Fall 2017 gathering of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in Oklahoma City.


The annual meeting of AAPG, founded 100 years earlier, was attended by American Oil & Gas Historical Society Executive Director Bruce Wells, who joined a dedicated group of geologist-historians for a day-long field trip to Bartlesville and Frank Phillip’s Woolaroc Ranch.

mid-continent geologists

The 2017 AAPG Mid-Continent Section Meeting in downtown Oklahoma City took place near the Devon Energy Center, the company’s 50-story headquarters.

A field trip into the heart of Oklahoma petroleum history (co-hosted by the American Oil & Gas Historical Society), combined with many earth science exhibits, presentations, and speeches from industry executives to highlight a September  2017 meeting of mid-continent geologists in Oklahoma City.

Thanks to a sponsorship by the Oklahoma Geological Foundation, AOGHS Executive Director Bruce Wells attended the 2017 Mid-Continent Section meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). 

Wells spoke about the lengthy history of hydraulic fracturing during an October 3 technical session.

mid-continent geologists

The four-day section meeting began September 30 at the Cox Business Services Center. Exhibit booths opened the next day. The technical program included workshops and 100 oral and poster presentations.

On September 30, Wells joined geologists on a field trip to the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville. The group also visited the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 replica derrick in Discovery One Park, where Oklahoma’s first oil well was completed in 1897.

The field trip included a tour of Frank Phillips’ Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve. According to CEO Bob Fraiser, a special effort is underway to raise funds for the the long-term preservation of the Frank Phillips Mansion in downtown Bartlesville.

In Bartlesville, field trip members were joined by educator and historian Kay Little, owner of Little History Adventures. She provided insights about the life of Frank Phillips, his company, and the history of Woolaroc.

Staff members at the museum also answered questions – and introduced Jim Low, the grandson of Phillips, who happened to be visiting. Special access was granted to the building’s board room.

mid-continent geologists

AAPG’s 2017 conferences have featured a special traveling mural: “In the Beginning…100 years, 100 AAPG Women Who Forged the Path.” The portraits are from the recently published book, Anomalies – Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology: 1917 – 2017 by Robbie Rice Gries.


mid-continent geologists

Joan Bruns, a geologist with Baker Hughes, a GE Company, arranged a tour of the Mid-Continent Geological Library in the original 1923 home of the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association.

The day-long field trip offered an opportunity to discuss the AOGHS energy education mission and the petroleum history articles posted on AOGHS.org.

During the bus ride Wells discussed the importance of oil history in energy education and played a selection of DVDs he collected over the years from community oil museums.

The AAPG meeting at the Cox Business Services Center focused on recent advancements in technology, “with some of the brightest professionals in out industry,” according the meeting chairman, Thomas Cronin. It began with five September 30 workshops.

A sixth special workshop was held for teachers. “More! Rocks in Your Head,” was led by Rochard Opalka at the Petroleum Club, which also hosted several receptions. Ninety-six exhibit booths opened at the Cox Business Services Center the next day.

mic-continent geologists

After leading a field trip earlier, veteran geologists Robert Allen of Ardmore and Robert Newman of Ada, Oklahoma, spoke at the October 3 technical session, “The Arbuckle Mountains as a Laboratory for Geological Education.”

In addition to conference activities at the center, AOGHS’ Wells toured the nearby Mid-Continent Geological Library and visited the downtown headquarters buildings of Devon Energy and Continental Oil. AAPG generously sponsored his attendance at receptions, dinners, and other events.

Wells made an October 3 presentation that featured details from a highly read AOGHS website article first posted in 2007, Shooters – A “Fracking” History.

Energy Education Contacts

Wells shared education outreach ideas with AAPG members, other speakers, and exhibitors. He attended alumni receptions of Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas universities. Wells also viewed mud-logging technologies in an Exlog company trailer, guided by Jami Poor, a geologist with MAP Royalty.

mid-continent geologists

Among the exhibitors were Molly Yonker, education and outreach coordinator for the Oklahoma Geological Survey in Norman; and Angela Forrest of the Kansas Geological Society and Library in Wichita.

Wells discussed earth science education strategies with Molly Yunker, education coordinator for the Oklahoma Geological Survey, and Prof. Jennifer Roberts, chairperson of the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas.

