A Brief History of SPE
The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) was officially founded in 1957, but its roots date back to the 19th century. A group of mining engineers in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., formed the American Institute of Mining Engineers (AIME) to “promote the arts and sciences connected with the economic production of the useful minerals and metals and the welfare of those employed in these industries by all lawful means.” Although founded well before petroleum achieved importance as the world’s principal source of energy, AIME provided an organization through which the application of engineering to the recovery of petroleum and natural gas could be applied.
As technical expertise grew and specialization became necessary, AIME’s membership began to reflect the trends of the early 1900s. This evolution sparked an adaptation to its structure and operation to meet the new technologies and changing needs of its members. In 1919, AIME combined with the American Institute of Metals to become the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers.
The 1901 Spindletop discovery and subsequent events of the decade emphasized the need to apply engineering principles in the development and production of petroleum resources. Anthony F. Lucas, Everette L. DeGolyer, and other leaders in the early oil and gas industry envisioned an organization within AIME that would be the professional society for petroleum engineers and the advancement of petroleum technology. In 1922, their vision led to the expansion of AIME’s Oil and Gas Committee to the Petroleum Division of AIME, with some 900 petroleum members.
The Petroleum Division’s membership had grown to approximately 2,300 by 1945. In 1948, the Petroleum Branch emerged as one of three major, semi-autonomous units within AIME. Petroleum Branch membership grew with the industry, from about 3,700 members in 1950 to about 12,500 in 1957, when the Petroleum Branch emerged as the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) of AIME. SPE incorporated separately from AIME in 1985.
As oil and gas exploration evolved into a truly global industry, SPE’s members, programs, and activities kept pace. SPE commissioned a blue-ribbon panel in the early 1970s to develop the Society’s first-ever Long Range Plan. The result was a clear road map that would make SPE a true international association of members.
Today, SPE annually organizes more than 50 events around the world devoted to technical information exchange in the upstream oil and gas industry. SPE’s publications, distinguished for their technical reliability, include the monthly Journal of Petroleum Technology (JPT); a suite of peer-reviewed, discipline-centered journals; books written by the industry’s most honored professionals; and an online, 35,000-paper library.
With more than 55,000 members in 100 countries, SPE is the pre-eminent international technical and professional association for engineers and the management of energy resources produced through wellbores.