Let your passion drive you to the right answer…

An interview with Alan Huffman

Coordinated by: Satinder Chopra | Photos courtesy: Penny Colton
Alan Huffman

Alan Huffman is a recognized technical and business leader, presently working as President of Fusion Petroleum Technologies, Inc., Houston. Alan has earlier worked for Exxon Corporation and Conoco in responsible positions and also held the position of Lissa & Cyril Wagner Professor of Geology and Geophysics in the School of Geology and Geophysics at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK from August 2003 to December of 2004. He has been actively participating in industry and professional affairs, having chaired numerous technical conferences and served on organizing committees for the SEG, AADE, AAPG and SPE. He has received many awards, including the 2004 Robert H. Dott Sr. Memorial Award from the AAPG for the publication of AAPG Memoir 76, and also received the 2002 Best Paper Award from the SEG. He has 8 U.S. patents in the field of geophysics. Following are excerpts from the interview.

Alan, let’s begin by asking you about your educational background and your work experience.

Well I started developing an interest in geology long before college as a young kid, when I learned rock and mineral collecting from one of my uncles who was an avid collector. My high school, the Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, had a teacher who was a geologist who received his M.Sc. degree from Franklin and Marshall College, and he really turned me on to geology. I ended up attending Franklin and Marshall where I received a Bachelor’s in Geology in 1983 and then went to Texas A&M and received a Ph.D. in geophysics in 1990. My career early on was focused more in geo-hazards, earthquake seismology and volcanic processes. I was actually trained as a classical volcanologist at F&M. Then I came to Texas A&M and studied rock mechanics, rock physics and seismology in my graduate work. So my background educationally is a combination of rock mechanics, rock physics and seismology with a strong component of igneous petrology and geochemistry. In graduate school I did my dissertation on the K/T boundary mass extinctions, in particular looking at the shock wave damage induced in silicates by meteor impact, volcanic explosive events and other natural phenomena, in an attempt to understand better the nature of the K/T boundary. I did some of my experimental shock wave work at Los Alamos, which made the Ancho Canyon explosion range available for my experimental studies on shock waves.

When I was in Graduate School I was planning to go to work at a National Laboratory, like Los Alamos or Sandia Lab. In the late 80’s the DOE labs underwent a hiring freeze because of budget cuts in the Reagan administration and so they had no positions. Los Alamos wanted me to come to work there, but they had no jobs available that they could offer and then Exxon came along and made me a very attractive offer. Exxon realized that they needed to integrate rock physics and seismic better and my background was geared toward that goal, so they hired me as a specialist. I spent 7 years there in the company. I worked in the Gulf of Mexico, the Far East, and West Africa and also worked on projects in Russia and other places where my skills were needed. I also was involved in a lot of software development, new technology development in geo-pressure, seismic attributes and in modeling and AVO. In fact, a team that included myself, August Lau (now at Apache), and Ruth Gonzalez was the first team to implement 3D controlled amplitude processing and AVO within Exxon’s exploration environment. Then, of course, I went to Conoco in 1997.

Why did you leave Exxon to join Conoco?

I have been asked many times why I left Exxon to go to Conoco and the simple fact is it was a growth opportunity. Exxon was a great company to work for, but it is a very large company and the opportunity to move up in management was very restricted in 1997. I had already been a manager in the medical industry before I went for my Ph.D., and I really enjoyed leadership and management. I wanted to do that and felt that I had the skills to be a successful executive. At that time in 1997, Exxon was bottle necked with a lot of young guys my age in middle management and they didn’t have anywhere to go, and therefore neither did I.

Conoco came along and offered me the opportunity to run their world-wide geophysical technology and services. This was equivalent to a several layer management jump at Exxon along with a big salary increase and all the things that come with more responsibility. So I viewed this as an opportunity to really test my leadership skills and I stayed with them until 2002, when the merger with Phillips closed in September of that year. I was privileged to be on the integration team for the merger with Phillips, and was involved in redesigning the technology organization. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer me a job that I really wanted, so without that opportunity I decided to find my own opportunity. Ironically, when John Castagna, my current partner, found out that I was leaving Conoco, he asked me to come join him as his partner and run the operations of the company and build it up into a larger service business with offices in other places like Houston. I had great respect for John, and I had supported his research when I was at Conoco in Ponca City. I thought it was a good opportunity to work with another very competent, very capable colleague in building an exciting, new business. So that’s why I moved.