According to AAPG’s Joel Alberts, who organized the field trip and is a Jayhawk alumni, new geoscience facilities have been completed on the Lawrence campus; an Earth, Energy and Environment Center will open for classes in spring 2018. KU offered its first geology class almost 150 years ago.

Among the presenters at the meeting was geologist Ray Sorenson, who has spent years researching where in North America oil had been reported prior to America’s first commercial well of 1859. His extensive documentation of reports of natural seeps and other signs of oil or gas was the basis of an October 3 presentation.

mid-continent geologists

AAPG Mid-Continent Section President Doug Davis Jr., at left, was among the visitors to the replica of Nellie Johnstone No. 1 well of 1897. Volunteer Randi Olsen, who recently moved to Bartlesville from Florida, assisted in an engine-running demonstration — and water gusher.


mid-continent field trip

Dan Droege welcomed AAPG President Charles Sternbach to Discovery One Park. Also pictured are AAPG members Jami Poor and Joel Alberts, who organized the field trip. Droege was instrumental in the derrick’s reconstruction in 2008.

“Pre-Drake published accounts of oil and natural gas were known from thirty-one states and five Canadian provinces,” he explained, adding that production (not necessarily used) came from wells at 28 locations in 10 states and two provinces.

Sorenson’s on-going research is collected in 31 notebooks organized by topic. Some of his discoveries have been added to AOGHS articles, including the history of the First Alabama Oil Well.

Sorenson was among a group of earth science historians and educators, including 2015-2017 AAPG Mid-Continent Section President H.W. “Dub” Peace II, and Robert Allen, a consulting geologist from Ardmore and a close friend of Robert Newman, professor emeritus, East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma.

Allen and Newman hosted another AAPG September 30 field trip, “The Arbuckle Mountains As A Laboratory For Geological Education.” They took a group south along I-35 to quarries with rocks of every age, from pre-Cambrian to Permian. The geologists reportedly discussed the “three Fs: folding, faulting and fried pies.”

During his five days in Oklahoma City, Wells also met several top industry leaders and spoke to employees of the new oil and gas technology center of Baker Hughes, a GE Company (BHGE). He toured the center courtesy BHGE geologist Joan Bruns and Mike Ming, the general manager and former Oklahoma Secretary of Energy.

BHGE was created on July 3, 2017, when General Electric completed a buyout of Baker Hughes Inc. The combined company is the world’s second-largest oilfield service provider by revenue (behind Schlumberger), according to Fortune. BHGE built its Oklahoma City tech center above two specially drilled wells for on-going experiments. Scientists there are examing emerging oilfield digital technologies, including advancements in computed tomography core scans and 3-D printing. “Tomorrow’s Energy Company: A New Way of Doing Business” was the topic for October 2 luncheon speech by BHGE president and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli.

Another luncheon speaker leads a major petroleum company’s R&D program in shale gas and oil. Claudia Hackbarth, vice president of unconventional technology at Shell International Exploration and Production Inc. of Houston, also runs Shell TechWorks, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

mid-continent geology

A dozen poster presentations were among the 96 company, university, and professional organization exhibitors in the Cox Business Services Center.

On Oct. 3, Hackbarth spoke on “Innovation in Unconventional Resource Development: Data, Nano, Sensing, Trial and Error; And Good Old Fashioned Hard Work.”

Steve Wyett, a senior vice president at the Bank of Oklahoma, was the meeting’s opening day keynote speaker. He discussed “Oil Price Dynamics in a Changing

Among AAPG leadership attending the Mid-Continent Section Meeting was current national AAPG President Charles A. Sternbach, who updated members about current AAPG activities. He is an expert on the life of Amos Eaton, a pioneering New York State geologist who created geological maps based on the excavation of the Erie Canal in the 1820s.

A week earlier Sternbach attended the AAPG Easter Section Meeting in Morgantown, West Virginia, and presented “The Erie Canal’s 200th Anniversary and the Map that changed the New World – Pioneering Geology Mapmakers across the Atlantic.” It has been posted on YouTube: Charles Sternbach – Amos Eaton Maps the Erie Canal. On October 15, he would be giving the presidential address at the opening session of the 2017 AAPG International Conference & Exhibition in London.

The Oklahoma City meeting featured member awards, including the 2017 Robey H. Clark Award. The 2017 recipient was Ernie Morrison, “for his long time, dedicated service as a Councilor Member and as the President of the AAPG Mid-Continent Section.”


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website with a contribution today. For membership information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This