Spectrum: Education is the Solution to Improving Our Industry's Image
- Ganesh Thakur (2012 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- February 2012
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 15
- 2012. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Public mistrust and misconceptions about the oil and gas industry have grown after the 2010 Macondo blowout and the concerns raised over the environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing. It is very important for our industry to respond with factual information and to dispel the misinformation. Education is the answer, both in the schools and in our outreach to the general public.
We must take ownership of the education about our industry. Oil and gas exploration and production is not an old-fashioned, dying industry; on the contrary, it is a very scientific, dynamic field that requires a high level of technology. Instead of talking mostly about our profession or the technology, which can become dry, we need to better communicate the excitement and importance of what we do. We must emphasize the role that oil and gas plays in daily lives. Oil and natural gas provide fuel for our vehicles and heat for our homes, and they are used to make myriad products that make modern life possible. Everyone’s quality of life depends on the availability and affordability of energy. And despite the promise of alternative sources, oil and gas remains the primary source of efficient and affordable energy.
What can we as individuals and as SPE members do? From the individual’s standpoint, it can be overwhelming, but as part of a 100,000-member organization with resources at hand, a great deal can be accomplished. We start by working together with students and educators to raise the awareness of the role of oil and gas in our society, and its importance to our daily lives. This educational effort should first get the younger children interested in math and science, and then show the older children how their interests and passions can lead to a dynamic and meaningful career that benefits mankind.
The SPE is working to educate teachers and students globally through its Energy4me program (www.energy4me.org) with workshops and classroom curriculum. The program’s flexibility offers an easy way for SPE sections and members to start community outreach programs, which can be big or small, ongoing or scheduled, and carried out with minimal cost or time investment. With more resources, members can engage corporate sponsors or partner with other organizations.
Recently, the SPE Dallas Section joined with the Ellison Miles Geotechnology Institute to host a daylong tour in North Texas to acquaint science teachers with the natural gas drilling process. It started with an informational session on topics such as the basics of gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing technology, and the history of the Barnett Shale in the region. Then the teachers toured a pad site to see drilling activities, a hydraulic fracturing facility to learn about the process and safeguards used, and finally, a completed pad location. This is a great example of how misinformation can be dispelled by educating teachers, who are also members of a community deluged with information, true and false, about hydraulic fracturing. The hands-on approach could help change public opinion for the better.
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