This year, the AAPG Division of Environmental
Geosciences (DEG) celebrates its 10-year anniversary -- the AAPG
House of Delegates voted to establish DEG at the 1992 annual meeting
held in Calgary. Prior to this action, all environmental issues
for AAPG were the responsibilities of the Hydrology and Waste Management
and Environmental Geology committees.
As a way to recognize our 10th year as a division,
it is appropriate to not only reflect on our beginnings but also
mention some recent developments that invoke a certain confidence
for the future.
No one was more active in the creation of the DEG
than our "founding father," the late Bernold M. "Bruno" Hanson.
An AAPG past-president and Sidney Powers Memorial
Award winner from Midland, Texas, Bruno was DEG's first president
and served in that role for two years. He was awarded Honorary Membership
in the division in 1997 and received our highest tribute, the DEG
President's Award, in 1998.
Environmental stewardship, as well as environmental
leadership, from those of us in the oil and gas industry was very
important to Bruno. He conscientiously worked to ensure that environmental
issues and responsible environmental practices were both recognized
and integrated into petroleum geology and our industry activities.
It was his foresight and leadership that led to environmental issues
and concerns of the membership transitioning from committee-level
status to a division of the Association.
Upon Bruno's passing in April 2000, the DEG wanted
to create a vehicle to perpetually honor and recognize his leadership
role in our division and our Association. The DEG leadership worked
with the AAPG Foundation to establish the Bernold
M. "Bruno" Hanson Memorial Environmental Grant. This grant,
with an endowment currently valued at over $33,000, is now a part
of the Foundation's annual Grants-in-Aid
Program that supports geology graduate students.
The major stipulation for this grant requires that
it be used for the "study of specific environmental issues related
to exploration and production of petroleum and energy minerals,
or application of technologies developed in the petroleum or energy
minerals industries to environmental problems."
I have served on the AAPG Foundation Grants-in-Aid
(GIA) Committee for the last several years, and this has allowed
me to keep up with current thesis and dissertation research activities.
Many of the GIA applications that have come across my desk have
had interesting environmental components although, on-balance, they
have not competed favorably with the more traditional industrially
With the creation of the Hanson Memorial Environmental
Grant, we have made a permanent commitment to keep petroleum environmental
issues at the forefront of the GIA program. This sends a clear signal
to the work force of the future that we believe environmental concerns
to be a routine part of doing business in today's world, and that
we are serious about practicing this belief.
Consider the matter of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene
and xylenes) in aquifers -- a major and recurring environmental
problem in industrialized countries. These compounds are routinely
produced by refineries and petrochemical plants worldwide, and have
chemical characteristics that make them troublesome in the natural
- Are soluble in fresh water.
- Readily diffuse from where they are introduced to adjacent
- Can potentially impact a large aquifer volume.
Technologies like pump-and-treat are often deployed
to remediate affected aquifers, but these may be expensive and require
long-term operational commitments. Thus a need exists for an inexpensive,
less intrusive and more effective means to remediate aquifers that
have been impacted by BTEX.
Work being carried out by the first-ever recipient
of the Hanson Memorial Environmental Grant (HMEG) may help provide
a solution to this problem.
award was made through last year's GIA Program to Jackson
M. Spain, a graduate student in the Department of Geological
Sciences at Virginia Tech. The science being done by Jackson is
high-caliber, fills a crucial need and will be widely deployed upon
Jackson is conducting a study to optimize a technology
known as in-situ, or intrinsic bioremediation. It is a method that
relies on naturally occurring microbes to degrade and consume organic
contaminants, and has great potential as a remediation tool.
key objective of his work is to better understand the fluid-rock
controls that influence microbial degradation of BTEX dissolved
in water. The research may indicate whether subtle geochemical differences
in aquifer characteristics allow degradation to occur. For example,
the distribution of iron-oxide rich materials may exert a major
control on whether microbes are able to consume BTEX or not.
Such an investigation is a bit removed from the "source-reservoir-seal"
type studies routinely done in our industry, but it is a good example
of how our profession adapts to address changing needs.
It also illustrates that geology is a multifaceted
field. We routinely work with the rock-water-atmospheric system,
and thus we are among the best-suited disciplines to tackle the
environmental issues associated with such systems. Further, it helps
ensure that we will remain at the forefront of environmental stewardship.
I think Bruno Hanson recognized much of this before
we did. Our commitment to environmental awareness is a major part
of the legacy he left our organization, our profession, and our
industry. Our division is only 10 years into this legacy, but we
will not stop.