?

These articles are truly enriching and should be continued. To give further support, we should give prominence to the topic at large conferences so that interactive sessions will bring out the very best from that effort.

Often we take revolutionary changes for granted and forget their significance. Take, for instance, 3D seismic. Now it is more or less taken for granted but that was a true game-changer. It is the same outside of our industry. Mobile phones have not been common for that long and now everyone has them and it has changed behavior. The industry must continually strive to develop game-changing technologies.

In the oil and gas industry, sometimes it takes too long to go from a new idea in someone’s mind to being clarified as a new technology, to being tested, to being launched, and then to becoming a common useful tool. If we can collapse that time scale from the way we are doing things now, it would greatly help the industry find and develop new reserves to meet growing demand.

SPE has long been committed to providing equal services to members, regardless of location. How well is this being achieved?

The delivery of services has improved tremendously over the years, particularly with the creation of several new SPE regions. This makes SPE “local” and close to members while still being a large international association. We have to keep an open mind toward the possibility of creating new regions, and we have to make sure that we provide quality service to those members who live in regions where English is a second language.

The tremendous changes taking place in the world of telecommunications, publishing, and information technology require that SPE keep a close eye on how these changes are affecting our members. We must ensure that whatever we are doing and whatever service or program we are providing our members is very much aligned with what is happening in the world.

The World Bank said recently that there are now 6 billion mobile phones globally in a world that has a population of 7 billion. People are holding in their hands devices that bring them a constant flow of information, something that they did not have a decade ago. This is a brand-new quickening of a lifestyle that previously did not exist. So SPE must ask itself how it is going to provide quality services in a rapidly changing world where a constant flow of knowledge and information is the norm. We must be ready for it.

As SPE president, you will travel to meet many members and you will write a monthly column for JPT. What will be your key messages?

The key messages that I will emphasize are:

◗ Technological innovation will be necessary to meet future energy demand.

◗ SPE and the oil and gas industry must continue to attract young members to replace those who will be retiring.

◗ Our members should be proud to work in an industry that positively touches the lives of the global population.

◗ SPE must continuously anticipate member needs and seek ways to meet them.

Professionals in the oil and gas industry should have great pride in the work they are doing. Despite some negative predictions, there is a great and growing need for energy worldwide and liquid hydrocarbons will continue to play a major role in the lives of people and in economic development. JPT

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