I was going to ask you a little about the work culture at Exxon, then Conoco and now Fusion.

Sure, they are three very different organizations of course. Exxon was, at the time I was there, already a very large corporation. They had revenue of $130 billion dollars a year and now they have more than doubled that revenue base with Mobil included. The simple fact is when a company gets that large, it has to operate with a top down control oriented structure, because it is so big that it has to manage that structure very carefully to eliminate risk and to handle the overall culture and environment. So Exxon was a true big company environment.

Conoco, when I joined it, was roughly one seventh to one eighth the size of Exxon and so it was a much more free wheeling and more paternalistic. At Exxon I would not dare call Lee Raymond “Lee”, but at Conoco it was okay to call Archie Dunham “Archie” and I think that was a microcosm of the difference between the two companies. Conoco was an easy culture to assimilate into. The people were wonderful, they were open minded, and openly shared ideas. That was something that was not as common at Exxon because it was a bigger company, and a little more rigid in its way of doing things.

Satinder and Alan

Going to Fusion was another quantum leap in culture because when I joined Fusion it had only six people. It was a very small company and there really was no “culture” yet. It was developing its culture at the time, so it was very different than Conoco and Exxon, and John and I together had the opportunity to actually create the culture in Fusion and hopefully make it a place where people would enjoy their work and have a good time. And that is really what we wanted to do – to apply geophysics and have a good time doing what we love.

What strategies have you employed to pursue the career options that you have made?

Well that is a tough question because I am not sure that the word “strategy” applies in my career path in the industry. If you look at the last 20 years since the price collapse in 1986, there were not a lot of opportunities and so if you were not comfortable with your career path, the options you had available to you often were limited. I was fortunate in 1997 that Conoco happened to have the leadership position in geophysics open at that time. I looked at it and I basically weighed my options. I could have stayed at Exxon and been a good soldier. I was enjoying myself, they were treating me well, but I didn’t have an opportunity to advance. Or I could take a risk and go to a smaller company like Conoco. What I have concluded is that if you want to grow your career, you have to be a risk taker.

Exxon has many wonderful people that work for them and the characteristics of all those people in general is that they are comfortable in a big organization, they tend to be more security minded, more comfortable in a secure environment, but they are very capable people and do a great job for the company.

The small company tends to be populated by the mavericks and the ones that don’t fit in the big company culture, but are also willing to take risk. So for me it is always a balance between risk and opportunity. When I see an opportunity, I evaluate it and decide whether it makes sense or not and then act accordingly.

Well said. Now that you are President of Fusion Petroleum Technologies, what personal qualities do you draw upon when you are discharging your duties and responsibilities?

One of the things that I was very struck by in going from Conoco to Fusion is that in Conoco I was able to focus on basically a few things. I was able to focus on providing the vision for my organization, which is important for a leader to provide, to provide the tactical leadership for how we implement that vision and also to be a communicator that talks to my people, talks to my clients, understands where our business is strong and where it is weak and continually try to improve what we are doing over time.

In Fusion, we had all of those issues compounded with the fact that I now had no support infrastructure like I had at Conoco. I didn’t have a corporate counsel, I didn’t have a big accounting department and a tax department to help me make decisions on those business issues. So ironically, in Fusion, I had to develop new skill sets that I had dabbled in during my career in big companies, but never had the need for, because I always had a corporate counsel or corporate tax guy there to support me. So the qualities that I drew on at Fusion were quite different than what I had to draw on in the big oil company setting, as well as being a technical leader because we are a small company where everyone does technical work.

I do technical work on my own, which I didn’t get a chance to do at Conoco, and I also have to quality control our projects. So a very different mix of skills is required to run a small business vs. running a large organization in a big oil company, which I learned the hard way.

