The Energy Minerals Division celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2002. The Division emphasized to the AAPG membership that it was AAPG’s center of activity on energy minerals and unconventional energy resources. EMD originally focused primarily on coal, uranium (nuclear minerals), geothermal energy, oil shales, and tar sands. However, its focused expanded and in 2002, EMD’s most active unconventional resource areas were coalbed methane, gas hydrates, and unconventional energy economics.
Since its inception, EMD membership remained relatively constant, averaging approximately 1,700 members (active, plus associates, and students), which was very close to the EMD membership in 2002. Although the number of active members dropped below 750 in early 2001, this number bounced back up in 2002 with 830 active members and EMD launched direct communications with AAPG members by e-mail blasts designed to increase memberships.
It was noted that one of the biggest changes in EMD membership over those years were the number of international members. International membership grew from about 8 percent in 1979 to nearly 24 percent in 2002, and EMD had members in 63 countries.
Shale Gas Revolution
The EMD created the Gas Shale Committee in 2004. Also that year, the Division moved its website to the AAPG website and included a members-only section that housed the annual and mid-year leadership meeting reports and commodity bibliographies, web links and calendars for all EMD members to see.
During the next five years, membership numbers fluctuated in response to changing oil and gas prices, but EMD continued to offer technical reports and support to AAPG annual and sectional meetings.
In 2008, AAPG President Scott Tinker requested that renewable energy be included in EMD’s purview and the EMD Executive Committee discussed forming solar, wind, and biofuels committees to meet this request. During the EMD mid-year meeting in November, Brian Cardott recommended one inclusive committee be formed called the “Renewable Energy Committee” containing sub-committees of the various forms of potential renewable energy resources, which was supported by several members, and Mike Wiley suggested hydropower be included. Creties Jenkins requested a motion to form the EMD Renewable Energy Committee, which was approved by the Executive Committee and reported to the AAPG Executive Committee by EMD President Creties Jenkins.
The following year, as part of EMD’s renewed efforts to improve cooperation between the EMD, the Division of Environmental Geosciences, the Division of Professional Affairs and AAPG Committees, the executive committees of all four groups held a joint meeting in Houston.
In attendance were:
- EMD President Frank E. Walles, past President Creties Jenkins and President-elect Michael D. Campbell
- DEG President Michael Jenkins, past President Rebecca Dodge and President-elect Mary Kay Harris
- DPA President Paul W. Britt
- AAPG Executive Director Rick Fritz
The main topic under discussion was how the three AAPG Divisions and AAPG could work together to develop more joint activities, such as sessions, workshops and short courses. One of the action items was that DEG and DPA were interested in becoming part of the Renewable Energy Committee, with co-chairs to handle matters related to the respective interests of EMD and DEG. They voted unanimously to create a joint Renewable Energy Committee on July 22, 2009.
By the end of 2009, total EMD membership had fallen to about 1,600, due largely to the slump in AAPG membership resulting from declining oil and gas prices. Under the leadership of presidents Creties Jenkins and Frank Walles, and with the encouragement of past presidents and commodity chairs (Mike Wiley, Michael Campbell, Bill Ambrose, Brian Cardott and others), new plans were under development to popularize EMD technical products such as EMD special papers, memoirs, annual and mid-year reports with all AAPG members.
As the oil and gas prices slowly improved, so did AAPG’s membership. The membership increase was largely driven by the increased interest in U.S. shale plays in new areas outside of the established Barnett Shale play in the Fort Worth Basin, Texas. Soon “boom” conditions sprang up in North Dakota (Bakken), Texas (Eagle Ford), Pennsylvania (Marcellus) and Colorado (Niobrara). Success with horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States increased interest in untested basins around the world, including Canada, Argentina and China.
The EMD Shale Gas and Liquids Committee, renamed in 2013 from the “Gas Shale Committee,” was becoming widely known for its state-of-the-science annual and mid-year reports; by association, the other commodity reports and special publications offered by EMD were also becoming popular with AAPG membership.
