The Great American Eclipse occurs on Monday Aug. 21 and it will be the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire mainland United States in 99 years. The moon's shadow will pass over Wyoming, Nebraska, and Illinois – a few of the states that produce energy for our domestic consumers. The sun will be covered for one to two minutes during the total solar eclipse for those in the path.
The AAPG Astrogeology Committee has a field trip planned to Casper, Wyo. to see the eclipse in the morning. I hope many geoscientists will be able to enjoy this amazing experience.
When the view of the sun returns, I know I will be thinking about how fortunate we all are to have dependable energy in our lives!
With regard to that dependable energy, we are living in historic times. The shale revolution has proven itself to truly be a revolution. This has huge global geopolitical Impact as the United Stats has once again joined the "Ten Thousand Barrels a Day Club” along with Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Rise of the Super Basins
Helping all our members add to the global energy supply is AAPG's prime goal and will be for a very long time.
Research shows that we have underestimated petroleum systems. There is more generative potential in tight fine-grained rocks and source rocks themselves than previously known. Combine that with our ever-improving ability to extract energy sources from nano-scale spaces, and we have an energy revolution. Previous models vastly underestimated resource potential, which is why last month's Explorer focused on "Why we keep not running out of oil.”
The reason I am so interested in super basins, and why all of us should be, is that these top 25 basins have significant infrastructure and the potential to add hundreds of billions of barrels of oil and gas equivalent. My hat is off to Pete Stark and Bob Fryklund of IHS for their thought leadership in defining this concept. This thinking is in dramatic contrast with visionary conferences of the past.
In the year 2000, coincident with a new century, Marlan Downey, Jack Threet and Bill Morgan hosted a symposium on "Resources for the 21st Century.” Reviewing AAPG Memoir 74, a product of this conference, it is clear that the thinking of the day was that to find new energy reserves, one must go, primarily, to new places!
This is still true today as seismic imaging enables us to see exciting energy potential along conjugate margins, deep water, ultra deep water and pre-salt, for example. But remarkably, there is a second wave of exploration going back to old places but with new thinking and new technology. This means that there are different skill sets required for our workforce, depending on whether you are in the short cycle (unconventional) or long cycle (conventional) part of our business. Energy companies are finding niches in either or both arenas.
Tom Ahlbrandt and the U.S. Geological Survey expanded our concepts on total petroleum systems. I highly recommend watching his 2015 Halbouty Lecture, posted on the AAPG website.
Given the recent reemergence of mature basins, and the desire for AAPG to be visionary as we plan for our second century, plans are underway for a "Global Super Basin Conference” in Houston late February next year. Details of the conference will be forthcoming, but for now we will focus on top petroleum basins that "keep on giving.” As we return to petroliferous basins that are being revitalized by new waves of technology we will review critical technologies. These include: seismic imaging, horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, multi-stage stimulation, design of fluids and proppants, and digital instrumentation of oil fields (for example).
We will focus on technology transfer within and between basins. Within each super basin there is a long history of innovation. The Permian Basin is a prime example. So too is the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico exploration started out in the onshore. Then the oil and gas industry invented bright spot technology, found deepwater turbidite reservoirs, invented subsalt and pre-salt imaging and engineering breakthroughs have recently lead to revitalization of tight rocks onshore.
These waves of technology have rejuvenated a rich super basin for nearly 100 years. Even a long-lived AAPG Member's career spans only part of the evolution of any richly endowed basin. That is why AAPG leads the way in providing technology transfer from past to future generations of explorers. (See "Heritage of the Petroleum Geologist” by M. T. Halbouty in the July 1967 AAPG Bulletin.)
The "Global Super Basin Conference” will not only explore the innovative history of individual super basins but will also offer opportunities to share best practices between super basins. AAPG plays a key role in areas that were fertile crescents for developing oil-finding skills that have been transported by AAPG members around the world. In a talk I give on giant fields by decade (work done with Robert K. Merrill, AAPG Memoir 113, in press) one can see from decadal time slices of giant field discoveries how oil finding "know how” progresses outward around the globe, which can be found online at AAPG.to/vpm17mccs.
In conclusion, AAPG is off to a great start in FY 2018. AAPG will focus on our goals and providing valuable scientific and professional content to fulfill our mission. We are also looking at education, research, and early workforce trends for the next decade. But that, dear friends, is another column, for another day!