How do you define leadership? Let’s hear your version and do you see yourself as a leader?

I hope that people see me as a leader. I think it is hard to assess oneself in this regard. I feel that what sets apart true leaders from those that think they are leaders and maybe are not, is that true leaders do a few things very well. They understand the business and they can set the vision and goals along with well designed metrics that will drive that business successfully. This is also part of being a good manager.

But on the leadership side I think leaders have to do two things. They have to lead by example and they have to recognize that they are there not to lead, but to serve. In my view, a true leader is a servant, not just to his customers but to the people that work for him. And so yes, I have employees that work for me at Fusion, but if I am a true leader I serve those people through my actions and through my decisions and I lead by example by being one of the people that works as hard as anybody else in the company does, day in and day out, to make that company a success. Nothing irritates me more than to see a company where the CEO is off taking hunting trips or fishing trips and his people in the trenches are slaving like dogs to make the company money while he is relaxing and enjoying it. I think that is wrong and I think more leaders should learn from the model of serving the people that they work with and that work for them rather than treating the employees like servants.

Good, I like that. What professional and personal vision are you working towards now?

In terms of personal professional vision, in the last 15 years I have become known for my work in geopressure prediction around the world and I have also done a lot of work in AVO, rock properties and shallow hazards in deep water environments. I would hope that this legacy will continue, and that I can continue in the forefront of these fields. We are doing quite a few projects in Fusion that indicate to me that the clients are very comfortable with what we provide, so I think we are in the vanguard in geopressure prediction and shallow hazards analysis. I think many other people would agree with that assessment.

Alan Huffman

In terms of personal development – I would like to grow Fusion to be broader in its operations and goals, and ultimately I would like to further my development in leadership outside of the company. I will probably seek to run for SEG Office at some point to be of service to the Society in whatever capacity they would like me to serve, and also possibly the AAPG. As you know I have been very active in organizing committees for AAPG, SEG and SPE over the years, I have chaired many conferences which I enjoy doing, and I currently am serving on the SEG Council. I love working with people and in groups and organizing technical conferences. I hope to continue growing in professional and personal leadership and we will see where that leads me. I firmly believe that if you really do your best and are passionate about what you do, good things will come your way, so I am always an optimist. As a leader I believe that it is also part of my job to be an optimist and spread that optimism infectiously to those around me.

Do you believe that new geophysical technologies hold the promise of extracting more information for characterizing hydrocarbon reservoirs?

Yes, if you look at where we are now, the last 20 years have involved basically milking the 3D cow, if you will, using AVO and now spectral analysis and some of the other tools that have been developed. However, there really have not been any big break-throughs in the last 10 or 15 years with totally new approaches to the problem, a true revolutionary change, or radical change. I know that those breakthroughs will come again. They always do, but unfortunately creativity is something that comes in fits and spurts. Creativity does not come in a fluid way, so I am sure that we will see some of the brilliant minds in our industry come up with more clever ways to attack current problems in reservoir characterization.

However, I would argue that where more effort should be spent is not so much characterizing the reservoirs, but in the extraction side of the business. How do we use the tools that we currently have, including passive monitoring, time lapse, some of the other technologies that we are now seeing become common place and more actively used, to effectively manage the reservoir better. I think our challenge right now for the industry is not only characterizing the reservoir but managing the reservoir to optimize extraction. Everyone in the industry is acutely aware of how much oil we are leaving in the ground and the fact is that oil is becoming more precious by the day and we need to figure out how to get more oil out of the ground in existing fields. So I think reservoir extraction technology is going to be even more important than reservoir characterization.

What areas of geosciences interest you more than the others?