During the period 2009-10, EMD made the decision to make available all annual and mid-year commodity reports to AAPG members and the general public through the EMD webpage. This allowed EMD to not only meet its primary obligation to the AAPG of informing membership on the technical developments in unconventional and alternative energy resources, but also to advising the general public of these developments and of the state-of-the-science of competing energy resources as well.
Changes were also under way in AAPG during this period.
The main AAPG website was redesigned to incorporate the DPA, DEG and EMD, which meant that the divisions’ websites were all being consolidated within the main AAPG website. This allowed membership greater access to division activities, available publications, and associated reports.
Sensing the new popularity of EMD reports, EMD decided to develop new procedures to simplify membership sign-up by eliminating the EMD $20 membership fee and creating easy access to EMD reports and publications. After questioning AAPG membership, the EMD Executive Committee decided to enlist the support of the governing AAPG Executive Committee to eliminate the EMD membership fee. This was proposed for the sole purpose of introducing more AAPG members to the technical products of the EMD like commodity reports, short courses and field trips without the impediment of having to pay both AAPG and EMD annual dues.
After a period of intense discussions with the AAPG Executive Committee, the “no dues” feature was approved and announced in March of 2010.
In the meantime, as EMD president from 2010-11, I took on the task of designing and implementing the new EMD membership procedures for membership sign-up with input from the EMD Executive Committee and associated commodity and other committee leadership. These efforts became part of the AAPG website redesign and were announced at the annual meeting. We replaced the EMD newsletter with the new EMD webpages section within the AAPG website, and we combined the positions of treasurer and secretary in 2017, now that dues were no longer collected.
A sweeping new emphasis was placed on the nine commodity committees and the Energy Economics and Technology and Renewable Energy Committees. By the end of 2011, EMD membership increased significantly, driven by new student and associate members.
The Year of Publications
As reported by Publications Committee Chair Jack Pashin, 2013 was a very important year for EMD publications:
- Alex Papp supported a new version of the “Atlas of Coal Geology (AAPG Studies in Geology 42)” from design through publication.
- A landmark work on oil sands was edited by EMD’s past President Fran Hein and others and released as “AAPG Studies in Geology 64.”
- A study on gas hydrates was published with The Geological Society of London, Special Publication No. 319.
- AAPG’s Astrogeology Committee and EMD Memoir 101, “Energy Resources for Human Settlement in the Solar Systems and Earth’s Future in Space” was released.
- The Geological Society of London Special Publication No. 356 on “Martian Geomorphology.”
Other AAPG publications that were in the pipeline or released by 2013 related to EMD unconventional resource topics include AAPG Memoirs: 93, 97, 102, 103, 105, 107, 110 and 112.
Although these memoirs were not directly initiated by the EMD Publications Committee, the proliferation of shale gas and tight oil related publications is a reflection of EMD’s success in promoting the education and science of unconventional and alternate energy resources.
Since the changes during 2010 and 2011, EMD continues to produce the annual and mid-year commodity committees reports and the biannual commodity review in the Journal of Natural Resources Research. EMD also continues to promote technical sessions, short courses and field trips related to unconventional and alternate energy resources for the AAPG Annual Conference and Exhibition and the International Conference and Exhibition meetings.
The Past Five Years
In recent years, the Division has redoubled its efforts to engage students and the public to educate them on the merits and need for a combination of unconventional and alternate energy resources that will be require the continued efforts of geologists to meet a sustainable energy future with the projected growth in world-wide energy demand. Promoting a sustainable future with a mix of environmentally responsible energy resources will require the continued efforts of geologists and related subfields of geophysics, geochemistry, hydrogeology, working together in industry, academia and government partnerships to support associated research and publications. EMD also encourages its members to publish their research, and continues to explore new outlets to deliver online content in the classical and new open-access international technical journals.
Acknowledgements: The author thanks Ruffin I. Rackley, Samuel A. Friedman, Jack Pashin and especially Wayne Camp and Brian Cardott for their suggestions and input on this article.
(See previous month’s EXPLORER for Part 1.)