We live in interesting times:
♦ It’s an election year in the United States, where energy is a visible part of the conversation.
♦ Our industry has been very good at finding and delivering natural gas – so good that we’ve got a surplus.
♦ This surplus is keeping consumer prices down and driving gas-based industrial developments. North American shale gas and tight oil plays have been gaining momentum in the last five years, mostly as a result of geoscientists and engineers finding out we can speak the same language.
In short, it’s a very good time to be a geologist.
I’d also add that it’s been a particularly exciting time to be an EMD member.
AAPG’s Energy and Minerals Division (EMD) has been quite active throughout these last few years as “unconventional” plays have grown and expanded to become a regular part of most companies’ portfolios.
EMD also has seen changes – we’ve removed our dues, grown our membership and adapted to remain technically current. Like AAPG, our mission is to advance the science of geology – but specifically as it relates to unconventional and alternative energy sources.
In case you’re new to EMD, our commodities include Coalbed Methane, Gas Hydrates, Tight Gas Sands, Gas Shales, Oil Sands, Oil Shale, Coal, Uranium, Geothermal Energy and Renewable Energy, jointly run with AAPG’s Division of Environmental Geology (DEG).
If you’re working these commodities, or if you’re interested in learning more, you should consider joining EMD.
As the focus on unconventional resources has become more visible to the public – and ever more scrutinized – it has become increasingly important to understand not only the typical subsurface risk that we as scientists are accustomed to facing, but this focus now requires all of us to add new skills to our toolbox, so that we can better identify, consider and manage additional risks relating to surface access, environmental concerns/mitigation, water sourcing and various levels of stakeholder engagement – just to name a few.
While much public attention has focused on shale gas, many of these same concerns can be raised with just about all EMD commodities.
Due to mounting interest in these non-technical issues, EMD is actively promoting new Geoscience Technology Workshops (GTWs) through the AAPG education department, as well as planning and organizing EMD co-branded sessions at AAPG meetings – including short courses, workshops and technical sessions at Section, annual and international conferences.
EMD recently partnered with DEG to co-sponsor a GTW in Golden, Colo., in August to address “Hydraulic Fracturing: New Controversies and Key Plays, Including Niobrara.” GTWs offer a unique setting to allow speakers and attendees time for ample discussion, with a typical GTW attracting between 70-120 participants.
The feedback from this specific workshop was highly positive, and EMD and DEG are pursuing options to repeat similar workshops tailored to specific plays in Appalachia (Marcellus, Utica) and/or the Gulf Coast and Mid-Continent (Haynesville, Eagle Ford, Mississippi Lime), among others. Already, we’re collaborating on a new GTW with DEG titled “Solving Water Problems in Oil and Gas Production: New Technologies for Cost Savings and Revenue Flows,” planned for Feb. 26-27 in Fort Worth.
In a first for AAPG, the recent Singapore ICE meeting opened with a plenary session focused on “Unconventionals in Southeast Asia,” which attracted upwards of 700 people – nearly one third of the ICE’s attendees.
The EMD-sponsored session featured an interactive panel discussion moderated by Scott Tinker, and included speakers from various sectors of industry.
The challenges in SE Asia unconventionals are quite different to those in the more established North American plays. Concerns around infrastructure, government-ownership of mineral rights, timing of a coal to natural gas product stream and political differences by country were highlighted in the highly energized discussion.
While unconventional gas appears abundant in Southeast Asia, getting at it will take time with long-term investment in infrastructure – and a drive to change the energy landscape.
At press time, EMD also was preparing an active program for the 2013 ACE in Pittsburgh – and that will be the first AAPG annual meeting to be held in the Eastern Section since the Atlanta convention in 1986.
With abstracts in, it’s a busy time to assemble sessions in the topical themes. EMD will be sponsoring several workshops, short courses and field trips, as well as technical sessions in Theme 1 – which is, of course, “Unconventional Resources.”
The next EMD column in February coincides with a new year, and possibly a new U.S. president in the White House. We can hope gas prices will have increased over today’s $3.20 benchmark, and rig counts will remain constant or better.
Although the future is uncertain, it would seem that energy will remain a relevant and dominant topic (both domestically and internationally), and as such, 2013 could again be another good year for geoscientists – and EMD.