Going International

There's no disputing the "Canadian" in "CSEG". It's easy to point to many characteristics that make us able to cry out (like the beer commercials) " I Am Canadian". Although we are a Society that is clearly an international affiliate closely linked to the SEG, the CSEG is strong in its own right, perhaps even a model of successful technical societies on a world-class scale. The fact that a Canadian SEG can make a valuable contribution in advising other societies, including our parent SEG, maybe comes as no surprise. Despite our national tendency to be somewhat under stated and reserved, we are confident in our capability to compete on a global level in the technical science of geophysics and in business.

Preceding the 2004 CSEG National Convention held May 10 to 13, the Executive Committees of the SEG and the CSEG had the opportunity to meet. Note that it has been 12 years since the last joint meeting of these Executives. Topics of discussion included future CSEG/SEG joint conventions, promotion of CSEG "Best Papers" for presentation at the SEG International Convention, continuing education and "Distinguished Lecturer" tours and workshops, joint membership applications and renewals, joint website enhancements, and more. It is obvious that the two societies are getting closer to each other, not further apart. It is also significant to note that the SEG executive was keen to learn a few things from their northern neighbours. How does our Society operate so successfully on many levels, remaining financially in the black?

In a way, seeing past our political border in the CSEG echoes trends in industry. For example, in the Canadian oil and gas business, major producers are recognizing the need to explore and develop in the international arena as the WCSB matures. This does not suggest that domestically things are slowing down or dying. On the contrary, ownership of oil and gas properties is merely shifting away from seniors to juniors, fueled by venture capital and growing royalty trusts, who maintain a fast pace of activity.

The senior companies are not the only ones looking at international prospects. There are many companies of all sizes, based in Calgary, who are tasting success in a variety of countries. All of these pursuits away from home highlight some of the distinct new challenges facing Canadian companies and their Geoscientists. Those working on international projects are experiencing increasing exposure to more than just technical issues below ground. Above ground, Geophysicists are faced with demands on their skillsets that go beyond scientific. More and more, we are asked to become knowledgeable in environmental awareness and safety, community and public relations, and government negotiations. It's important to state that this is not an issue faced only by those working internationally. For example, those working in frontier areas in the north attest to the same types of demands on their skills.

One reason why Geophysicists are wearing so many hats is that it all starts with our field campaigns. In the case of an oil and gas exploration prospect, seismic is often the first out of the gate; the seismic data is the fundamental building block. Obtaining government and environmental licenses to explore can be a lengthy process lasting years, especially in sensitive areas. We need to be involved at the very beginning of the process, weaving the technical into this complex fabric.

Public presentations for seismic proposals raise awareness and concern on the part of many stakeholders, particularly NGOs (Non-Government Organizations), while local communities and inhabitants of a survey area raise expectations and anticipation of making money through land permits and compensation. The two seem at odds. In many cases, a seismic survey represents a rare and possibly the only opportunity for landholders to reap the benefits of development. In countries where government social assistance is limited or non-existent, private international companies are relied upon to build roads, schools, soccer fields and medical clinics. Yet full-cycle development is a strain on fragile environments and many feel it should not take place at all.

You better believe that as a Geophysicist you need to understand this stuff. Most obviously, all of this has a direct consequence on the budget, and our tolerance for risk. In addition, the strategy of community negotiations often has ramifications on the design and technical parameters of an acquisition project. In the execution phase, savvy on-the-ground project management is vital given the hyper-exposure to liabilities in environment and safety. You can' t expect to take care of this in front of your computer in the Calgary office. One must be sensitive to conflicting interests between client and contractor. The contractor exerts pressure to "get the job done", while the client must be aware of setting precedents they can tolerate for years to come as the field is developed. Imagine the opportunity for unpredictable factors beyond one's control to affect the project at this stage.

In many cases, the good done by our companies is overlooked by GOs who promote their own agendas by spinning innuendo without requirement for proof and accountability. It' s a shame that positive efforts by Canadian companies, who carry the highest standards and best practices for HSE that stand up to any in the world, are forced to divest international projects by these same GOs . The Canadians leave , but the problems inherent in these countries remain, and so does the oil which continues to be produced by a less responsible enterprise. As informed Geoscientists on the front lines , we carry an obligation to promote our companies and our good works in a positive light , which may make a small contribution to help non-profits and big business work together.



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