“When you think about the future of energy in the year 2025, seven years from now, I see ______?”
This was one of the digital interactive questions asked at the Energy Transitions Forum in Amsterdam last month. The answers from a room of energy professionals were telling: diversity, renewables, energy, change, hybrid, oil, gas.
The Forum addressed how companies and geoscientists can broaden their roles for energy transitions that can include a lower-carbon future. The concept for the ETF originated with the AAPG Europe Region leadership and was realized under the leadership of Max Brouwers, Shell’s vice president for exploration in Europe, Russia and the Caspian, a diverse committee of high-level energy experts, an enterprising shadow committee of young professionals and students, and the organizational excellence of Val-Johnston Jones and Marta Diaz of AAPG’s Europe Region office.
The two-day Forum set a new standard for interactive conference communication. In addition to the opening questions with real time projected digital responses, speaker-participant interaction was encouraged with panel Q&As, strategic networking breaks, in-depth exploration of topics through café sessions, thought-provoking TED-style talks, and an IBM Design Thinking work session to crowdsource questions and answers about the energy transition.
The Future of Energy
The dynamic speakers for the plenary session opened the energy transition dialogue. With unbridled enthusiasm, Christiana Figueres of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change delivered a message of responsible lower-carbon energy development, followed by Lucia van Geuns of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, who provided a pragmatic view on the role fossil fuels will continue to play in sustainable energy solutions.
Ivo Bozon of McKinsey and Com pany brought a global management company perspective. He noted that when economics and society come together to change to lower-carbon energy at scale, we will be at a tipping point for energy solutions. Ashild Larsen, chief information officer of Equinor, concluded the session with the memorable advice, “The game to transform the energy industry is on, the opportunity is at the intersection of people and technology.”
The afternoon session on sustainable development balanced speakers who addressed how oil and natural gas, continued exploration, and carbon utilization and sequestration are fundamental to the energy equation with speakers who addressed alternate energy, harnessing energy from transport and energy efficiency. Iain Stewart, professor of geoscience communication at Plymouth University and a geoscience popularizer and presenter for a number of BBC television shows (as well as AAPG’s 2014 Geosciences in the Media Award recipient), who later would give a TED-style talk on “New Skillset, New Skill Pipelines,” weighed in on the importance of the petroleum industry embracing sustainable development (aapg.to/RockStarCool).
Day 1 ended with café sessions that encouraged participants to explore energy options on topics including: sustainable minerals and materials solutions, lithium, combined geothermal and hydrocarbon developments, and carbon capture, utilization and storage. AAPG Members and conference participants John Kaldi and Susan Landon were invited to add geoscience perspectives to the CCUS and sustainable development café sessions, respectively.
Day 2 brought perspectives on digitalization from data-savvy companies outside the petroleum industry, young professionals, and students.
Luq Niazi of IBM addressed how geoscientists have a history managing Big Data with an innovative mindset and are uniquely positioned to “explore” and adopt new technology for emerging challenges. He illustrated the value of IBM’s cognitive analytics and the power of artificial intelligence to analyze geoscience documents with a shale sweet spot example that had 90-percent accuracy.
Arno van den Haak of Amazon Web Services presented a disruptive view on the petroleum industry where data is the natural resource. For the petroleum industry, AWS can use its machine learning to automatically enhance incomplete datasets based on known data and their high-performance computing to run reservoir models in real time. Imagine: “Alexa – using today’s production data in the Version 2 reservoir model, what change in production will occur if CO2 injection is increased by 10 percent in the No. 1 pilot well?”
Lindsey Lomas of Schlumberger summed up digitalization from an insider’s point of view: “Technology is not going to replace geoscientists – it lets us focus on the less obvious and more impactful interpretation.”
Next Generation Geoscientists
The Young Professionals and Student Panel highlighted the reality of digitalization in the petroleum industry. This is the group that grew up with technology, and their career choices will be based on how digitalization will affect them. They all recommended students take a data science or machine learning course.
Adam McCarthy of Equinor, called out professionals of all levels from CEO down to “get trust in the space to use digitalization.” Erik Sens of Shell, noted that locating and connecting databases is important and will drive collaboration. Olivia Lewis of Schlumberger agreed with the need to collaborate and, as a reservoir modeler, to work on improvements in visualization.
Student Sharinia Kangandran, was perhaps the most insightful, whose thesis at Imperial College is on machine learning for facies classification in carbonate cores. Her baseline work illustrated the interpretation inconsistencies from experienced geoscientists. When the baseline was defined, machine learning had an 89-percent identification accuracy. After the panel, Sharinia was offered interviews from three companies at the Forum!
Design Thinking Session
One of the most relevant sessions for AAPG was the IBM Design Thinking Session facilitated by the YP Shadow Committee. Participants divided into groups and worked through the process to provide creative and innovative solutions to questions. Two groups addressed the challenge: “Design a better way for graduates to improve the image of the geoscience profession within the wider society.”
The YP’s and students came up with two very different ideas to address petroleum geoscience:
- Crowdsource a startup oil and gas company responsible for all the CO2 byproduct associated with the hydrocarbons produced.
- Produce a reality show to demonstrate the good works of the petroleum industry.
AAPG’s Sustainable Development Ad Hoc Committee agrees with the fundamental concepts of these ideas and will be working to communicate the geoscience of CCUS projects and examples of the health, environmental and social responsibility projects of the petroleum industry.
What Sustains You?
What sustains me this month is the more than 400 students, 16 recruiting companies and many dedicated AAPG members at the AAPG Student Expo in Houston last month. The depth and breadth of global geoscience talent seeking to work in the petroleum industry is uplifting. Thank you Shushanta Bose, Expo chair; Martha Lou Broussard, honorary co-chair; Jacob Siegel, vice chair, and all the members of the Student Expo Committee for an outstanding job. Students, if you didn’t get the interview you hoped for, broaden your resume to include data science and your search to include companies like Amazon Web Services, GE, Google and IBM.
On a personal note, I want to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the three geoscientists, Henry Martínez, Laura Flórez and Camilo Tirado, who were killed while doing field work in northern Colombia. I met Henry at the recent AAPG Latin America and Caribbean Region Student and Young Professional Leadership Summit in Bogotá. He was a natural leader and eager to take on the challenges of exploring for resources for energy solutions. Your time with us was short, but your impact on our lives great. Henry, your memory sustains me.