ACE2019 Forums and Special Sessions pflist

Martin Jackson

This year’s series of special sessions on salt tectonics (“Salt Involved Systems: Deposition to Diapirism to Dissolution”) is dedicated to the memory of Martin P.A. Jackson. Martin passed away in May of 2016 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Up until shortly before his death Martin was still working away on the textbook “Salt Tectonics: Principles and Practice.” That textbook was published in 2017, and is widely, and deservedly, praised as the de facto textbook on salt tectonics.

Originally a “hard rock guy”, Martin made the switch to work on one of the weakest rocks, rock salt, in the early 1980s shortly after arriving at the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) at The University of Texas at Austin. Martin’s initial focus was on salt structures in the onshore Gulf of Mexico with other BEG researchers, but he became intrigued with the Great Kavir salt desert in central Iran after seeing an aerial photograph of clustered salt diapirs in this largely uninhabited region. This was followed by stints of centrifuge modeling in the Hans Ramberg Laboratory at Uppsala in Sweden, aerial photograph analyses, and field work with other colleagues in the Great Kavir. The end result of this research was the concept of a salt canopy, with the Great Kavir being a natural depth slice through such a structure. This had a major impact on our understanding of the salt bodies in the offshore Gulf of Mexico. In 1988 Martin set up the Applied Geodynamics Laboratory (AGL) at the BEG with seed money to focus specifically on salt tectonics. Since 1989 the AGL has been continually funded by industry partners. As with his research on the Great Kavir, Martin enlisted the help of BEG colleagues to work with him on tackling salt-tectonic problems using a multidisciplinary approach that utilized field studies, seismic-based studies, and physical and numerical models.

Under Martin’s direction many important concepts came out of this newly-formed research group, along with coworkers from both academia and industry. These include the concept of aforementioned salt canopies and how they are emplaced, the rise and fall of diapirs under extension, salt-related fault families, identification and mechanisms of salt welds and the list goes on. Martin’s work on salt tectonics was not confined to the northern Gulf of Mexico and associated coastal zones, but also included field-based studies of salt tectonic systems in the Sverdrup Basin (Arctic Canada), Paradox Basin (Utah), Katangan Copperbelt (central Africa), and Haute Provence (France), as well as seismic-based studies in the western Mediterranean Sea, Bay of Biscay, Red Sea, offshore Angola, offshore Gabon and onshore Brazil. He did not confine himself to terrestrial studies but also worked on salt-tectonic systems on Titan and Mars.

Martin’s publications have been cited over 6,500 times, but that’s just metrics! What made Martin such a great scientist was his intellectual curiosity, his ability to work with people, his congeniality, and his patience. Salt tectonics can be completely baffling when one is introduced to it, especially multi-tiered systems such as those we see in the Gulf of Mexico. Martin enjoyed solving these geological puzzles, but also loved introducing people to salt-tectonic concepts and answering their questions, no matter how elementary those questions were. And then there was that glint in his eye and grin when he would quietly ask “Do you think this type of system can be modeled?” He knew it could, but he was being polite, and gently asking you if you would do it!

In February of 2018, some 60 of us gathered by the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel for the Geological Society of America Penrose Conference “Advances in salt tectonics: observations, applications, and perspectives” held in honor of Martin. It seems fitting now to share the celebration of his life and legacy with the broader AAPG community, considering the impact he made on salt tectonics and the recognition he received from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in the form of four major awards.

These special sessions are the product of a collective effort by the salt tectonic community and we hope attendees of ACE 2019 have an opportunity to enjoy this celebration. Martin would have loved this!

Data Science in the Geosciences is an interdisciplinary field that uses scientific methods, processes, and algorithms to extract knowledge and insights from a variety of geological and engineering data sets. In the past few years, terms such as Machine Learning, Digitalization, and Artificial Intelligence have received a lot of attention in both large and small oil and gas companies. The ACE 2018 Machine Learning “Unsession” in Salt Lake City provided an initial platform to explore some of these ideas during the Annual Meeting. The ACE 2019 organizing committee has recognized the need to incorporate a new technical theme as part of the ACE program in San Antonio so that we can advance our discussion from conceptual to practical and add a strong hands-on component.

Theme 8: Deep Integration of Data and Disciplines will incorporate both oral and poster sessions that cater to all levels of knowledge and where applications and case studies will showcase a wide range of topics:

  • New applications of Machine Learning to subsurface science
  • Multi-disciplinary integration for the subsurface efforts in the age of big data
  • The digital transformation in the geosciences
  • Application of Machine Learning to imaging

Theme 8 comes in a bundle with three exciting short courses that are designed to address the needs of different proficiency levels when it comes to this new chapter on digital transformation of the geosciences. These courses will cover the range from getting an introduction to the basic concepts to a hands-on programming experience using Python.

  • Advanced Analytics – Machine Learning 101 (AAPG PROWESS)
  • Improving Modeling and Predicting Reservoir Behavior
  • Introduction to Data Science and Machine Learning in the Geosciences

We hope that these additions to the technical program will help us to start bridging the gap between the fancy graphics that advertise the advent of the digital era and our actual knowledge of the benefits and challenges of embracing a new “digital revolution.”

We all know that any good upstream venture starts with a rich subsurface endowment where one understands the petroleum system and learns from one well to another. The most prolific of these ventures are described as Super Basins, while others are aspiring to the title, supported by relentless exploration efforts and technological innovation. As geologists or geophysicists our focus is often on unraveling the subsurface, and yet it is equally important to acknowledge that none of these ventures would exist if not for the support of a business-friendly environment, savvy investment decisions and availability of capital. Building on the ACE 2018 session “The Business of Oil and Gas: The Many Pathways to Success,” this year ACE 2019 has an entire theme focused on the business and financial aspects of our industry. Theme 10: Business and Finance intends to open channels of knowledge and collaboration among oil and gas professionals whether they use a rock hammer or Monte Carlo simulation to create value.

The “business and finance” theme has been arranged like a triptych representing one large image split into three. The first panel, or session, is discussing Opportunity Valuation, the second, Deals and Investment Decision, while the third homes in on Financing options.

The individual talks inside the three sessions have been arranged in such a way that more often than not a talk with an unconventional resource plays focus will be followed by a talk highlighting similar aspect in conventional onshore or offshore plays.

The talks cover topics including: Conventional exploration back in the black, the role of luck and serendipity in exploration, adventures in exploration deal-making, the development of an entrepreneur, and building a private equity company. These are just a few of the exciting topics which will be covered by seasoned explorers, entrepreneurs and investors, demonstrating how combining outstanding subsurface analysis with commercial and economic savvy drives value creation.

This is the first year that we will have a dedicated theme to this ever-important topic, without which none of us would have, not will have, the exciting career of oil and gas explorers and producers. We definitely count on your support to carry this Theme into the future of the AAPG. Please make time to attend one or more of these sessions and continue your journey to be a multi-faceted value creator. We will see you there!

  • Opportunity Valuation: Tuesday, 21 May, 1:15 p.m.–5:05 p.m.
  • Deals and Investment Decisions: Wednesday, 22 May, 8:00 a.m.–11:50 a.m.
  • Financing: Wednesday, 22 May, 1:15 p.m.–5:05 p.m.