The world may be running out of oil-after all, "they" aren't making any more of it, just as they aren't making any more land-but the petroleum industry is fighting the trend every step of the way. Not with tooth and nail, but certainly with 3-D glasses and computer imaging or visualization. My recent oil-patch travels illuminated several points about this increasingly critical issue. First, I visited Anadarko Petroleum's new custom-built, 30-story headquarters north of Houston, during that company's annual in-house technology conference. On the third and last day of the event, the company was host to 21 department chairs in engineering or geology from all the big-name universities from which it recruits. They, and 400 employees, came to see some 165 poster sessions, 14 panel discussions and employee presentations-a home-grown SPE-AAPG conference. Anadarko is still serious about exploration-don't let the recent slowdown in its drilling fool you. The new building has eight 3-D visualization or immersion labs, including one called the Idea Theatre, which seats 60. It uses Landmark Graphics' Earth Cube, Magic Earth's 3-D system, and several other systems. These labs are occupied 50% to 75% of the 64 hours available a week. That's some brainpower. Next, I was privileged to address about 400 Shell Oil Co. geoscientists from around the world in New Orleans for their annual integrated subsurface conference. Another mini-AAPG. Several hundred poster displays lined the lobby, based on 295 abstracts submitted by Shell employees. Again, that's some brainpower. Afterward, a young geologist approached with a revealing question. He had been in the business only five years or so, and was worried about his career. Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time, in light of the world's declining oil and gas production? No, I told him, he was in the right place at the right time. Shell, or any other energy company, will need his ideas more and more as time goes by. Finally, I had the opportunity to moderate a discussion between four high-level industry experts appearing in Odessa at the University of Texas at the Permian Basin, at a leadership forum attended by 600 students, oil industry people and the community. The topic: Is the world running out of oil? They debated when the global industry's maturity will begin to affect oil and gas prices, wellhead economics, consumer spending habits and lifestyles. No one knows. But there are experts who claim that non-OPEC oil production will peak by 2010-surging production off West Africa notwithstanding-and OPEC production will peak by 2015. Even as more technology is applied, and estimated ultimate recoveries are greater than we now expect, the date is 2019. And what of gas? Global gas production will peak by 2020, they postulate. "We ran out of $2 oil many years ago. Then we ran out of $10 oil. And now, we are running out of $20 oil," said Henry Groppe, founder of Groppe, Long & Littell, at the UTPB forum. "No initiative put in place starting today can have a substantial affect on the peak year," said Kenneth Deffeyes, recently retired Princeton University professor. "No Caspian Sea, no SUV replacements...[can reverse the tide]." He was a colleague of M. King Hubbert at Shell for years and is the author of Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. It was an independent, Jim Henry of Henry Petroleum in Midland, who suggested I participate in the UTPB event. That same week, he was hosting several Chinese oilme had journeyed to West Texas to learn from the Applied Petroleum Technology Academy. APTA is based in Midland and Odessa with cooperation and input from Midland College, Odessa College, UTPB, and Northwest Texas International Trade Center in Lubbock. Local oil companies provide hands-on training. The point is to share what has been learned in the past 50 years in the Permian Basin, the oil-saturated home to the most CO2 projects in the world, and long a leader in waterflood activity for enhanced oil recovery. This is just the kind of brainpower China, and many other countries, will need as their own oil fields mature. The industry can and will prolong the inevitable, but at what cost? And how long will the tail end of production last? Fine minds all over the world are engaged in this process, for the survival of their companies. Until technology is able to provide us an economic, plentiful alternative fuel on demand, oil and gas are it. By the way, two heads are better than one. As you seek connections in this business, note that the new, expanded edition of Hart's Gulf States Petroleum Directory is now available. It is full of brainpower: 13,000 company listings in the region, plus more in the Permian Basin and Oklahoma, for a total of 35,000 names. Just call us or contact