Policy Watch

Making Connections During the Annual CVD

AAPG’s CVD team: (top row, from left) Art Johnson, Roger Humphreville and Don Juckett;
(middle row) Dan Billman, Edith Allison, Paul Britt and Richard Ball; (bottom row) Jim Hill,
Carol Hill, (guest) Shawn Woodbridge, Valary Schulz, Pete Mackenzie and Connie Mongold.
AAPG’s CVD team: (top row, from left) Art Johnson, Roger Humphreville and Don Juckett; (middle row) Dan Billman, Edith Allison, Paul Britt and Richard Ball; (bottom row) Jim Hill, Carol Hill, (guest) Shawn Woodbridge, Valary Schulz, Pete Mackenzie and Connie Mongold.

As part of our spring – or almost spring – Congressional Visits Days (CVD) on March 10-12, AAPG members visited agency and congressional offices, advocating for geoscience research and science-based regulation, learning about the activities and opinions of decision makers, and establishing contacts for future communication.

Our only complaint was that so few AAPG members were able to join us.

This year our group of 11 – together or as smaller groups – met with six executive branch agencies plus 16 senators’ or representatives’ offices.

The fact that Congress set aside last year’s budget sequester (across-the-board cuts) and approved a federal spending bill in January may have been the source of this year’s more forward-looking discussions with both executive branch agencies and congressional offices.

AAPG Secretary Richard Ball, part of the
CVD team, archives the experience.
AAPG Secretary Richard Ball, part of the CVD team, archives the experience.

It also is likely that recurring visits with AAPG members over the past several years are leading to more informed and forward-looking discussions.

Many of the groups that we met included well-informed, high-level managers – a sign of how much they value our visits. These meetings also provided information on new programs or initiatives, which may be useful to members who are reading this article.

(If you wish additional information or instructions on how to provide input to government decision makers contact Edith Allison by email or call 202-643-6533.)

During the meetings, AAPG members stressed that they and their colleagues are available as a source of accurate, unbiased scientific information about petroleum and environmental geoscience.

Many of the groups that we met asked for our input and coordination on issues of common interest, for example:

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) are charged with managing offshore energy activities. During our discussions the agencies described their difficulties in recruiting geologists, geophysicists and engineers, which is made more difficult by the high demand by industry for these same professions and higher industry salaries.

AAPG members provided the appropriate AAPG contacts for two AAPG opportunities: Student expos and the Imperial Barrel Award competition.

BSEE wants to hear from companies that wish to be involved in the new Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OEIS), managed by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, to enhance communication and coordination for offshore safety.

OEIS is planning several forums this spring to encourage industry, academia and industry collaboration and communication.

BOEM officials stated their plans to ask the AAPG Committee on Resource Evaluation to peer review the 2016 update of OCS technically recoverable resources. This AAPG committee has assisted U.S. government agencies for many years by peer-reviewing assessments.

Another opportunity for AAPG members, and other stakeholders: We will be invited to contribute to the BOEM 2017-21 five-year plan starting with the “Request for Information” later this year.

Our group met with senior managers of the EPA Office of Atmospheric Programs, which is responsible for climate change activities and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This was AAPG’s first meeting with EPA offices that are responsible for monitoring and regulating oil and gas industry air emissions.

The EPA managers seemed unfamiliar with the upstream oil and gas industry, which is not unexpected given that most emission reporting is done by downstream operations.

EPA invited comments on the latest GHG emissions report and planned changes in the reporting rules. Pete Mackenzie offered to provide information from recent studies documenting emissions.

A couple weeks after our meeting the White House announced its Climate Action Plan, which directs EPA to solicit expert input on methane emissions from oil and gas operations as a basis for deciding on the need to regulate industry methane emissions. In mid-April, EPA will release five white papers on potentially significant sources of methane and VOC emissions from the oil and gas sector nationwide:

  • Hydraulically fractured oil wells.
  • Liquids unloading.
  • Leaks.
  • Pneumatic devices.
  • Compressors.

EPA will be accepting public comments. AAPG’s energy and geoscience policy office will publicize the white papers with instructions on how to respond.

The EPA contacts established during the CVD meetings will help AAPG members to be involved in the discussions about industry methane emissions, which could have a significant impact on industry operations and the cost of energy to consumers.

