Division Column: DEG

Share the Facts About Energy

In this, my farewell column, I want to thank the people who have made my service as president of the Division of Environmental Geosciences (DEG) so rewarding.

A list of names would be too long, so I will try to cover my bases in categories.

  • My fellow officers have worked hard to move us forward and expand our membership; those who have agreed to run for office for the coming year also have my gratitude.
  • Our advisers from across the country, and from the few Regions for whom we have advisers, have given valuable advice and direction.
  • The Region presidents who are working right now to help DEG find an adviser for every Region will make our Advisory Council even stronger.
  • Those who have worked to produce the Environmental Geosciences journal have produced an outstanding set of issues – thanks to the top-level editors, all of the associate editors and, of course, all who have submitted articles for publication. Keep them coming!
  • Committee chairs have been responsive, helping to bring DEG sessions and short courses to the upcoming Denver convention and for the New Orleans convention next year. We even have a head start on the Houston convention – we already have four sessions set for 2011.
  • Finally, many thanks to the AAPG headquarters staff for helping to upgrade our Web site; for keeping us on track and at least close to meeting deadlines; for their support in convention planning; and for the many other ways in which they support our efforts.

The DEG was established in 1992, when “the House of Delegates of the Association indicated support for the concept that basic environmental issues be addressed from a geological point of view, thereby transferring the profession’s understanding of geological, geochemical, geophysical and hydrogeological principles and methodologies to the solutions of environmental problems.”

It seems that basic environmental issues are often divorced from scientific reasoning of any kind, at least in the popular media. U.S. President Obama has vowed to bring science into the forefront of environmental issues, and we need to vigorously step forward and offer our perspectives and our expertise.

We need to gain recognition for the fact that the petroleum industry is investing billions in developing new energy technologies and carbon mitigation technologies, as well as in energy efficiency, advanced technology vehicles and non-hydrocarbon fuels – far more than is being invested by the federal government.

All this at the same time our industry is taxed at a far higher rate than other industries, while our earnings are in line with the average of U.S. manufacturing industries!

Getting these messages out should be a priority for anyone who has access to an audience. I highly recommend that you read the new April 2009 American Petroleum Institute publication “Energizing America: Facts for Addressing Energy Policy”.

Share these facts about energy – I spent an entire lecture on this material in my Environmental Science class last week.


I hope to see many of you in Denver, and I hope that you choose to attend our sessions, which include:

  • Imagining a Carbon Constrained World: EOR Using Anthropogenic CO2and Other Options.
  • Near-Surface Geophysical Applications for Environmental Solutions, Groundwater and Site Remediation.
  • Carbon Dioxide Capture and Geologic Sequestration.
  • Our Energy Forum (held jointly with DPA and EMD).

We also are offering the forum concerning Global Climate Change – Anticipating a Carbon Constrained Future: Implications for the Fossil Fuel Industry (DEG/AAPG/GCCC), and our luncheon speaker will address the Cooperative Aquifer Restoration Project, Fort Peck Indian Reservation – a Multi-Agency Success Story.

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Division Column-DEG

Division Column-DEG Rebecca Dodge

Rebecca Dodge, of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, is DEG President for 2008-09.

Division Column DEG

The Division of Environmental Geosciences (DEG), a division of AAPG, is concerned with increasing awareness of the environment and the petroleum industry and providing AAPG with a scientific voice in the public arena. Among its objectives are educating members about important environmental issues, supporting and encouraging research on the effects of exploration and production on the environment, and communicating scientific information to concerned governmental agencies.

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The geometries of clay smears produced in a series of direct shear experiments on composite blocks containing a clay-rich seal layer sandwiched between sandstone reservoir layers have been analyzed in detail. The geometries of the evolving shear zones and volume clay distributions are related back to the monitored hydraulic response, the deformation conditions, and the clay content and strength of the seal rock. The laboratory experiments were conducted under 4 to 24 MPa (580–3481 psi) fault normal effective stress, equivalent to burial depths spanning from less than approximately 0.8 to 4.2 km (0.5 to 2.6 mi) in a sedimentary basin. The sheared blocks were imaged using medical-type x-ray computed tomography (CT) imaging validated with optical photography of sawn blocks. The interpretation of CT scans was used to construct digital geomodels of clay smears and surrounding volumes from which quantitative information was obtained. The distribution patterns and thickness variations of the clay smears were found to vary considerably according to the level of stress applied during shear and to the brittleness of the seal layer. The stiffest seal layers with the lowest clay percentage formed the most segmented clay smears. Segmentation does not necessarily indicate that the fault seal was breached because wear products may maintain the seal between the individual smear segments as they form. In experiments with the seal layer formed of softer clays, a more uniform smear thickness is observed, but the average thickness of the clay smear tends to be lower than in stiffer clays. Fault drag and tapering of the seal layer are limited to a region close to the fault cutoffs. Therefore, the comparative decrease of sealing potential away from the cutoff zones differs from predictions of clay smear potential type models. Instead of showing a power-law decrease away from the cutoffs toward the midpoint of the shear zone, the clay smear thickness is either uniform, segmented, or undulating, reflecting the accumulated effects of kinematic processes other than drag. Increased normal stress improved fault sealing in the experiments mainly by increasing fault zone thickness, which led to more clay involvement in the fault zone per unit of source layer thickness. The average clay fraction of the fault zone conforms to the prediction of the shale gouge ratio (SGR) model because clay volume is essentially preserved during the deformation process. However, the hydraulic seal performance does not correlate to the clay fraction or SGR but does increase as the net clay volume in the fault zone increases. We introduce a scaled form of SGR called SSGR to account for increased clay involvement in the fault zone caused by higher stress and variable obliquity of the seal layer to the fault zone. The scaled SGR gives an improved correlation to seal performance in our samples compared to the other algorithms.
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Crude oil and natural gas infrastructure problems, from pipeline oil spills to train derailments and fires, have been in the news recently. Though these problems are not new, public concern is growing. Think tanks and government agencies have been considering the problems and potential solutions for some time and are now reporting the results of their studies. Here are reports of one oil and one natural gas infrastructure study.
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