Oh, that’s a tough one. You know I was classically trained as a geologist at Franklin and Marshall from a wonderful faculty at that school. Of course, Texas A&M is a world class institution as well for graduate work. So I have had broad training including geophysics, rock mechanics, hydrogeology, engineering geology, and a wide range of engineering and even some biology classes in graduate school. So I have a wide range of interests. If I were to say what I am passionate about, outside of the oil realm and outside of what we do in direct detection, geopressure and seismic, the two areas would be volcanic and earthquake hazards. I have been fascinated ever since my youth by active volcanism and I love studying volcanoes. I also love studying other geologic hazards – landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, the large events that affect the planet and also meteor impacts which I studied as a graduate student. So if I would have to pick the two it would be volcanology and geologic hazards. Had I gone to work at the National Labs, I would still be working on these topics today instead of being in the energy field. So those are truly areas of great passion for me.

And if I restrict that to geosciences, maybe then you can tell us about some other technologies that interest you?

Well, of course, like most of our colleagues in geophysics, I am a computer nerd. I love the gadgets and I love the hardware but I use them only when I need to. It gets to be cumbersome at times.

In terms of other technologies, I also actually love astronomy and optics and I was an amateur astronomer as a young man. If I didn’t live in Houston where the sky distortion is so bad from the humidity, I would probably still be doing astronomy in my spare time, but the fact is that the atmosphere is very poor for it so I don’t waste my time. If I ever move to Canada, or Idaho or somewhere with less atmospheric distortion, maybe I will be able to do that again.

What are some of the new technology ideas that your company has put into practice that are worth sharing?

Sure, Fusion has taken the philosophy that there are a lot of good tool kits out there like Hampson & Russell, SMT, and Landmark, so there is no need to re-invent the wheel. We do have a research group of 6 people, some very bright people that I think are very capable. What we have done is focus on the gaps in the existing tool kits where there are technologies needed that do not exist at the present time. Things like our proprietary work flows for pressure prediction, our ThinMAN™ broadband spectral inversion, and our SpecMAN™ spectral composition tool, have been designed to fill gaps in the existing technology base that we think we have the expertise to fill. And it has been mainly seismic attributes and direct detection, some geopressure and a little bit of processing technology, such as our REVEL™ residual velocity tool and some other things that we felt we needed based on delinquencies in the existing tool kits.

What do you think about Fusion’s thin-bed reflectivity inversion, how is it different from other techniques available in the industry?

If you look at all the other tools that are out there, the majority of the tools are not true inversions. They are either frequency borrowing schemes or broad band whitening schemes that allow you to boost the content of the data. I don’t know the details of all of them because the different companies have not published them, but I do know that at least one or two of the other techniques that are out there require, for stability purposes, that you use multi trace mixing. The disadvantage of doing that kind of an approach is that if you were trying to preserve discrete boundaries, like faults, you tend to degrade those boundaries in doing the mixing. They actually smear information, and that we always try to avoid wherever possible in doing our analysis. So ThinMAN™, as we call our proprietary version of this technology, is a true inversion of the spectral decomposition data that we generate from our proprietary tool and we then invert all of the amplitude vs. frequency data to try and determine where the reflectors are located. What you find is that the higher frequency spectral volumes tend to reveal where the thinner beds are located and hopefully will allow you to identify them correctly in time and space. We are finding that we are getting very nice results in head-to-head comparisons with some of the other competitors’ tools, and many of our clients have tried all the other tools. We often get into turkey shoots where we are tested against others and we have been very successful in these competitions. One thing that I love about ThinMAN™ is that we can reproduce the original data by filtering our results back to the original bandwidth of the data. To my knowledge, none of the competing methods can make this claim.

What is the state of the art in pore pressure prediction? Do you think we can confidentially make such predictions or are there too many restricting assumptions to view the results with suspicion?

