President's column

What is the mission of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)? Why do we collect, disseminate, and exchange technical knowledge? There are plenty of reasons why such activities are valuable. Our mission statement gives a reason for this activity, namely, for the public benefit.

Mission statements of various professional societies often reflect the need to serve the public in some way. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ mission statement includes its purpose “to serve diverse, global communities” and “applying engineering knowledge for improving the quality of life.” The mission of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers is to “provide essential value to our members and partners, advance civil engineering, and serve the public good.” The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is “to advance the well-being of the nation.”

The mission of SPE is:

To collect, disseminate, and exchange technical knowledge concerning the exploration, development and production of oil and gas resources, and related technologies for the public benefit; and to provide opportunities for professionals to enhance their technical and professional competence.

The mission was adopted more than 50 years ago. The statement about providing opportunities for professionals to enhance their technical and professional competence forms the basis of many of the Society’s training and professional development activities. The phrase I have emphasized is occasionally replaced by ellipsis in SPE Powerpoint presentation and not discussed enough. Before we discuss SPE’s role for the public benefit, let us look at engineering’s role.

Engineers are uniquely responsible for the machines, buildings, energy, and technology that surround us and are fundamental to our lives. After the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in San Antonio, Texas, this year, I revisited the Espada Aqueduct built in 1731, completed in 1745 by Franciscan missionaries to provide water for irrigation. It reminded me of the Roman aqueducts built as early as 300 BC and other feats of engineering that resulted in improved health, sanitation, and productivity in societies. The state of engineering at the time was craft work relying on working knowledge of construction, geometry, and fluid flow principles. This type of engineering dates back to the pyramids.

Modern engineering developed in parallel with the industrial revolution, powered by coal.

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