Changes Bring Opportunities

Since the time of my last EXPLORER column in December, the petroleum industry has experienced many changes:

  • The moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf Coast of Mexico was lifted in October 2010.
  • The former Minerals Management Services (MMS) became the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE).
  • The revenue collection arm of the former MMS became the Office of Natural Resources.
  • In January the federal government divided the BOEMRE into two bureaus – the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which will be in charge of the development of offshore energy and resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way; and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which will enforce safety and environmental regulations.

All these extra acronyms aside, what do these various changes really mean for us?

There’s a saying that “amongst chaos is opportunity,” so let us take advantage.

First and foremost, these regulatory changes provide an opportunity for AAPG and its Divisions to work with the Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C., and the new bureaus of the BOEMRE. AAPG members have the expertise to assist in the development of the new regulations, thereby creating a positive impact on our industry.

Secondly, this is an opportunity for us to provide technical experience regarding potential environmental impacts and mitigation efforts should the need arise.

Lastly, AAPG can assist the BOEMRE in responsible development of the Outer Continental Shelf.

If I know our GEO-DC director David Curtiss, he is already working on these issues (see related story). I plan on visiting with David during my next trip to D.C. to see how DEG can get involved and assist with his efforts.

This is a time to become actively engaged and help David as he works with various agencies and politicos in our nation’s capital. Decisions made here will have a global impact.


Moving on, let’s talk about the Environmental Geosciences Journal.

The Winter 2010 edition featured papers on the use of shallow geophysical methods in environmental applications, and the upcoming Spring 2011 edition will feature manuscripts on ongoing geologic carbon dioxide research.

Work on our upcoming special issue regarding the Marcellus shale gas play in the Appalachian Basin, which is being co-sponsored by DEG and EMD, is under way, and the call for papers can be found on the AAPG/DEG linked-in website.

In the meantime, if you want to read a good primer on the Marcellus shale play in Pennsylvania, check out the online report by AAPG members John Harper and Jaime Kostelnik, both of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey.

They provide:

  • An overview of the geology of the Marcellus shale.
  • An historical overview of shale gas drilling from the 1820s to the present.
  • Drilling and completion methods, including fracing techniques and materials.
  • Well production and economics.
  • Water resources.
  • Environmental challenges.
  • Other interesting information about this popular reservoir.

In other news, AAPG DEG will be represented at the SEGSA annual meeting, to be held in Wilmington, N.C., March 23–25. DEG is sponsoring a session to honor the career of Paul Thayer, who has been an AAPG member since 1967. I am co-chairing the session with Harry Roberts of Louisiana State University, another long-time AAPG member.


Recent actions taken by the DEG Executive Committee include the reduction of DEG annual dues from $45 to $25, which was made possible in large part by our decision to “go green” and publish the Journal digitally beginning later this year.

As I end this column, I will once again ask you to think about your impact on our earth. If we all make small changes in our daily lives, we can and will make a positive difference in our world.

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Division Column-DEG Doug Wyatt

Doug Wyatt, of Aiken, S.C., is director of science research for the URS Corporation Research and Engineering Services contract to the USDOE National Energy Technology Laboratory. He also is a member of the DEG Advisory Board for the AAPG Eastern Section.

Division Column-DEG Mary K. Harris

Mary K. Harris, President, Division of Environmental Geosciences

Division Column-DEG Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith is a DEG member and is with the Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver.

Division Column-DEG Tom J. Temples

Tom J. Temples is DEG President.

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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