Well, if you look at geopressure prediction there are two ways of doing a pressure prediction. The first is the geophysically based prediction using velocity data, which is the method people are most familiar with. The second is a basin modeling approach to the problem. If you look at the physics of clastic rocks in young basins, the velocity based method of prediction works well. In young basins where the rocks are still undergoing primary compaction and unloading due to mechanisms such as diagenesis and source maturation , the velocity based methods are fairly robust and I can predict confidently if I have some offset well control to calibrate with. Older rocks, in places like the Rocky Mountains, which are more indurated, tend to be more difficult to apply this technology to because their velocities are not sensitive to changes in the effective stress. In young clastic basin settings we can predict confidently down to within a few tenths of a pound per gallon all the way down a well bore, and I have done that successfully all over the world. If you go to other places where carbonates are predominant, like the Middle East, the velocity based techniques don’t work because the carbonate velocities are not responsive to changes in effective stress unless the rocks are fractured and then you are seeing the fracture effects, not the primary rock mass effects. In those environments you have to switch to a basin modeling approach or if you are fortunate enough to have carbonates intercalated with clastics, you can use inversion to isolate the clastics as a proxy for the carbonates and only apply the velocity based method to the non-carbonate rocks that are trapped between the carbonates. This could be done with variable success according to what the geology is doing and the quality of the seismic data.

Alan Huffman

My experience and expertise is mainly with the velocity based techniques in the younger basins. We have advanced that technology now to the point where we are actually able to interpret the velocities in terms of primary undercompaction and what we now call Bowers unloading, which is reduction of effective stress due to fluid mechanisms internal to the rock mass, and what we now call secondary compaction, which is the point at which thermal processes like diagenesis and recrystallization begin to occur and overprint themselves on the velocity field with depth. In such settings you have to predict pressure in the hybrid environment where you have non-compaction related processes kicking in. But we are able to predict those fairly accurately now based on developments over the last 5 years. The other area in geopressure that I think we are going to see broadening is the use of inversion in geopressure prediction. We traditionally have used residual velocity techniques following a horizon-keyed or geologically-keyed velocity analysis to do our pressure work and now we are seeing more work toward using inversion that will let us identify the reservoirs independently from the shales and start to actually break out the different rock units and predict their behaviors.

Let me ask you this, looking back at your geophysical career, what were some of the successful landmarks?

That’s a good question. If I look back, I think the first real landmark I would put in my career actually was in my undergraduate work when I was asked by Stan Mertzman, one of my professors at F&M, to do volcanology field work with him. I got a chance as an undergraduate to actually do effectively the equivalent of graduate level research with a world class volcanologist in the Shasta National Forest in Northern California. We mapped lava flows and collected rock samples in the field, brought them back to campus, did all of our own major and trace element geochemistry and published our own thesis works on the areas that we were assigned to analyze. I didn’t realize how valuable this was until I applied to graduate school. Most of the graduate schools that I applied to said that I didn’t need to do a Masters degree because I already knew how to do thesis research. When they saw my undergraduate thesis work, they actually felt that I could go straight for a Doctorate. And that’s what I ended up doing at Texas A& M.

While I was at A&M, I was very fortunate to have several things happen to me that I think really helped set the stage for my interest in continuing in leadership. One of them was that I was selected to be on a team that did the hazards analysis for the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC) that was eventually built and then abandoned in Waxahachie Texas. I did all the earthquake hazards work for that project for the Department of Energy and that was a great opportunity to work with a lot of other people on a major Government project, including Norman Tilford, who taught me geologic and earthquake hazards at Texas A&M. Norm was a wonderful mentor who loved working with young scientists.

The other thing that I was fortunate enough to have happen was that Dr. Mel Friedman, the Dean of Geosciences at Texas A&M at the time, took a liking to me and actually brought me in to be his executive assistant (or “bag rat” as we called them at Conoco). Mel assigned me to be the Executive Secretary to The Geoscience Research Council for the DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences. This assignment gave me the opportunity to see how big science was done in the Department of Energy and other Federal Agencies and to interact with a lot of high level people from the DOE, USGS and other agencies. Mel also appointed me as the Science Manager for the Continental Drilling Program in 1989 to run the Science Office at Texas A&M. So Mel was a great mentor and someone whom I will be forever grateful to in determining my career path.

Of course, at Exxon, I spent 7 years there and had a wonderful time and got a chance to develop a lot of technology. That of course is proprietary, so it was a personal landmark, but not in terms of recognition in the industry.

