Our future as innovators.

Innovation and engineering developments are very exciting. Our industry relies upon these forward-moving evolutions to keep both our capacities and our expectations high. The university-level engineering and science departments hang their hats on new procedures and products students produce. Patents are king in some circles. Oil and gas companies often make hiring decisions based upon these accomplishments.

It is important however, to review some other aspects of our long-term success as an industry and a society. Not all gains are simply scientific.

Colonel Drake pioneered the drilling and production of petroleum in 1859. His men had no directional drilling, no cyber chairs, no multi-phased mud systems. They hardly had what we consider adequate work attire. No safety devices, no uniforms, no communications, no infrastructure; and yet oil was found and produced. I submit it was Drake’s leadership that ruled the day, not engineering.

Now, it would be unfair to suggest that casing made of hewn and hollowed logs was not innovative! We must never believe that rugged engineering wasn’t the basis of design. There can be no doubt that dedicated people, good leadership and the shared desire to accomplish a task played leading roles in putting oil in the tank and money in the bank. I suppose military comparisons could be drawn.

Edwin Drake’s discovery, after penetrating a mere 69 feet into the earth at Titusville, Pennsylvania, perhaps overshadows our discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico. We regularly work in water, a mile deep on wells extending more than 30,000 feet in depth. We are blessed with the learnings and earnings of well over 150 years of toil, error and success.

Our predecessors cannot be ignored in the evaluation of the journey to modern-day exploration, drilling and production. I mean humans. Great thinkers and willing laborers alike have served us well and their footprints are the path leading to the present. This writer does not belittle science nor its contribution to our world. After all, we seek the most effective way in all our normal endeavors. Nor do I want you to favor ignorance over knowledge. I do want you to remember that much can be accomplished by working equally as hard on people as on process. Communications, leadership, planning and control contribute at least as much to our success as the program.