Energy, the Environment and the AAPG

After just a couple of days back from our AAPG Leadership Days gathering in Tulsa, on a whim, I did a Google trend search on the terms “environment+natural gas” + “water,” “energy+water” and “energy+environment.”

The results were essentially identical with Google trend scores in the mid-70s (out of 100). These are pretty high scores, with most interest coming from North America, the U.K., Australia and Southeast Asia, India and sub-Saharan Africa.

What do they mean?

We could discuss, but, in general, I think all would agree that there is a very high global interest and concern in the environmental aspects of energy production.

In my experience, all geologists involved in exploration and production inherently understand this, and we all are environmentalists by nature. However, in the global concern about energy and the environment, how do we show – how do we demonstrate – our environmental knowledge and respect?

And how do we represent ourselves and the AAPG?

We each must make our own choices as to how we demonstrate our environmental concerns, but I believe there are a few approaches that can benefit us all, and our Association:

As a first thought, don’t be afraid to use the term “environmental” in your routine geospeak.

There have been times in the past where an oil and gas geologist would look at an environmental geologist as one of “those” people not to be associated with. Now, every well location, drilling procedure, hydraulic fracturing job, seismic program, access road, cement job, etc., requires an environmental analysis.

Indeed, most geologists I know routinely consider any potential environmental impact in whatever they are doing. However, we often do not communicate well to the public that we have analyzed for environmental impacts as part of our routine work.

We cannot assume the public knows we have used our considerable expertise and knowledge of the earth for environmental analyses as part of our investigation into energy production. In every written and verbal statement and reports, let the public know that you know, and have studied, the potential environmental impacts and are helping mitigate potential issues.

A second thought would be to associate with those who have environmental concerns.

Too often it is an “us-versus-them” situation, yet we have the earth science expertise. Share knowledge and openly discuss issues where possible, and our natural character as environmentalists will shine through.

We can learn from advocates but also teach, because many concepts in geology and geophysics are not known, or not understood, by many who question what we do. Simple explanations using common thoughts and words can go a long way in promoting our industry and organization.

Finally, stay current on the environmental issues that might impact oil and gas exploration and production. An ability to intelligently discuss various issues such as frac fluids, water use, fugitive methane emissions, CO2 impacts, endangered species, induced seismicity, groundwater impacts or global energy needs can go a long way in showing your concern and your expertise in understanding the overall geologic situation.

The DEG is your AAPG Division to help with the environmental realities of global energy production. Join us and we will work together to support our AAPG and the ever-increasing and expanding future for environmentally friendly oil and gas exploration and development.

Please join me in welcoming to the DEG leadership team our new president-elect, Jeffrey Paine, from the Bureau of Economic Geology in Austin, Texas.

Joining Jeff on the DEG leadership committee are newly elected vice president Jane Ellis-McNaboe, EnviroTech Consultants, Bakersfield, Calif.; and secretary-treasurer Steven Tischer, ConocoPhillips, Midland, Texas.

I look forward to working with all of them, plus past-president Tom Temples and editor Kristin M. Carter, as we grow the DEG and the environmental face of the AAPG into the future.

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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

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 Umiat reservoir consists of shoreface and deltaic sandstones of the Cretaceous Nanushuk Formation deformed by a thrust-related anticline. Depositional environment imparts a strong vertical and horizontal permeability anisotropy to the reservoir that may be further complicated by diagenesis and open natural fractures.

Experimental and theoretical studies indicate that there is a significant reduction in the relative permeability of oil in the presence of ice, with a maximum reduction when connate water is fresh and less reduction when water is saline. A representative Umiat oil sample was reconstituted by comparing the composition of a severely weathered Umiat fluid to a theoretical Umiat fluid composition derived using the Pedersen method. This sample was then used to determine fluid properties at reservoir conditions such as bubble point pressure, viscosity, and density.

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Deeper burial coupled with high geothermal gradients in the onshore eastern Otway Basin and along the northern basin margin during the early Cretaceous have rendered Lower Cretaceous source rocks mostly overmature, with any remaining hydrocarbons from the initial charge likely to be trapped in tightly compacted reservoirs and/or secondary (fracture-related) porosity. However, the embrittlement of these reservoirs during their deeper burial may present opportunities for the development of low-permeability plays through hydraulic fracturing where smectite clay minerals are illitized. Source rocks at near-maximum burial at present day are at temperatures suitable for gas generation, with key controls on prospectivity in these areas including the sealing potential of faulted traps and the relationship between charge and trap development.

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