In Conoco I was very fortunate to come in at a time when they needed to rebuild their geophysical technology. I was pretty much given carte blanche to do what was needed to recover that technology legacy which included the Vibroseis and Stolt migration legacies that Conoco had enjoyed over the years. Senior management was fully supportive of my efforts to rebuild the geophysical discipline at Conoco, so we were able to rebuild our technology base, including the construction of the “Fast Cat” LINUX cluster, that was at the time one of the largest LINUX clusters in the industry. I was allowed to chair international conferences and do the things that I enjoyed doing. Also during that time, John Castagna and I received the Best Paper Award from SEG for our work in Deep Water Shallow Hazards Analysis and then later, right after I joined Fusion, I was honored with the AAPG Robert H. Dott Memorial Award for the best publication in the AAPG Memoir 76 on Pressure Regimes in Sedimentary Basins. So those are probably the milestones that I would flag as landmarks in my career, recognition, or even having done something that I really felt was important for science.

You had a teaching position at the University of Oklahoma and you also have conducted specialist schools in geophysical teaching within Exxon and Conoco. Do you plan to conduct courses on the SEG/CSEG platforms at some point of time?

I love teaching and lecturing because it allows me to share my knowledge and experience openly with other people. I believe that is an important function for all senior scientists. I have talked about teaching courses with both SEG and AAPG in the past. In fact I still teach my 3-day geopressure prediction school as clients request it. I loved teaching at OU, and had wonderful students there. It was a wonderful opportunity at a great institution. I would have stayed there longer if we were not so busy in Fusion. And yes, I would be happy to teach for SEG and also CSEG if the opportunity presented itself. That would be perfectly fine by me.

I was going to ask if you have done work on heavy oil.

The only heavy oil reservoir that I have personal experience with is Venezuelan heavy oil at Petrozuata.

Is this in the Orinoco Belt? What about Canadian heavy oil?

Yes, it is in the Orinoco Belt. I have not worked any of the Canadian reserves so I really can’t comment. I don’t know the geology of the Canadian Oil Sands that well but the Venezuelan is a very curious creature in the Orinoco Belt because you basically are looking at tar mats with sand. It’s not really a sandstone reservoir with oil. It is a different creature than we normally deal with and it presents a host of issues. We were working within Conoco when I was there toward attribute technologies to help delineate the reservoirs better but the problem is that the impedance contrasts were so subtle that the traditional lithology and fluid approaches don’t work very well. Obviously, with the amount of reserves globally, both in Canada, Venezuela and elsewhere that are classified as heavy oil, we have to do a better job of characterizing and also extracting that product and we are going to see more effort in this area. When oil goes from $70 to $ 100.00/ barrel in the next 20 years, I am sure the Tar Sands will be much more important. So I would suspect we will see a lot more technology applied to it. Other than things like steam injection, SWAG and those kinds of technologies, which light up the reservoir where the changes are occurring as you are heating up and moving the oil to the wellbores, I haven’t really put a lot of thought into what could be applied for heavy oil.

What particular challenges does a company like Fusion face in the market place?

I would say our challenges are two fold. First, we are a small fish swimming with a lot of big fish. We have competitors like Veritas and Schlumberger that offer some of the same things that we do; and Landmark offers some of the same things. So that is just an issue of scale. I am sure that when clients talk to us initially, they may be concerned about how a company our size can provide this support over a long time vs. a big company. It turns out we are actually very capable of providing this support and are usually more attentive to the client’s needs than big companies. Most of our clients, after they work with us, discover that this is not an issue. The advantage that we have in this regard is that Fusion is owned and operated by career oil company scientists. Both John and I were trained in the exploration company mindset, so we are always thinking about how to help clients find more hydrocarbons, not just sell the client a service that makes money.

