Change is in the air. How will we choose to deal with it? We make choices every day, in our project work, our investments and our lifestyles. With so much in play, how do we select the right options? This challenge is particularly appropriate to discuss within the Energy Minerals Division, since our members are those in the AAPG who look beyond the conventional, the everyday and the familiar. We focus on opportunities outside of those in the traditional oil field to provide efficient and economic energy resources to the world.
Our annual meeting in San Antonio, led by past EMD President Wayne Camp, was a beehive of activity. More than two dozen reports by officers, councilors and committee chairs were summarized during the discussion and can now be found on the AAPG website. Conversations ahead of and after the meeting, as well as side buzz, complemented the official discussion. Our leadership table was filled to capacity and overseas members and absent friends called in by phone. The energy was palpable and the meeting expanded to fill the available time and more.
Change is in the air, and we are embracing it.
A Cauldron of Choices
From liquefied natural gas and carbon capture, utilization and storage in Australia, to drilled-but-uncompleted wells in the Permian, to our new Critical Minerals Committee’s focus on the battery supply chain, to hydrates and web hits and small modular nuclear reactors – we covered it all. Jeremy Platt, our co-chair of the EMD’s Energy Economics and Technology Committee, captured the evolving atmosphere by the theme “unease at the top” in his fascinating and in-depth report on revolution in the energy industry over the past two years. He discussed ever-increasing U.S. oil and gas production under the burden of price ceilings and escalating debt; and characterized the coming climate crisis with phrases such as a “magnifying social agenda” and the “crescendo of rising aspirations.” And, he described the proposed political and technological solutions as a “cauldron of choices.”
Well, fellow explorers, that sounds like code for a landscape filled with new opportunities to which we can apply our geological skills honed over years in the petroleum business. A “cauldron of choices?” That’s just an energy portfolio hungry to be analyzed for economics, risk and reward. Let’s get to work.
My only regret about our leadership meeting was that the discussion was limited to a few dozen AAPG members. I used my reporting time as president-elect to lay out a business plan for 2019-20, which focuses on getting the word out. Our annual reports are archived on the Web, of course, but their true value lies in real-time discussion with the authors and committee members who did the research. Their perspectives are unique and valuable. In the coming year, EMD members (join us – it’s free!) will be sharing information on Facebook, LinkedIn, and especially on AAPG’s open publications service, Search and Discovery. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to any of our leaders if this sounds interesting to you and you’d like to participate. Our councilors and committees are already hard at work scheduling EMD-led sessions at regional and sectional meetings.
For ACE 2020 in Houston, check out Theme 9: “Expanding Energy Frontiers,” which is described as representing “the domain of greatest uncertainty faced by the energy industry – where to invest long term, what disruptions may await, what technologies may be truly transformational, how will energy systems and minerals be coupled in the future?” We’ll have sessions on hydrates, critical minerals, geothermal, helium and much more. We also have sessions planned in collaboration with the Division of Environmental Geosciences on carbon capture, utilization and storage, and with the Astrogeology Committee on lunar resources and Mars habitation. EMD is leading the charge in unconventional exploration by seeking papers on machine learning in resource plays and global frontier shale basins.
Change Brings Opportunity
We’ll happily tackle the tough topics, as they can be the gateways to new ideas and opportunities. At the end of our business plan discussion in San Antonio, we reviewed the recommended statement from the member-led ad hoc Committee on Climate Change, and discussed how the rising tide of renewable energy coupled with rapidly decreasing technology costs is driving the market for critical mineral exploration to meet storage demands. As the economic imperative for clean energy grows, we will be ready with ideas for greening the oil field and applications of subsurface geoscience to the search for new energy resources. We are ready for a robust discussion of the ongoing energy transition. Nowhere is it better exemplified that change brings opportunity than here at EMD.
Change is upon us, but we are explorers. We’ll search for new sources of natural gas to lighten the fuel mixture, help develop gas-to-liquids, and charge into carbon capture, utilization and storage, which will draw on our considerable subsurface expertise more and more as time goes by. Change is inevitable, productive, hopeful, energizing and life-bringing. Change is coming to our profession, and we love a challenge. We thrive on the bleeding edge of geoscience frontiers.
But, some things will stay the same. To quote a colleague in the battery tech industry, “Everything comes from the ground.” It’s no matter whether we are evaluating oil and gas, or lithium, or even silicon to make solar panels. The rocks and fluids won’t change how they form and deform, but we can improve how we search for and extract surface and subsurface energy resources to minimize both cost and environmental impact. As exploration geologists and EMD members, we can use the tools and talents gained from a century of exploring the subsurface to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Embrace change – it’s what we do.