URTeC 2017 at Austin

Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC), 2017 at Austin

The 2017 Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) was held at the Austin Conference Center, Austin, Texas from July 24 to 26. It is an event sponsored by SPE, AAPG and SEG, together with some other leading professional organizations. Known for its collaborative programs, the Conference was attended by over 3300 people (preregistration number was 3252). Looks like this number has come down from the inaugural event put up at Denver in 2013, with 4300+ attendees. It was probably close to the 3500 mark in 2014 and 2015, but the attendance was the lowest (2500+) last year. So, it picked up since this year.

Travel to Austin was via Houston. So, I boarded the Calgary-Houston United Airlines flight on a bright Sunday afternoon and the four-hour flight was smooth, though the weather close to Houston was somewhat cloudy. Our stop over at Houston was supposed to for one-and-a-half hour long, but the crew members were coming from another United flight from San Francisco, which arrived late. Consequently, we got late reaching Austin, and it was close to 11 pm by the time we reached our hotel (Hyatt Place), close to the Austin Convention Center.

As both me and my colleague Mike were hungry, we asked at the hotel reception if any restaurant would be open. They checked, but nothing was open at that late hour, which was not surprising considering it was Sunday late night. Fortunately, a girl at the reception told us that we could check at Rainey Street, as the street remains active till late. The street was four blocks away from the hotel, as we set out to get ourselves a late dinner. Mike had his google map app open, and so we reached Rainey Street without much problem. Sure, the girl at the hotel had given us good advice; the street was lit up and alive with youngsters enjoying themselves with music and food and drinks. We found an Indian restaurant called GRaj Mahal, and had our dinner there.

The following day was the beginning of the Conference. The Plenary session on Monday morning (July 24th) set the stage for the Conference, where the speakers addressed the theme ‘Defying world expectation by doing more with less’. There were several panel and topical sessions on all three days addressing a range of topics, and these were in addition to the technical sessions again organized topic-wise. I was scheduled to give a talk at the “GeoForum’, an event organized by our company (TGS) for our clients at 3 pm. Other than this, I did not have any technical talk my attendance at this Conference was not planned earlier enough. However, it was a good change for me, to just be attending other talks there.

There were two interesting sessions on seismic attributes and rock physics and how they clarify geology. Both sessions were good, with some informative talks and eloquent speakers.

On our return journey, we came via Denver. The flight captain had cautioned us at Austin itself that Denver was experiencing some thunderstorms, but probably by the time we reached there the weather front had moved north. But when we were about an hour away from Denver, we encountered clouds at our flying height of 42000 ft. It was turbulent going through that patch, and it lasted for about 10 minutes. It was rather uneasy passing through it. When we reached closer to Denver, it was cloudy, but fortunately no thunderstorms.

Getting out of Denver on our Calgary flight was another unpleasant experience. The flight was excessively bumpy. The weather to the north of Denver was bad, and so the traffic control advised the pilot of our plane to first fly west and then turn north, to bypass the bad weather. Despite doing that, with the clouds reaching up to 36,000 ft. it was turbulent up there. All through our way to Calgary, there was a constant cloud cover beneath us. Somewhat strange though, we saw only thin scattered clouds in the Calgary area, and our landing was smooth.

As I had an aisle seat on both my return flights, I could not click pictures. But it was good to be back home after 3 days.