The biggest challenge that we face other than competition is finding more good people to grow the business. You know the challenge, and we are all facing this right now. The fact is that most of the people that are very capable are working or are retired and don’t want to work. For us, the challenge is finding the next wave of good people to help us grow, because our business is very knowledge intensive and requires people who are knowledgeable in geophysics and can apply those tools intelligently to help solve the client’s difficult problems. We don’t need, as I call them, Nintendo geophysicists who push the buttons and don’t think. We need thinking knowledge workers who can solve difficult problems because our clients are getting progressively into more challenging environments where the problems are much more severe and more expensive to mitigate if you make mistakes.

How do you think our industry is handling the high price of the barrel? Do you think such high prices encourage oil companies to acquire or implement new technology?

Well, the first part of your question is two-fold. There is the technical way we approach the issues but then there is the politics and the educational side of things. Technically our industry is one of the most advanced in the world and I wish that we could do a better job of communicating that fact to the public because the public thinks of us as a dirty, low tech business. We are so far from that perception and in truth that we need to do a better job of telling the world what we do and how we do it.

Alan Huffman

The reality is that the energy industry moves huge amounts of product to market efficiently every day of the year without being noticed by the public. As a result, the public has no clue how critical we and our infrastructure are to the global economy. They really don’t understand our business at all. And so when politicians bash us and give us a hard time, the public gets on the bandwagon instead of telling the politicians, “When are you going to sell your SUV Mr. Politician?” You know, we really need a mindset shift and that comes back to the first issue. When oil prices go up everyone in the public feels the pain including us. So we all have to pay for gasoline and the reality is that the industry needs to step up to the plate to educate the public. I hope that the big companies, the ExxonMobils and Shells of the world, to will take the lead in this and fund education and advertising campaigns. We need a massive education and advertising campaign that will educate the public on how critical the energy industry is, how complex it is, and help the public understand that when prices go up that it is not due to collusion or these other things that we are accused of. So I would say that we technically manage high prices very well, we politically manage them very poorly. I think we can for a small amount of money relative to the size of our industry, do a tremendous job teaching the world how important we are to their economies and their future.

So much for the technical side. Let me ask you what are your other interests?

Well, those people who know me well know that I would rather be driving a Titleist than a car. I love golf. And that is part of the reason I live and work in The Woodlands, Texas, because we have 6 golf courses there and I thoroughly enjoy it. Unfortunately we are so busy right now that I don’t have much time to play. Other than golf I love to hunt and I love to fish, so I am an outdoorsman and for those hobbies, Texas is a wonderful place to live. There are lots of opportunities to hunt and fish (when I have the time).

As I mentioned earlier, I also am sort of an amateur astronomer, which I don’t get as much time to do any more, but I also am a rock and mineral collector, going back to my roots as a rock hound, and I scour the world on my travels looking for high quality mineral specimens to bring back home. This often frustrates my wife because she doesn’t have any place in the house to put them, yet we try to make do with that, but I’d say that my primary hobbies are golf, hunting and fishing. They are the three main ones.

You are also interested in music I know.

Oh yes, that’s true, I actually have been a professional singer ever since I was 14 years old. I am the tenor soloist in our church choir and also the lead tenor voice in our contemporary Christian band. I also write music and lyrics for the band as well. The truth is that music is such an innate part of my being I don’t think of it as a hobby. It is part of me, it’s an avocation more than a hobby. It is part of my soul.

One last question. What would be your message to young entrants in our profession?

That is a very good question. Speaking for myself, I went into geology because I loved it. I was passionate about it then and I still am today. I also fell in love with geophysics once I knew what it was. I would tell young people that if you are coming into the industry looking for a job and you are not really passionate about what we do and don’t really love it, that you are going the wrong way. If people truly love the profession, if they love the field, if they love geology, if they love nature and they are passionate about it, they will love a career in the oil business. And so what I tell people is let your passion drive you to the right answer. I think that is the right answer for anyone’s career. And as long as you are passionate about your work and love doing it, you will always enjoy it and never get tired of it. The key to happiness in your career is to love and enjoy what you are doing.

Wonderful. Alan, was there anything you had expected me to ask you and I did not?

Nothing I can think of.

Alan, thank you very much for giving us this opportunity and time to sit and talk. I appreciate it.

It has been my pleasure.


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