What exactly will be the role of geoscientists as we traverse the difficult path to a net-zero future?
Maria Angela Capello, managing director of Red Tree Consulting, executive vice president of the carbon storage company RESI and AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, said those professionals will play a unique role because, frankly … Who else is there?
“Geoscientists are the professionals with the most holistic knowledge and perspective of the planet as a single, interconnected unit,” Capello said.
Capello, who has authored or co-authored several books on professional development in the energy sector, said those in the profession will – and must – be at the table for that discussion.
“They are naturally called to be part of the dialogue of legislation, policies and even financial loops related to the future of humankind, as the development of all communities, countries, regions and continents depend on resources we extract from the planet, renewable or extracted,” she said.
Geoscientists understand change, and not only change as an instantaneous transformation of matter, but change in geologic time.
“And this is why geoscientists,” she said, “have privileged views and knowledge about the main and fundamental problems of the human being, which includes needs for energy, needs for resources, and needs for water, protection and readiness for geo-hazards related to climate change.”
The Path and the Panel
Capello is United Nations co-chair of the Women in Resource Management Committee and an expert in reservoir management, women’s empowerment and leadership strategies.
Also, she will moderate a panel at this month’s International Meeting for Applied Geoscience and Energy in Houston, entitled, “Geoscientists in Net-Zero Paths: What, When, and How?” which will address many of the future net zero-related issues facing the industry.
The panelists will share their insights about how to meet those goals and maximize those benefits.
- Bob Fryklund, chief upstream strategist for S&P Global Commodity Insights
- Nikki Martin, president of EnerGeo Alliance
- Camelia Knapp, professor of geophysics and V. Brown Monnett chair of petroleum geology and head of the Boone Pickens School of Geology, Oklahoma State University
- Manika Prasad, professor and director of the CCUS Innovation Center of the Colorado School of Mines
A Future So Bright
Capello said she wants people – and not just those at the conference – to have confidence that the energy sector is engaged in a positive path that supports climate control and emissions-curtailing actions.
“It is important that geologists inspire the audience and dissipate doubts about the credibility of their actions towards feasible net-zero strategies,” she said.
Such inspiration will breed optimism.
A 2021 report by the International Energy Agency, “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector,” concludes that the pathway is narrow, but could bring huge benefits.
“The future is bright and shiny for geoscientists, especially for those in the energy field,” said Capello. “There are a myriad of new, exciting and thrilling paths in all countries and regions for new and ‘renewed’ jobs in the energy sector and in the geoscience in general as a profession.”
Specifically, she mentioned the careers searching for minerals and raw, untapped materials in frontier areas, like the seabeds, and the management of storage of greenhouse gasses.
“They require the expertise of new and experienced professionals with deep knowledge of geosciences,” she said.
Further, reservoirs and resource assets will gradually migrate from oil super-giant basins to water-giant basins, and geoscientists will prepare societies in terms of integrity of facilities and infrastructure, quality of water and air, access to resources, and readiness for geo-risks such as tsunamis, earthquakes, coastal erosion or landslides.
“Let us imagine a world without knowing where to find lithium, how to find and take advantage of geothermal energy, or how to sustain aquifers to provide water for a city – it would be unthinkable to have no geoscientists as crucial professionals in our current and future lives,” said Capello.
Net Zero by 2050?
The key question, at least in terms of the goal of net zero by 2050, is: How likely is it to happen?
Specifically, that IEA report states, “The pledges by governments to date — even if fully achieved — fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Capello understands the enormity of what’s ahead and the difficulty in getting there.
“There is a pathway, and although it is narrow, it will require the support of government policies at a global scale,” she said.
She expresses hope that the Internet of Things – those physical objects with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the web and other communications networks – might expedite the comprehension of our individual contributions to the contributions to the goal of net zero.
Included in those advances are those in aviation fuels, deep-Earth geothermal energy extraction, new cooling systems for buildings and hydrogen utilization for energy purposes, as well as new generations of batteries, and carbon-injection for enhanced oil recovery and storage purposes.
“For all these technologies, geoscientists are called to lead the research, implementation and adaptation efforts,” she said.
Capello, who is the leader of the Geosciences Sustainability Atlas, a multinational and multidiscipline global initiative endorsed by UNESCO that maps geosciences to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, said the job is everyone’s.
“Because net zero is not the responsibility of several enterprises or governments, it is also the responsibility of each individual,” she said.