I’d like to bounce some ideas around, none original, as a way of starting a conversation about how the CSEG provides value to Canada’s petroleum industry and other stakeholders. We intuitively know its benefits as a professional society, but how do we benefit, how does the industry and other stakeholders benefit from CSEG?
One way is through the dissemination of scientific knowledge and by science I am referring to one or a combination of three attributes – discovery, knowledge, and application – all captured within the many facets and activities of CSEG.
Science as a method of discovery includes observing and judging whether something is or is not so, and formulating a rule to describe the observation. The rule is tested not only for proof, but also for exceptions. It is the exceptions to the rule that are the most valuable as true progress comes from finding the exceptions, proving rules wrong then looking again, so that more specific rules can be formulated, tested, and more exceptions discovered. This has been referred to as the uncertainty sieve: as the holes get smaller, the rules get tighter. The more precise the rule, the more powerful, and the more likely it is to exception, therefore, the more valuable it is to test. Again, not my idea, but I think applicable to the conversation.
So, here is the important point. The rules of geophysics or any science, the ones we work with day–to–day, may likely be wrong. The rules we use are not observations but extrapolations, and to some extent inaccurate or uncertain. In a sense, the rules we use are valuable guesses in that they have tested through the uncertainty sieve so far. And if at some point a new sieve has smaller holes, the rule may not prove, causing doubt, which in turn starts us looking in a new direction for new ideas. The rate of the new development of science, the rate of discovery, is not the rate at which observations are made and known rules applied but the rate at which old ideas fail and new ideas are tested.
This is where value is created. CSEG and other channels like academia, O&G staff, and others provide a venue for at least a part of that process. We help find and test the new rules.
Science is also the body of knowledge based on discovery, and rule–testing. Content is the essence of science. It results from scientists’ disciplined thinking, motivated not by the solution as much as by discovery itself. I have long wondered if such academic thinking had a place in an organization like the CSEG. Does an idea have value without being tied to a tangible application? CSEG and the GeoConvention contain numerous presentations that are always well subscribed technical, some more academic than pragmatic, affirm that.
For the Canadian petroleum industry, and for many of us as members of CSEG, science is the pragmatic application of discoveries and knowledge. Through science, we break barriers, solve unsolvable problems, and add bottom–line value to the industry. We are in the midst of an avalanche of applications for finding and recovering quantities of hydrocarbon in the planet’s most remote and difficult areas, and in formations thought to be nonproductive.
But not all applications work, or are not applicable in all environments, so where is the value in that?
When they don’t work, our challenge is to appreciate the exceptions, to appreciate doubt. We must then have the courage to continue to discover, test new rules, and find new solutions, which benefit the industry. Then through channels like the CSEG, we disseminate this new knowledge.
Scientific value is the basis of what the CSEG stands for – advancing discoveries, and building the blocks of knowledge, building intellectual capital and ultimately affecting the bottom line of the companies we work for. CSEG is the forum for our constituents to present science, educate all stakeholders, formulate rules, and apply them for the betterment of the Canadian petroleum industry.