Tales from Texas

Back in May, Lorin and I headed across the Atlantic to visit friends (new and old) over in Texas. We planned to spend a week in Houston in the run up to AAPG ACE 2019, followed by a week in San Antonio at the conference.

It was a little different to your usual business trip. As a start-up, it means we had much more flexibility in terms of our travel and accommodation. For starters, we were able to choose from hundreds of Air B’n’B’s and take a few diversions adding in a little road trip here and there.

Nonetheless we had a few hiccups along the way. I had the bright idea of printing my AAPG poster while we were in Houston to save bringing it over on the plane. Apparrently this isn’t so straight forward (even if you put your order through and everything looks hunky dory!) and I strongly advise against trying to print an 8x4ft poster at Office Depot! We ended up having to adapt the design and print it in three 2ft wide panels. It actually worked out as quite a nice way to break up the poster and guide the reader through the content – every cloud and all that.

Watercolour by Jim Koehn

After a week spent in Houston visiting potential clients and sampling a local ‘Ice House’ (above), we drove west over to San Antonio. We arrived at our lovely little Airbnb a few days before the conference and gave ourselves some time off to relax (below) or should I say explore.

Our San Antonio Airbnb

After contemplating numerous road trip options (a particularly adventurous one of Lorin’s was to attempt to make the 16 hour drive to the Grand Canyon) we decided on a relatively short jaunt to the Mexican border city of Laredo.

Here, we thought we would just nip in to Mexico, get a stamp in our passports and head home after sampling some authentic Mexican food and culture. It was our intention to walk over the Rio Grande bridge into Mexico as foot passengers instead of going by car, which is not uncommon for tourists to do.

Our first port of call when we arrived at Laredo was lunch. We stopped at ‘El Maison De San Agustin‘ and I preceeded to order quesadillas for the millionth time on our trip thus far and drank a vat of hibiscus ice tea. Following said lunch, we were both stuffed and ready for our walk across the bridge.

El Maison De San Augustin

Crossing over into Mexico was predictably a lot faster than on the way back. As soon as we were over the border/bridge we had numerous offers of dentistry services!? We had a bit of a wander around, took some photos and then began to head back over the bridge. We didn’t have to queue for long to get back across but were a little disappointed that we didn’t actually get a stamp in our passports!

The Mexico-US border in Laredo over the Rio Grande.

Back in San Antonio a few days later, we kicked off the first day of the AAPG ACE conference at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Centre with the ice breaker reception where we bumped into many old friends and colleagues and put some names to new faces.

AAPG ACE Ice breaker reception

The conference had a packed schedule with topics ranging from unconventional reservoir characterisation, deepwater sedimentology, machine learning, and not one but two sessions on source-to-sink (a personal favourite of mine!). I spent Monday afternoon listening to talks from the “Fluvial and Deltaic Depositional Environments: Reservoir Characterisation and Prediction From Multiple Scale Analyses” theme. John Holbrook touched upon braided versus meandering systems and whether or not it is actually that black and white when it comes down to it. James Mullins discussed automated workflows for reservoir modelling using drone data and libraries of photo analogue systems, and Margaret Pataki presented her work on Rapid Reservoir Modelling (RRM) using sketch based models.

AAPG ACE 2019 Exhibition Hall and Poster Sessions

Tuesday morning was spent swithching between the source-to-sink sessions and “Multi-Disciplinary Integration for Subsurface Efforts in the Age of Big Data”. There were lots of interesting provenance and sediment supply studies studies interspersed with sediment routing and recycling in the source-to-sink sessions, inolving talks from Peter Burgess and Jinyo Zhang. The integration and big data session touched upon multi-disciplinary approaches to subsurface studies, including the use of petrography, geochronology and biostratigraphy data in order to produce more accurate chronostratigraphic interpretations when correlating wells, presented by Eugene Syzmanski. It seems that the value of geochronology is gaining more and more momentum in the oil and gas industry recently as people realise that multi-disciplinary approaches lead to more robust interpretations.

That afternoon was our poster session where we presented on “A Source-to-Sink reservoir Quality Prediction Workflow: The Offshore Nile Delta”. It was great to see such a busy poster session (I’m guessing partly due to the proximity of the exhibition hall and free beer at the end of the day!) and we ended up chatting to lots of new and interesting folks about the work that we are doing at Petryx and how it can add value to real world geological problems – particulary with regards to taking the leg work out of data collection and standardisation. All in all, we were stood by the poster for about 4 hours and recieved lots of positive and constructive feedback.

Extended abstracts to be published online soon!

I also had judging commitments that afternoon and headed over to the poster session on “The Digital Transformation in the Geosciences”. There were loads of fantastic posters, all were presented exceptionally well with some great visualisations of some pretty cutting-edge data science.

Subjects included petrophysical facies classifications using neural networks, the use of clustering techiniques to define chemofacies and the application of decision trees to determine failure modes.

In addition to all the technical talks, there were also some great sessions focussing on sustanability and a DEG special session on the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry. Discussions were centered about how geology will remain key in the transition to a more carbon neutral society with the increasing importance of practices such as carbon cap and storage and geothermal energy. Consensus was that we need to stop thinking of ourselves as the bad guys and to start realising the potential that we have as an industry to help with the climate change challenges that lie ahead. This will also be crucial in continuing to attract bright and ambitious talent to the oil industry in order to help us adapt to the digital transformation culture and the ‘big crew change’ that we see on the horizon.

Unfortunately Tuesday was also the last day of the conference for us as we had to head back to Houston for a last minute meeting before catching our flight home. All in all Lorin and I had a great trip gathering lots of feedback, meeting lots of new faces and are looking forward to heading back to AAPG next year, in Houston.

Next week Lorin will be writing an article all about our week in the Start-up area of this year’s EAGE Annual in London.