10 Oct, 2018

SPE ATCE Recap with Ford Brett

This year’s SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) was full of new and exciting technological developments, workforce focused discussion and opportunities to connect with peers from around the world. We caught up with CEO Ford Brett about his involvement in several special sessions during the conference. Brett was involved in a session each day where he was a panelist in two and a moderator in another. Get a breakdown of each session with summaries, main takeaways and special insight from Ford Brett.


DAY 1: Training and Development Beyond Education – Monday, September 24


Success in one’s career requires continuous training, development and learning, even after you graduate from your university.

According to Brett, when it comes to training “it’s not about the head count, it’s about head contents.” The big crew change is almost over, but the challenge of transferring knowledge a.k.a. the “head contents” still remains. Salam Salamy from Saudi Aramco suggested to get new graduates into training and development it is crucial to ensure training is relative to their engineering role. Brett agrees it is in companies’ best interest to clearly describe the skills required for a job so that new hires or current employees know what the expectations are. Companies need to focus on making sure all roles have clear competencies, and that proper learning and development for that competency is in place.

During the presentation, Brett presented the idea that “the value of competent personnel dwarfs all other costs.” He elaborates that competent people are so valuable in our business because the risks and costs are so high. These are not easy jobs, and personnel doing their work incorrectly can have horrible results that cost the company money, and even worse, threaten employee safety. Comparatively, the cost of training somebody is low when you weigh it against these risks. Brett finishes his thoughts on this matter with, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Brett remarks that throughout the session everyone shared their different perspectives on development and learning, and although each approach is compelling, there is not one completely correct answer. He explains, sometimes as trainers, everyone can get entrenched in what they believe is the best way, but the enemy to training is not different approaches to development. It is the absence of development.

The final thought on this topic from Brett is that you can choose to forego training for learning as you go in your career, but the reason training is available, is so you can learn from those that came before you. Life’s too short to make all the mistakes yourself.


DAY 2: The Automation of Well Placement –                    Tuesday, September 25


The focus of this session was the industry’s progress in automated well placement and steps that can be taken to improve upon it. Discussion revolved around how automation might further improve geosteering and unconventional horizontal wells. One of the most important issues discussed was our increasing ability to drill custom horizontal wells, but lack of people with the ability to capitalize on it.

The panelists emphasized that there are some things we need to do now to improve this. First, we need to get geodata to the drillers so that they understand more about the rocks. On a similar note, everyone on the project needs to receive all the data to ensure the people in reservoir and geoscience understand where the well actually is, and the drillers understand the geologic implications of that. Companies need to have greater communication across all product lines. Additionally, we have been improving and moving so fast that we have not been able to learn from our successes and mistakes. The industry needs to take some time to do look-backs.

Next, the panel turned toward items we need to accomplish in the future. The agreed upon key item was a way to automate/improve the intelligence of downhole tools to increase efficiency. To do that, companies need a better downhole measure of penetration rate. Most importantly, companies need all groups to understand the value of a properly placed well. There is plenty of potential value for improved production.


DAY 3: Critical Skills for a Successful Career – Wednesday, September 26


According to Brett, the main takeaway from this session is the ability to work with people. Throughout the session, each speaker gave their insight on this skill set in some way. The overarching theme was no matter what position you are in, entry-level or management, you will need to be able to deal with people.  

To build this skill set and become successful, you need to be continuously adding value to peers/coworkers around you and have a network of people who will support you in return. Building trust and a reputation of integrity are critical for constructive relationships. Other skills that are important to career development include communication, motivational, listening and teamwork skills. These can make big differences in a career.

Towards the end of the session, Brett addresses the new and younger personnel in the industry. He admits that he is always impressed when he talks to these folks because they are much more knowledgeable than he was at their age. His encouragement for them is to step up and take initiative with their own development, not to wait for it to fall in their laps.


Thank you to everyone who helped host the SPE ATCE conference in Dallas, and we look forward to seeing you all again next year! If you are interested in training with PetroSkills we recommend browsing our new 2018-2019 training guides or viewing our course schedule. Our courses span the entire industry and are available in multiple training formats throughout the world.