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Geology Journey: How you can Make Historic Impacts on the Oil Industry


When I started working in geology, my wife and I developed a standing joke.

Instead of asking me about my day, she would ask, “So did you solve the US energy crisis today?”

Taking things to maximum absurdity, I would often leave the house in the morning saying, “Well, I’m off to solve the energy crisis.”

Obviously no single person could solve the US energy crisis. However, it does raise the question – how can someone maximize his or her impact on the oil industry?

In the Beginning

I spent my early career in geology. I drilled a few oil and gas wells (OK, I might have drilled a dry hole … or two). The impact I made on the US domestic energy supply was probably negligible. Working as a geologist, however, was lots of fun. It’s like solving a giant underground puzzle, where the pieces moved through time. Those movements affected lots of things, like porosity, permeability, source, structure and dozens of other variables. You have to be smart, clever and creative all at the same time.

When everything works perfectly, you get to sit back and quietly say, “Nailed it.” However, the drill bit is the ultimate reality and mother earth is constantly changing the rules. Just when you think you understand a reservoir, the drill bit hands you something completely unexpected.

Oil Industry Geology Today

Now most geologists work in teams. The larger the company, the more likely you are paired up with people from other disciplines. I maintain that even if you are a one-man company, you have a massive team around you helping support whatever decisions you make.

There are people that scan logs to provide raster images or digitize them to provide LAS curves. Teams of people provide well, production and leased data. People also design software so you can easily make more accurate decisions quickly – that’s where I come in.

But Who Can Really Move the Needle?

Let’s talk for a minute about people that have made a real impact in the industries they love. We all know Alexander Bell, Thomas Edison and more modern computer icons like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. However, have you heard of Bill Joy, Linus Torvalds or Tim Patterson?

Tim Paterson was the original author of MS-DOS. Without DOS, you could argue there never would have been a personal computer revolution in the 80’s. Everything Microsoft produced for many years relied on DOS as the backbone, including Windows.

Linus Torvalds is the creator of the Linux kernel. Today, the Linux kernel runs almost every super computer in the world. It also runs phones, tablets, PC’s and a host of appliances.

In my house, the Linux kernel runs my TV, DVD player, stereo, phone, tablet and my desktop computer. There is also a very good chance it will run in the next automobile I drive.

My point is you don’t have to be a corporate entrepreneur to make a huge impact.

When I left the world of drilling wells as a geologist to go into software, my friends advised me not to leave. “The industry needs geologists like you and once you leave you will never be able to come back,” they told me.

The reality is I never left.

The software I helped design and deliver as part of a team is being used all over the world making discoveries I will probably never know about. The geologist working on those prospects will never know that my team and expertise was part of their team in finding the oil or gas.

That is OK.

I don’t give much thought to who invented the operating system when I Google something on my phone. I’m simply thankful that someone had the vision to invent it so it is there when I need it.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

There are many ways to change the oil industry when you’re a geologist. One way is to spend years on the team that will find that one big field offshore. Another is to be part of a team that provides the tools, data and expertise to tens of thousands of people looking for oil all across the globe.

And even if you are not a geologist, you can change the oil industry. My team at Drillinginfo is made up of geologists, engineers, landmen and dozens of other experts. Without them, I couldn’t do what I love. We are working on solving conventional problems and we’re the leader in providing data, tools and analytics to help solve unconventional problems.

Hey wait, did I just say “unconventional?” Maybe I am solving the US energy crisis after all!

Your Turn

What’s your oil and gas industry story? Did you start out in the patch and eventually work your way to the desk, like myself – or vice versa? Please leave a comment below.

And if you’re a geologist or anyone else in the industry looking to make a career transition, you can search our current openings here. If experience is any indication, you would probably make a fantastic addition to the Drillinginfo Family.

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John Fierstien

is the Director of Data Inventory. He has worked as a geologist for several E&P companies and as someone who has been helping to create some of the best tools for geologists and geophysicists to help them find oil and gas. He received his Bachelor of Science in Biology and Geology from Central Michigan University and his Master of Science in Geology from the University of Pittsburgh.