The AAPG Gulf Coast Section, also known as the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, presented a radical change from past conventions by delivering innovative sessions and speakers on alternative energy, including hydrogen storage, geothermal energy and underground carbon capture and sequestration. The program also provided research data and large-scale studies of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas. The 71st Annual GCAGS Convention was a memorable event, held Oct. 27-29 at the Renaissance Hotel on the west side of Austin, a few miles from the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology headquarters. GeoGulf is hosted by the Austin Geological Society and cohosted by the GCSSEPM.
“I think it was important and timely to have the GeoGulf ‘21 in-person this year in Austin and provide a forum where Gulf Coast geoscientists can meet and greet,” said GCAGS President Mark Shuster, who is also the deputy director of the BEG Energy Division. “We have seen changes in the oil and gas industry reflecting ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance). Companies large and small are developing new businesses in carbon storage, water management, hydrogen and critical minerals. There is a newfound appreciation for accurate geological characterizations in shale gas and tight resources.”
Thanks to the Organizers
Key conference organizers include Brent Elliott, director of surface mining and reclamation for the Texas Railroad Commission, who served as general chair of GeoGulf ’21; and Toti Larson, BEG researcher, who shepherded the complex technical program of 17 sessions as the technical chair. The group acknowledges the contribution of GCSSEPM President Nathan D. Wilkins and SEPM members.
“The GeoGulf ‘21 program was different from past years because we specifically brought in geoscientists with a broad range of specialties across geoscience disciplines, including onshore and offshore oil and gas geothermal, carbon capture, critical minerals, induced seismic events and rising sea level hazards,” commented Larson.
Attendees heard – probably for the first time – new information on Texas hydrogen storage. At present, the United States has three subsurface hydrogen storage facilities with capacity for industrial usage. All three are located in salt caverns in southeastern Texas along the Gulf Coast.
The State of Texas Advanced Resource Recovery Program, headed by Principal Investigator Lorena Moscardelli, presented scientific contributions on conventional and unconventional reservoirs. The STARR Program is a series of regional projects investigating the shale gas development and shale oil in Texas. STARR keeps BEG staff Kelly Hattori, Bill Ambrose and Bob Loucks busy at BEG’S newly renovated Austin Core Research Center. The 2021 GCAGS Transactions Volume was dedicated to Robert (Bob) Loucks.
Popular technical sessions included “Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage,” hosted by Chai Fu, and “Revitalizing Gulf Coast Conventional Plays, New Infrastructure-led Exploration Strategies,” chaired by Nathan Tinker. Other mind-expanding topic included talks on finding rare earth elements and assessing lithium enrichment and extraction from oil field brines.
Onsite highlights included a humorous but insightful luncheon talk by hometown hero Scott Tinker, AAPG past president, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, co-producer of various renowned documentaries and the founder of Switch Energy Alliance. The audience applauded his interactive slide show, “A Truly Clean Global Energy Transition.”
AAPG President Gretchen Gillis delivered a featured luncheon talk, “Same As It Never Was: Navigating Accelerating Change with a Little Help from AAPG.”
One of the most spirited panel discussions, chaired by Bill DeMis, was entitled, “Economics and Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) of Unconventional Plays.” It featured in-person commentators Allen Gilmer of Enverus and Randy Dolan of TRP Energy. Chris Wright of Liberty Oil Field Services, contributing via Zoom, appeared in a Halloween costume! A range of opinions and predictions followed, discussing the future of the oil and gas industry, politics and the Haynesville gas play.
Stoneburner Rock Garden
At the close of the GeoGulf program, attendees enjoyed appetizers in the outdoor Stoneburner Rock Garden on the BEG campus. Boulders in the garden are strategically organized, in geological order, and all rocks in the garden, including landscaping, are sourced from Texas mines or quarries. Geoscientists were able to touch rocks from the Pre-Cambrian to the Tertiary by walking the interactive displays. Investigating rocks, whether reservoirs, source rocks or seals, is all part of “Deep Learning!”