Dear colleagues, greetings from your Energy Minerals Division! This time of year, as we transition from summer to fall (here in Kansas this occurs over a one-week period), from cooling to heating, from grilling to baking, from lakes to raking, it is a good time to reflect and express gratitude.
The first dimension of gratitude I’d like to express is to all the folks who contributed to making the International Meeting for Applied Geoscience and Energy conference a resounding success. As I’m sure we all have noticed, year-to-year, the mood at AAPG’s annual conference can vacillate from funeral to Mardi Gras and I felt this year was definitely angled toward the latter. The positivity was palpable and I think in no small part due to the blossoming of new disciplines within our Association focused on carbon storage and digitalization. These new modes of working were once regarded as “fringe” or “future technology,” but are now drawing significant private-sector investment and employment. AAPG, more than many other geoscience associations, has in its lifeblood exploration thinking – that desire to be at the frontier and to look beyond it – so it is refreshing to see the fruits of our exploration turning into new business.
Corollary to this is my gratitude to all the people behind the IMAGE conference who put in long, largely thankless hours to ensure that if we were all going to be in Houston during the last week of August, there better be a good reason. The technical content was top notch with numerous talks and sessions on geothermal, hydrogen, critical minerals and many other EMD themes. The exhibition hall buzzed with activity, including lively panel discussions at the various pavilions. Recruiters abounded looking for early-, mid- and senior-level talent. Numerous AAPG members were recognized with well-deserved awards for their meritorious service and research to AAPG.
AAPG is a lot of things, but fundamentally it is people. And IMAGE this year was great for people. I’m especially grateful to Jesse Thompson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (Houston Branch) who spoke at the annual luncheon co-sponsored by EMD and the AAPG Division of Environmental Geosciences. Jesse provided a nuanced update on the state of energy economics in the United States and globally as our industry recovers from pandemic-related supply shocks and experiences a reorganization of global energy markets as a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine.
Energy Economics, Geothermal Committees
As I said in my first column, I’ll be taking time in each of my columns to highlight two of EMD’s committees so the broader membership can see some of the new business incubators that EMD supports. This month I’d like to show my gratitude to the Energy Economics and Technology committee as well as our committee on Geothermal Energy.
The Energy Economics and Technology committee is tasked with keeping track of trends in energy economics like those discussed by Jesse Thompson at the EMD/DEG IMAGE luncheon. Its mission is to provide context to the work AAPG members do and to keep a watchful eye for possible economic conditions that might favor or disfavor certain types of energy production.
The last few years have been especially exciting for this committee, as we are all well aware, due to the wild gyrations in the supply, demand and price of energy. Committee co-chairs Jeremy Platt and Dieter Bieke just published their 2022-23 report for the Committee’s work, which can be found on the EE&T section of the EMD webpage of AAPG.org, under the “Activity and Reports”-tab, for free to AAPG members. This 11-page report summarizes the history we have all lived for the last few years as numerous unprecedented events have led to record inflation, which is perhaps among the top three economic indicators that our broader social circle talks about (along with the price of gas and the unemployment rate). I encourage the AAPG community to read their report and appreciate how some long- and short-term economic and political trends are contributing to the changes in oil price and inflation that in turn affect our industry. If these sorts of issues are interesting to you, consider joining the EE&T Committee to produce more insightful reports that can help your fellow AAPG members understand the broader context in which we do our work.
The second I’d like to highlight is the Geothermal Energy Committee. Led by Justin Birdwell (former EMD president and general renaissance geologist), this Committee had an excellent slate of talks and sessions at IMAGE. We all are aware of the considerable heat resources found within the Earth. (I like to remind my students that the center of the Earth is hotter than the surface of the sun!) However, we often associate geothermal energy development with places of active volcanism like Iceland and neglect the opportunities for geothermal development in systems that lack the fluids or the permeability needed for a traditional system. These “enhanced” geothermal systems can bring new energy sources to market and can allow our Association members to apply their formidable skills in subsurface science and engineering to a new and exciting growth area for our industry. Consider joining this Committee if you would like to help our Association’s members better understand and develop the under-utilized thermal resources found in many of not most of our subsurface projects.
I’ll end my column with one final thanks to all the people in AAPG.
I always include a lecture on the benefits of membership in professional organizations. My take-home point is to these students is that a lot of folks will tell them to “go out and network” as early-career scientists and engineers and this is often described as meeting people and developing employment prospects. I like to emphasize that the network I have found so vital is the “net” that catches you when you are falling. It is the rare AAPG member who has not had to make a job transition, and I am not alone. Some of these are of our choosing, and some are forced upon us. It is my AAPG network that has been there to not only catch me, but then propel me to new heights. There is no better professional network in geoscience. We should trademark that. Thank you again and have a wonderful holiday season!