Who certifies the certifiers?

Both the AAPG and SPE have proposed separate certification programs for reserve evaluators.

There has been a recent flurry of activity from the learned societies to certify their membership. In the left corner, the The American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers (SPEE) are responding to ‘concerns over recent petroleum reserves write-downs’ are ‘deliberating on a program to certify reserves evaluators’. In the right corner, a task force from the Society of Petroleum Engineers has recommended that the Society establishes a ‘Petroleum Professional Certification’ system.


Heading up the AAPG initiative is Dan Tearpock of Suburface Consulting and Associates (SCA) who observed, ‘In the US and globally, reserves are not audited by independent accountants and are not estimated by evaluators that have to meet any formal standards. This problem is international in scope.’ Regulators, Congress and investors have called for reforms in reserve estimates and reporting.

Lack of standards

The AAPG Division of Professional Affairs has found a lack of standards in definitions and recommended practices and training for reserves estimating and reporting. A joint AAPG and SPEE committee is investigating ‘qualifications, recommended practices, reserves definitions, certification and ethics’.


The new SPE president, Giovanni Paccaloni, writing in the May issue of the Journal of Petroleum Technology, reveals that the SPE too is recommending a professional certification program for its membership. The SPE is exploring the opportunity to ‘verify professionalism’ through a certification program. A pilot program will be conducted in Abu Dhabi early next year.


On the notice boards, the reserves definition discussion rolls on in a manner reminiscent of medieval theologians discussing the number of angels that can reside on the head of a pin. Postings proliferate on the meaning of ‘proved,’ ‘reserves,’ P90 etc. The two certification initiatives may liven up the debate with the possibility of separate ‘geological’ and ‘engineering’ classifications and certified classifiers!

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