The AAPG group divided in two in order to visit both the majority and minority staff of the House Natural Resources Committee, one of three House committees involved in energy policy and regulation.

(The other relevant House committees are Energy and Commerce, and Science, Space and Technology.)

Both majority and minority staff include scientists and are knowledgeable in industry issues. The majority staff asked AAPG members to let them know about industry activities and issues that might precede congressional involvement.

Meetings with individual Senate or House members were a mix of new introductions and renewed acquaintances. Several DPA members have participated in several CVDs and the annual September Geo-CVDs. Recurring meetings with congressional staff build a strong foundation for them to seek AAPG members’ opinions.

Congress does the majority of its work through committees and their subcommittees. Committees conduct hearings and develop legislation under Congress’ responsibilities to legislate and oversee the executive branch.

The House has 23 committees and 104 subcommittees; the Senate has 17 committees and 70 subcommittees. The senators and representatives that our members met are members of the committees most influential in oil and natural gas science, research and regulation – for example, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.) are the chair and ranking member of the Environmental and Public Works Committee that oversees the EPA.

AAPG members at CVD also met with representatives on two of the major House energy and science committees: Energy and Commerce, and Science, Space and Technology.

With a larger group, we could have an opportunity to establish communication with a representative on the Natural Resources Committee.

Another opportunity to visit Congress with a group of AAPG members is Geoscience Congressional Visits Day on Sept. 17-18. More information is available at the American Geosciences Institute website.

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Policy Watch

Policy Watch - Edie Allison
Edie Allison began as the Director of the AAPG Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington D.C. in 2012.

Policy Watch

Policy Watch is a monthly column of the EXPLORER written by the director of AAPG's  Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C. *The first article appeared in February 2006 under the name "Washington Watch" and the column name was changed to "Policy Watch" in January 2013 to broaden the subject matter to a more global view.

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See Also: Bulletin Article

The presence of hydrocarbon-bearing sandstones within the Eocene of the Forties area was first documented in 1985, when a Forties field (Paleocene) development well discovered the Brimmond field. Further hydrocarbons in the Eocene were discovered in the adjacent Maule field in 2009. Reservoir geometry derived from three-dimensional seismic data has provided evidence for both a depositional and a sand injectite origin for the Eocene sandstones. The Brimmond field is located in a deep-water channel complex that extends to the southeast, whereas the Maule field sandstones have the geometry of an injection sheet on the updip margin of the Brimmond channel system with a cone-shape feature emanating from the top of the Forties Sandstone Member (Paleocene). The geometry of the Eocene sandstones in the Maule field indicates that they are intrusive and originated by the fluidization and injection of sand during burial. From seismic and borehole data, it is unclear whether the sand that was injected to form the Maule reservoir was derived from depositional Eocene sandstones or from the underlying Forties Sandstone Member. These two alternatives are tested by comparing the heavy mineral and garnet geochemical characteristics of the injectite sandstones in the Maule field with the depositional sandstones of the Brimmond field and the Forties sandstones of the Forties field.

The study revealed significant differences between the sandstones in the Forties field and those of the Maule and Brimmond fields), both in terms of heavy mineral and garnet geochemical data. The Brimmond-Maule and Forties sandstones therefore have different provenances and are genetically unrelated, indicating that the sandstones in the Maule field did not originate by the fluidization of Forties sandstones. By contrast, the provenance characteristics of the depositional Brimmond sandstones are closely comparable with sandstone intrusions in the Maule field. We conclude that the injectites in the Maule field formed by the fluidization of depositional Brimmond sandstones but do not exclude the important function of water from the huge underlying Forties Sandstone Member aquifer as the agent for developing the fluid supply and elevating pore pressure to fluidize and inject the Eocene sand. The study has demonstrated that heavy mineral provenance studies are an effective method of tracing the origin of injected sandstones, which are increasingly being recognized as an important hydrocarbon play.

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Earth modeling, from the construction of subsurface structure and stratigraphy, to the accurate understanding of rock physics, through the simulation of seismic and nonseismic responses, is an enabling technology to guide decisions in acquisition, processing, imaging, inversion and reservoir property inference, for both static and time-lapse understanding. So it is crucial to capture those earth elements that most influence the geophysical phenomena we seek to study. This is notoriously difficult, probably because we regularly underestimate how clever the earth can be in producing various geophysical phenomena.

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