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Major Trends Within American Association of Petroleum Geologists at Its Centennial


American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) grew from a society of 123 members living mainly Oklahoma and Texas to a premier geological society with members in all 50 states and over 100 of foreign counties. AAPG and the energy industry grew from being largely in the United States to dozens of counties. AAPG has not only grown in size and spread out through world and membership diversity has increased from initial two class in 1920, active and associate, to seven classes by 1970 active, junior, associate, emeritus, student, life, and honorary. Life and honorary were added in 1930s for recognition of individuals who have a life time contributing greatly to the field of petroleum geology and/or AAPG. These two classes of membership were added by the early 1930s. AAPG added in 1950, the junior category later in 1966 added student category and lastly by 1970 emeritus category. The number of members of these different categories respond very differently to the ups and downs within the energy business.

The ups-and-downs of the energy industry impact AAPG membership. Membership grew between 1917-1931, 1939-1961, 1974-1985, and 2008-2013. The last two match closely eras of rapid increase in the real price of petroleum, 1973-1985 and 2007-2011. The only major decline in membership is between 1986-1995 occurred in response to real price collapse of petroleum, 70%, between 1985 and 1998.

Currently the Gulf Coast Section has the largest membership of all sections due to Texas having the largest number members for any state and Houston being by far home to the largest number of AAPG members among major cities in the oil patch. This has not always been the case. Early in AAPG history the largest number of members by section were in Mid-Continental section, by state in Oklahoma and by city in Tulsa.

Prior to mid-1980s oil price boom membership of AAPG and sister societies, Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) and Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) follow similar trend. The fall of real oil prices and exploitation of unconventional fields by directional drilling impacted these three societies very differently. In the 15 years after the mid 1980s oil price peak SPE membership barely decreased, 8%; SEG decreased 14% less than 32% decrease for AAPG. Membership of SPE more than tripled between 2000 and 2016 due to development of unconventional oil and gas fields while AAPG and SEG had small increases of membership of 33% and 58% respectively.