Where Education is Key

The American Association of Drilling Engineers
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

For over 40 years, the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE) has provided a valuable forum for sharing information about the oil and gas industry.

Since its founding in New Orleans back in 1978, the non-profit (IRS 501-6C) AADE has grown to 11 chapters across America. A strong, volunteer-led organization, the AADE serves to educate thousands of people in the sector, including students and former workers.

From its website with hundreds of archived papers presented at past Fluids Technical Conferences and National Technical Conferences, monthly chapter meetings, all-day forums, and regular newsletter updates, to the upcoming 2022 Fluids Technical Conference & Exhibition and more, members keep up with the latest technologies and industry developments in forums that are both informative and social.

“It’s a great way to be involved, learn things, and meet people, all while doing some fun activities as well as work,” says Mary Dimataris of membership in the Association. “I think it’s the best buy in the industry. You’re not asked to put out tons of money, but there’s a huge value that comes your way. We have a great knowledge base that’s continually growing, from technical papers to meeting people, and tapping into those resources.”

A veteran oil and gas industry consultant, Dimataris serves as Conference Technical Program Coordinator at the Houston Texas-headquartered AADE, and continues to play an important role in the Association. One of the driving factors in creating the AADE was to address the needs of people in the industry which were not being met by other associations, such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).

“It’s not that we wanted to compete, but we wanted to fill some gaps,” explains Dimataris. “And so, there has always been a very strong field engineering component to our membership, keeping people who’re out in the field in the loop of knowledge, providing the chance to share information, meet other like-minded people. Education, too – from students to your average field engineer and keeping them up to date – has always been a huge priority.”

Inclusive, not exclusive
One of the greatest strengths of the American Association of Drilling Engineers is its many volunteers. Knowledgeable and passionate about the industry, these volunteers have a key role to play in the Association’s success and growth.

As a drilling and completion engineering manager with ENI Petroleum US LLC, Jeff Bruton serves as one of the at-large directors and president of the national board of directors. Enthusiastic about the AADE’s role – freely sharing and disseminating drilling information – he says that wasn’t always the case before the Association’s founding.

“Back in the late eighties, it wasn’t a very free flow of information,” comments Bruton. “It was more specialized, and felt more exclusive. The AADE was set up to be a very inclusive organization, to share and disseminate information, and promote drilling technology and investment of drilling practices in the industry.”

Along with Mary Dimataris and Jeff Bruton, one of the biggest advocates of the American Association of Drilling Engineers is Ahmed S. Amer. Product line director for digital solutions at Newpark Fluids Systems, he is fluids management group vice-chairman and conference co-chair at the AADE.

Like many others on the committee, Amer volunteers with more than one organization, and is also active with the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

With chapters in New Orleans, Lafayette, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Rocky Mountain, West Coast (Bakersfield), the Permian Basin (Alaska), Anchorage, Mid-Continent (Oklahoma City -Tulsa), the Appalachian Basin (Coraopolis, PA) and Central Texas (San Antonio), membership in the AADE stands at about 3,000. The Association expects to see an increase this year as things slowly return to normal.

Best value in the industry
One of the many ways the AADE attracts and keeps people is through its extremely low membership rates. Known as one of the best value professional organizations in the oil and gas industry, reasonable annual dues bring in members who find the dues of other professional organizations, charging six to seven times more, exorbitant.

“With AADE, all technical publications and all the quarterly meetings and content are available for free online,” says Amer, “and all the quarterly events are free for members. You only pay for the conference.”

At the AADE, there are no limits to membership eligibility. While many members are active oil and gas workers, some are retired and want to keep-up with the latest industry developments.

Also popular with students in engineering and other disciplines, the AADE provides information on how to establish a student section, and offers school listings and links on its website.

A long-time advocate of women in the industry, (the first president of the Houston chapter was a woman), the AADE continues to take a leadership role, actively promoting membership to women. “We’ve definitely seen far more women entering, and it’s a wonderful thing,” says Dimataris. She says that the number of women joining regional chapters and attending national conferences has doubled in the last five years.

Upcoming Fluids Technical Conference & Exhibition
For months, the team at the American Association of Drilling Engineers has been working on the 2022 Fluids Technical Conference & Exhibition. Scheduled for April 19-20 of next year, attendance in person is encouraged, but the event will also have a hybrid virtual option of recorded presentations featuring recorded keynotes and certain topics available online.

Conferences alternate every other year between the Fluids Technical Conferences and National Technical Conferences. “Every other year, we have a fluids-centric or focused conference, as we are going to have in 2022,” says Bruton. “On the alternate years, we have a national tech conference.”

Whereas previous conferences have averaged about 700 in attendance, the 2022 event – to be held in Houston at the Marriott Marquis – will be limited to 450 delegates, with about 25 percent being university students. Expected to be sold-out, the Conference numbers are being limited for planning purposes. “If you miss that registration and we hit the maximum number of people that can attend, there is a virtual option available,” says Amer.

Presently working on keynote speakers, the AADE has put out a worldwide call for abstracts, and is looking at about 35 suggested topics. Once papers are received, the best will be selected, and grouped into categories which will become session topics for the Conference.

“We have a broader overview of the direction we would like the conference to take, which is the transition to greener drilling,” says Dimataris. “It’s an unwritten topic, but we think it’s a direction for innovation we would like to see.”

A popular event with students from first year to grads, the AADE is promoting the conference by contacting petroleum engineering departments, student sections, and announcing the University Student Poster Competition. Involving a poster, presentation, and now a recorded presentation, posters and presentations are due on April 1, 2022.

Working with different departments to pre-register students for the conference, it is not unusual for local universities to send buses of students to the event, which also has a scholarship portion. In previous years, some even flew in from the University of Alaska.

“We put a lot of energy into our student sessions,” says Bruton. “Our chapter members make an effort to get up there and interact with student sessions and support some of their activities.”

Respecting those who have dedicated years of their lives – if not their entire careers – to the sector, the Conference also features a Hall of Fame, which honors about five to six men and women, including those who have passed away.

Learning and growing
Open to industry workers, students, former oil and gas employees, retirees, and anyone with an interest in the sector, the American Association of Drilling Engineers continues to be an ideal place to learn and grow.

“It’s a great opportunity for those starting off in the industry, and for those looking to go from graduation and network into internships,” says Strategic Marketing Specialist Adelaide Nortier from AES Drilling Fluids, LLC.

“That’s a big selling point for a lot of our student sessions as well. They get a lot of those opportunities post-grads have with a bit of free time outside of their studies, to network and to use their chapters to get that experience ahead of the game. The AADE provides a lot of opportunity, room for growth, and networking.”



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