The AAPG Gulf Coast Section GeoGulf Conference was held April 23-25 and featured robust attendance of more than 400 geoscientists, filling the Houston Norris City Conference Center.
“This conference is a premier Gulf Coast geoscience event. We chose the theme ‘United We Explore the Gulf of Mexico and Beyond’ because it reminds our members that geography, geoscience and heritage unite us with our local and global communities as the AAPG Gulf Coast Section,” Charles Sternbach told the audience at the opening ceremony.
There are 13 geological societies in the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies located in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Mexico. The Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies’ GeoGulf conference rotates among city locations and this year, the host society was the 100-year-old Houston Geological Society.
GeoGulf23 topical themes included: the onshore Mesozoic and Tertiary plays, offshore U.S. Gulf Coast, onshore and offshore Mexico and the newly discovered exploration oil and gas potential of Guyana, South America.
The success of the Geogulf23 technical program is, first of all, due to the incredible GeoGulf23 session chairs who recruited many talks. This conference was an intensive geoscience-focused, deep dive covering Gulf Coast oil and gas fields, formation studies and regional play overviews. Attendees said they appreciated the comprehensive effort to get back in touch with the classic geology of the Gulf Coast.
“I want to acknowledge the tremendous effort from the GeoGulf23 team on putting this event together, including Linda Sternbach, technical chair; Charles Sternbach, general chair; Jeff Lund, general vice chair; David Tett, onsite conference manager, and James Hawkins for coordinating the Pheedloop registration and walk-in registration efforts,” said Mike Erpendeck, GCAGS president.
The pre-convention short courses, which attracted 40 attendees, were successful thanks to Cheryl Desforges and Lauren Robinson, co-chairs. Nawaz Bugti coordinated the poster sessions. Juan Pablo Ramos Vargas of the University of Houston won First Place Student Poster for his doctoral thesis study of active petroleum systems of Panama and offshore Colombia. Maria A. Gutierrez, of Texas A&M, won the Second Place Student Poster Award.
Highlights from GeoGulf23
The “Giant Fields” event started early Monday morning with a presentation by Charles Sternbach and Dick Bishop, both AAPG past presidents, on “Gulf Coast Basin Giant and Super-Giant Fields: Analogs to help us find more.” The 79 giant fields have an estimated ultimate recovery of 107 billion barrels of oil equivalent, which is more than half of the entire Gulf Coast Basin endowment of 210 billion barrels of oil equivalent. The eight super giants fields discussed have Cretaceous reservoirs riming the Gulf of Mexico Basin, Tampico and Campeche and are associated with basement highs. Trap and seal limit the giants, making seismic imaging and integrating geology and geophysics critical.
Bob Fryklund of S&P Global chaired a session called “Advantaged Basins” with Jim Grant of Chesapeake and Danielle Carpenter of Chevron. They discussed the top 15 basins ranked by remaining liquid resources, which include the Brazil Santos basin, the U.S. Permian Basin and other world basins.
“These proven basins will drive the future because these basins provide diversified and complementary energy sources with the lowest carbon footprint,” said Fryklund.
Jim Pindell, Carl Steffensen, Teunis Heyn and Chris Piela Cox chaired a full-day series of talks, “Regional Setting of the Gulf of Mexico” which included the topics of plate tectonics, clastic depositional trends and Mexican basins. It turns out that there are a lot of unanswered questions about the Gulf of Mexico basin formation, which was the topic of an open discussion moderated by Brian Horn. For instance: How did the Jurassic-aged salt accumulate in the Gulf of Mexico? To answer this and other questions, scientists must model what happened at depth to reconstruct subsurface layers from the Mesozoic to Cenozoic.
CCUS and Resource Plays
Sessions on the Austin Chalk, Eagle Ford and Haynesville resource plays attracted a full room of attendees.
“I don’t know which one to go to. I enjoyed hearing about the latest developments in drilling the Austin Chalk trend and new insights on the Norphlet. We still have a lot of exciting geoscience work in the Gulf of Mexico,” said one attendee.
Allen Bertagne chaired the GeoGulf session on carbon capture, utilization and storage.
Gordon Holmes of Denbury Resources won an outstanding oral presentation award for his talk called, “CO2 Clearly Seen Using Time Lapse Seismic,” which demonstrated modeled seismic response to CO2 injection into a depleted offshore Gulf of Mexico oil field. CO2 seismic expression is similar to hydrocarbons and gas.
“Time-lapse 3-D seismic is highly effective in documenting CO2 distribution, which is mainly controlled by fluid buoyancy and facies distributions,” Holmes said.
GeoGulf23 featured a series of high-level and insightful panel discussions, including the “Deepwater Business Panel” chaired by Mark Leonard.
“Deepwater is the cheapest and greenest source of supply, and offshore technology is the enabler and the great effort multiplier. It’s the oil business, and few things are more profitable than a properly developed, producing oil field!” said Richard Sears.
Audience members brought up the need to have young geoscientists at regional meetings.
“We need to reach out to senior-level leaders at companies that can promote attendance of geoscientists with less than 15 years of experience. Managers must promote these conferences to their staff as educational and networking opportunities,” said one senior professional.
Deepwater “fans” (yes, the pun was intended) crowded the room for the highly anticipated “Deepwater Sediments Symposium,” chaired by Jon Rotzien of Basin Dynamics, with co-chairs Yuqian Gan of the University of Texas and Diane Woodruff of Oxy.
“I was grateful for the deepwater presentations. I get a lot out of being able to talk to the authors and question them about the various topics,” said a young professional, first-time attendee.
Ali Downard of Chevron discussed the quantitative evaluation of deepwater fan hierarchy and showed results from the full physics-based forward-stratigraphic model.
Sumit Verma of UT-Permian won the A. I. Levorsen Most Innovative Oral Presentation for “Seismic Attributes for Deep Water Depositional Systems.” He illuminated different geomorphological features using coherence and coherent energy, spectral decomposition, and unsupervised clustering on a 3-D seismic dataset.
Attendees gave positive reviews to the “Entrepreneurs Session” with Bill Fairhurst, Dick Stoneburner, Barry Rava, HGS President Walter Light and past HGS President (and now AAPG President-elect) Deborah Sacrey. The entrepreneurs are well known Houston oil and gas independents, who manage their own companies and royalties. Sacrey advised on her 30-year career as a software consultant and developer.
The “Salt Tectonics” session highlighted the role of salt as a trap for hydrocarbons and as a future project to mine critical minerals like lithium. David Lankford-Bravo of BP and J. Carl Fiduk hosted it, and speakers included Mark Rowan (who also taught a two-day short course on salt tectonics), Julie Bloxson of Stephen F Austin University and Sharon Cornelius of the University of Houston.
The next GeoGulf conference will be April 10-12, 2024, in San Antonio, Texas. This meeting will pave the way for a continued series of excellent AAPG Gulf Coast Section meetings designed to support the industry for many years.