National and international energy companies today face enormous pressure from government, shareholders and society to meet increasing demand and deliver profits while meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and progressing toward a transition away from fossil fuels.
The Energy Trilemma – the capacity to provide energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability simultaneously – is a term developed and measured by the World Energy Council since 2010.
Whether they use “Energy Trilemma” or another term, industry leaders face daily decisions about how to provide reliable, sustainable energy for all while reducing CO2 emissions and developing cleaner energy sources.
AAPG’s Energy Opportunities initiative developed in 2018 to help energy leaders navigate challenges like the Energy Trilemma.
Energy Opportunities is a series of in-person conferences and virtual experiences designed to connect decision-makers with the trends, tools and strategies to shape the world’s energy future. The concept started in AAPG’s Latin America and Caribbean Region but has expanded globally since 2020, attracting speakers and attendees from throughout the world.
The Energy Opportunities 2023 Conference held in Mexico City on March 22-23, featured two primary themes: “Balancing Energy Security and Sustainable Development” and “Resources and Technologies Fueling the Energy Transition.”
The boutique event convened executives and new business professionals from national and international companies, government officials and leaders from the technology, legal and financial sectors to explore new opportunities, network and share strategies for success in an industry striving to maintain exploration and production capacity while moving toward a decarbonized economy. The 230 attendees represented 113 companies and 24 countries from the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Evolving with the Energy Sector
The Mexico City conference was the first Energy Opportunities to take place in-person since the inaugural conference in Cartagena held in 2018. The second was set to be held in Mexico City in September 2020, but was postponed and replaced by a series of executive forums and virtual conferences that expanded the scope of the initiative, both geographically and thematically, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her opening remarks, Energy Opportunities 2023 General Chair Elvira Gómez, vice president of international regions for AAPG, described how Energy Opportunities has evolved along with the energy sector.
“We must see the opportunities and embrace them, not reject them. Being able to create the required energy mix in for world, our region and cities should be considered a special talent,” she said. “The energy mix must not be crafted from emotionalism or political expediency, but from scientific fact, community needs and the resources available in individual territories.”
Gómez reminded attendees that sustainability is not a new concept for the oil and gas sector, though novel approaches may be necessary to achieving it.
“Balancing social, environmental and economic factors is essential to any energy project. We have learned that well during more than 100 years of history as an oil and gas industry,” she said.
“There will be no sustainability if we interrupt that balance; but there are no perfect solutions, and the equation is not as simple as it sounds. I believe that the energy industry must initiate a thoughtful, deliberate integration of social, environmental and economic components, seeking the big picture of the energy business.”
Gómez shared her vision for the conference and invited attendees to maximize their participation in the event designed to offer a variety of opportunities.
“This is what Energy Opportunities is for me. It’s a platform for discussing holistic approach to social license to operate energy projects, the environmental challenges and how to overcome them and, of course, the financials, because without them there will be no impact,” she said.
“We are here to create the connections we need to do business, to be inspired by executives and entrepreneurs, to see how we can use technology to optimize our processes, reduce our carbon footprint and learn how the energy industry can help to create a better world.”
There were numerous representatives from regulatory agencies and ministries from Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Morocco, Peru Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States and Uruguay in attendance, and many of them presented at the Country Snapshots session held in the International Pavilion Theatre.
“I found it very enriching to know what countries and companies in other parts of the world are doing in relation not only to the oil industry, but also the part of the energy transition and the sources of non-oil resources and their current evolution,” said Miguel Angel Ibarra Rangel of Mexico’s National Hydrocarbon Commission. “Visiting the International Pavilion helped me see what other countries with an initial development in the oil industry are doing to attract investment to their countries.
The Energy Opportunities International Pavilion included 11 stands with many veteran IP exhibitors and two new exhibitors, Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB), Bolivia’s state lithium company, and the Lempa River Hydroelectric Commission (CEL), representing El Salvador.
Mirna Bonilla Argumedo, hydrocarbons market analyst at CEL, said she attended the conference to promote opportunities in her country.
“El Salvador is aiming to launch a bid round for offshore oil exploration contracts in the coming years. We thought it would be a good idea to start increasing our exposure by participating in conferences that help us connect with agencies who have similar projects, as well as to make contact with companies who may be interested in participating in future bid rounds.”
Bonilla and her geologist Ivan Canizales used their stand and Country Snapshots presentation to share information about existing opportunities in the Salvadoran Pacific Basin. Both were satisfied with their participation in Energy Opportunities.
“I was impressed about how easy it was for us to talk with attendees, who were open to discussing energy issues that countries face and who were interested in cooperation agreements and mutual support,” she said.
