Seeing Some Good News

My first six months as president of the AAPG Energy Minerals Division has brought both a broader and a more detailed understanding of the energy picture in the United States and the world in general. This has resulted in new realizations and in forming new opinions on a variety of energy-related topics, some of which I would like to share with you.


There is good news in the energy field these days! Why? Because as we emerge from the impact of the blunders on Wall Street, there is a growing sense the American economy has re-engaged and that we are on a new track of sustainable, albeit slow, growth as partners in the international economy.

At the core of this stabilization is the energy industry.

Although much is made in the media of the federal government’s role in the economy, its actual impact is minor. Government funding policies attempt to guide the economy while meeting certain basic requirements of society and to spread funding around the world to further stability and friendship.

As we all can see, this is politically driven, and it is fortunate that it has a small but vociferous impact on the reality of the American and world economy. Just as in stem cell research, the government has the voice but not the pockets of industry to press a program forward.

The same appears to be true in the energy industry. Although energy policy is offered to the federal government from the left and from the right, it’s really the energy industry operating within a reasonably open economy that has the impact on the economy, jobs, other industries, etc.

Unrestrained capitalism, however, needs to be carefully balanced by governmental controls from time to time – but neither too much nor too little.

While the federal government is influenced by political whims, the energy industry is guided by what makes dollars and sense economically and practically. And guess who is found at the core of the energy industry? Not the corporate presidents (and associated management) but the geoscientists (geologists and geophysicists) within the energy industry! The management evaluates the risks and allocates the funding to find and to develop energy for the economic markets of the United States and the world.

Geoscientists must deal with the variety of energy resources, but not all such resources are created equal. Each have price tags, each have environmental impacts. As these issues are weighed and examined, some will remain, some will fade into history, some will be used in new ways.

We are in a transition period of 20-to-30 years from the old ways to the new ways of energy utilization. Over the next few decades, natural gas from a variety of resources and nuclear power will continue to prove their economic and practical value, while geothermal and other hydrocarbon and carbon-based energy resources will contribute in new ways or under special economic circumstances.

To explore for and to develop these resources, the some 36,000 energy geoscientists of the AAPG and its three Divisions (EMD, DPA and DEG) are at the core of the energy industry – and will be needed for the decades to come.


These are interesting times for the current geoscientist. So were the past 100 years for the earlier geoscientists. Guess who still will be involved, mostly through robotics most likely, and who gets to go off-world in the centuries ahead to explore for the needed energy and mineral resources?

You can bet the AAPG still will be supporting the energy geoscientist in a form similar to that coming in April at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston – by providing the new geoscience and technology in one form or another in the meetings of 2111 and beyond.

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Division Column-EMD Michael D. Campbell

Michael D. Campbell, EMD past president (2010-2011) and current chair of the EMD Uranium (Nuclear and Rare Earth) Minerals Committee: Although much is made in the media of the federal government’s role in the economy, its actual impact is minor.

Division Column-EMD

The Energy Minerals Division (EMD), a division of AAPG, is dedicated to addressing the special concerns of energy resource geologists working with energy resources other than conventional oil and gas, providing a vehicle to keep abreast of the latest developments in the geosciences and associated technology. EMD works in concert with the Division of Environmental Geosciences to serve energy resource and environmental geologists.

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Analog outcrops are commonly used to develop predictive reservoir models and provide quantitative parameters that describe the architecture and facies distribution of sedimentary deposits at a subseismic scale, all of which aids exploration and production strategies. The focus of this study is to create a detailed geological model that contains realistic reservoir parameters and to apply nonlinear acoustic full-waveform prestack seismic inversion to this model to investigate whether this information can be recovered and to examine which geological features can be resolved by this process.

Outcrop data from the fluviodeltaic sequence of the Book Cliffs (Utah) are used for the geological and petrophysical two-dimensional model. Eight depositional environments are populated with average petrophysical reservoir properties adopted from a North Sea field. These units are termed lithotypes here. Synthetic acoustic prestack seismic data are then generated with the help of an algorithm that includes all internal multiples and transmission effects. A nonlinear acoustic full-waveform inversion is then applied to the synthetic data, and two media parameters, compressibility (inversely related to the square of the compressional wave velocity vP) and bulk density, ρ, are recovered at a resolution higher than the shortest wavelength in the data. This is possible because the inversion exploits the nonlinear nature of the relationship between the recorded data and the medium contrast properties. In conventional linear inversion, these details remain masked by the noise caused by the nonlinear effects in the data. Random noise added to the data is rejected by the nonlinear inversion, contributing to improved spatial resolution. The results show that the eight lithotypes can be successfully recovered at a subseismic scale and with a low degree of processing artifacts. This technique can provide a useful basis for more accurate reservoir modeling and field development planning, allowing targeting of smaller reservoir units such as distributary channels and lower shoreface sands.

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The Department of Transportation is taking steps to address concerns about the safety of transporting oil by rail. The concern is fueled by several severe accidents in 2012 that caused deaths and damage as rail cars carrying oil, especially Bakken oil that seems to be especially volatile, exploded or burned. Recent information about the large number of oil cars that move through highly populated areas has raised additional concerns.

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