For Shell Production Geologist Patricio Desjardins, a field trip last summer to the southern Canadian Rockies was like visiting the Holy Grail of geology. The Burgess Shale fossils have been called the world’s most significant fossil discovery, mainly because of their age, their diversity and the incredible detail of their preservation.
Young Professionals Group Promotes Learning, Collaboration
Studying rock formations in a textbook or seismic on a computer screen is one thing, actually touching an outcrop of fossils millions of years old is quite another.
“Most of the time, we are working with seismic data or electric logs and we don’t actually see the rocks. When you go and touch the rocks and see what they are, this is the best way to help you understand geology and puts things into perspective. The more outcrops we see, the better we understand the subsurface,” Desjardins says.
Desjardins is part of a group of young Shell geoscientists who travel North America each year to study various outcrops, building their geologic expertise and collaborating with peers across the company. The group of new technical professionals (NTPs) in Exploration study some of North America’s most famous geological formations to not only learn more about the geology, but also about each other and the roles they play in finding new oil and gas discoveries.
Shell’s NTP program began in 2006 as an effort to train and connect the new Exploration geologists and geophysicists across the Americas Region. “Gaining a better understanding of what your colleagues are doing and how they use the data in their jobs makes for a more effective, integrated team environment,” says Denise Butler, who started the group as Upstream Americas Exploration discipline lead.
The NTPs, located mainly in Houston, Calgary and Rio, meet quarterly to network. They also host a yearly internal technical conference – the New Explorers Expo – and support Shell’s summer intern program. The NTP field trip to various geological areas of interest is the highlight of the year.
Butler led the first NTP field trip in 2006 to Galveston, Texas, with a small group of nine geologists. Other trips have taken the young explorers to the Calgary foothills area, California’s deep water turbidities and geological formations in New Mexico, Utah and the Nova Scotia coast.
Most recently, a group of 27 traveled to the southern Canadian Rockies to view one of the most famous outcrops in the world – the Burgess Shale. “It’s a very important outcrop that shows the explosion of marine life during the Cambrian time period ~505 MYA.
In the lower section of the outcrop, you see no evidence of life, then there is an unconformity – an erosional surface on the rock – and the overlying formation is packed full of marine fossils. It’s something you have to see to believe,” says Butler, now a senior staff geologist with the New Ventures Basin Evaluation team.
“I think many of us go into geology or geophysics because of this type of trip,” notes Exploration Geologist Robynn Dicks. “We got to know the rocks first and that’s where we really fell in love with the science. It’s nice to be able to relate the wiggles we see on our screens into actual rocks in real life and what we’re seeing on the ground.”
Butler says the NTP Program is an example of Shell’s commitment to training its new graduates to become better scientists and future leaders by promoting learning and collaboration.
“As geologists and geophysicists, we work in multi-disciplinary teams. Understanding the other disciplines helps to produce a more accurate and integrated work product.”
Geophysicist Vicente Oropeza Bacci appreciates the training Shell provides its new technical professionals early on. “You’re learning a lot and there’s support from people with more experience, so you feel integrated from the beginning."
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