One of the most popular and well attended parts of the program was the “New Technologies Showcase,” a series of keynote talks and panel discussions focused on challenging attendees to explore potential new approaches to changes in the energy landscape and to reframe conventional ways of adopting or spreading those changes.
Showcase topics ranged from a radical new way to extract lithium from brines while also managing CO2, to technologies that streamline the process of detecting leaks and monitoring emissions.
Other sessions highlighted novel ways to manage data, including Microsoft’s OSDU data platform, and strategies for engagement in an energy alliance.
Two keynote addresses precipitated lively discussions: “Creative Destruction - Becoming a Part of the Problem or the Solution,” by David Reid, chief technology officer at NOV, and “Energy Transition for Oil-Producing Countries in the Developing World,” by Nelia Mazula, global account manager at Siemens.
Shengyu Wu, geoscience adviser at C&C Reservoirs, delivered a Showcase presentation about the DAKS – Digital Analogues Knowledge System and its applications for decision making throughout hydrocarbon E&P lifecycle and CCUS. He also took advantage of the opportunity to meet operators at the Business-to-Business (B2B) sessions held during the event.
“I really enjoyed all the good questions and inspiring discussions during the presentation and demo,” Wu said. “I also appreciated the opportunity to connect one-on-one at the B2B sessions. We had good discussions and follow-up.”
Benefits and Lessons
The different yet complementary aspects of the Energy Opportunities program enabled participants to customize their event experience.
Marel Sanchez, founder and managing director of Actus Veritas Geoscience and U3 Explore, attended to create partnerships and to provide exposure to U3 Explore, a network designed for subject matter experts to publish and share their expertise, to a focused audience of decision-makers.
“We wanted to demonstrate U3’s capabilities in the energy sector in subsurface characterization for oil and gas, CCS and collaboration with other energy sectors,” she said.
Sánchez and U3 partners Juan Francisco Arminio and Katya Casey divided their time between attending sessions, working their stand in the exhibition, and participating in B2B meetings with other companies.
“We appreciated the opportunity to create conversations across multi-disciplinary groups from different organizations and to demonstrate how geoscience skills can be deployed in different industry sectors,” Sánchez said.
U3 representatives also supported the organizing committee by serving as session chairs.
Sánchez co-chaired the “Best Practices for Carbon Capture Use and Storage” session, with participation from executives from CGG, Cozairo, SLB and STOIC operating Company. She came away from the session with several conclusions.
“The biggest challenge for CCUS today is the lack of policies and regulations where oil and gas production is in place,” she said. “To close the gap, small projects are encouraged to incorporate carbon captures, for example, CO2-EOR related projects where it could be possible, and/or carbon capture proximity facilities.”
Other takeaways she noted included the value of the partnerships in creating successful CCS projects and the importance of geoscience work to identify potential areas in the basin for safe storage sites in terms of containment, injectivity and capacity.
Arminio drew several conclusions during the “Critical Minerals Powering the Energy Transition” session he co-chaired with Emily Hersh, CEO of Luna Lithium. One concept that stood out was the irony of the popular conception that electric vehicles are beneficial to the environment.
“Some transition-critical minerals, including lithium, cobalt and graphite, are regarded as much greener than they are, being that they are so energy-intensive to process,” he said.
The critical minerals session also provided insights for panelist Max Brouwers, chief business development officer of Getech, who traveled from the Netherlands to attend the conference.
“I came away from the session with a much better appreciation of the challenges associated with lithium mining,” he said.
Brouwers, former Shell executive founder of AAPG Europe’s Energy Transition Forum, decided to attend the conference because of the relevant topics for the panel sessions and chance to attend one-to-one business meetings.
He particularly enjoyed attending sessions dedicated to specific transition topics and interacting with conference attendees.
“The most meaningful part of my participation was meeting with people who are making a difference in the energy transition, learning from them and building opportunities for collaboration,” he said. “The energy transition is full of risks and opportunities – sharing perspectives makes it easier to navigate these uncertainties.”
The Future of Energy Opportunities
Brouwers said he would like to see greater company engagement and additional content at future Energy Opportunities events.
“I’d like to see even more businesses (small and large), hear what they are up to, and what needs they have,” he said. “I’d also like industry outlooks for sector themes, deeper dives by analysists like WoodMackenzie and Rystad.”
What he would not change is the open, conversational environment he experienced in Mexico City.
“The great, relaxed atmosphere made Energy Opportunities a low-key event, which encouraged meeting new people,” he said.
Sánchez said she and her U3 colleagues hope to attend future Energy Opportunities events in other locations.
“This conference format is ideal for business development networking to different sizes and skills of specialized geoscience-oriented enterprises,” she said. “I’d like to see Energy Opportunities Conference in Houston – the Energy Capital,” she said.