Mentoring, career achievements help Abegg earn alumni honor

David Kubarek
September 27, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In accepting the GEMS (Graduates of Earth and Mineral Sciences) Alumni Achievement Award, Rick Abegg thanked his parents — both educators — for instilling in him the drive to work hard while elevating those around him.

That’s precisely why Abegg, who balanced a successful and diverse career at Chevron with more than a decade of mentoring and service at Penn State, was honored with the award.

Abegg, who is leading exploration, geologic operations and geotechnical projects for Chevron in Pittsburgh, has numerous achievements in both categories.

He worked on three of the most productive oil and natural gas provinces in North America: the Permian Basin, the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and the Appalachian Basin of Pennsylvania. He was the exploration geologist for the Big Foot Oil Field discovery, which is considered the eighth biggest deepwater oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico.  

“It costs about $150 million to drill a deepwater exploration well,” Abegg said. “It’s very high profile, so there’s high rewards and high visibility. It’s situations like this that students shouldn’t shy away from. I teach them to embrace these opportunities and to grow from them.”

Abegg returned to Pennsylvania to be closer to his family and to gain experience in the unconventional resources of the Marcellus shale region, but the geologist found the work he did in the Gulf of Mexico to be the most challenging because of the limited geological data offshore and the complex geology created by salt deposits.

“The Gulf of Mexico is by far the most difficult geology I’ve had to work with, but it’s also the most fun,” Abegg said. “It’s a very challenging geologic problem, but those challenges also make it very rewarding.”

Abegg has been a mentor of junior professionals both at Chevron and in his long relationship with Penn State as a recruiter, champion of the Petroleum Geosystems Initiative, and GEMS board member for 12 years, serving as member, president and secretary. One of the strongest elements of his legacy is the energy he has invested in helping to develop the careers of younger colleagues.

Abegg’s contributions to the University and its students include serving on the Penn State Alumni Association Board, Geosciences Advisory Board and industry adviser for the highly successful Imperial Barrel Award team.

The Penn State Alumni Association selected Abegg as the 2016 winner of the Philip Philip Mitchell Alumni Service Award. Abegg is only the second EMS alumnus to receive this University-wide honor.

Joel Reed, former GEMS board past-president, said the board selected Abegg for his leadership and mentoring on many levels.

“Rick has made significant contribution to the college and received this recognition because he has engaged very effectively in multiple venues including department direction, alumni activities and student interaction,” Reed said. “His leadership prizes active engagement above all else and he leads through coaching and encouraging the volunteer members.”

After finding a career that he loves, Abegg said mentoring lets him help others do the same. He credits the GEMS board with allowing him to make and continue these connections. For students, he knows he can provide a unique industry perspective to help them decide if a career in the petroleum and natural gas industry is something that’s right for them.

“One of the reasons I come back here is to help students understand what we do,” Abegg said. “They may say ‘that’s not for me.’ And others will say that ‘sounds really interesting.’ As an alum, I want to come back and provide a different perspective besides the academic world.”

Abegg said he tells students to reach out of their comfort zones in search of what they love. And to challenge themselves.

“People need to push themselves to become more than what they think they can become,” Abegg said. “Every time I’ve accepted a challenge and pushed myself out of my comfort zone I’ve grown and gotten better.”

Abegg earned his bachelor of science degree in Earth science from Penn State in 1983, a master’s degree in geology from Southern Illinois University and a doctorate in geology from the University of Kansas. His dissertation research was published in SEPM Special Publication 71 and Abegg was the lead editor of this book. Abegg also served for nearly a decade as an associate editor of the AAPG Bulletin.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 15, 2018