The Quest for Energy
in Petroleum Exploration
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Exploration's Challenge: Projecting surface observations into the subsurface
using remote sensing tools.
Goal - 'Black Gold': Petroleum provides more than 60% of our current
is Petroleum?: Definition.
Products: We are familiar with the primary products, but
Products: provide many items we use daily and never associate with oil.
Fuel Consumption: Our demand for energy continues to increase.
Energy Demand: The demand is driven largely by population increase, but
Usage: ….. there are other 'driver' and modifiers' of the energy demand.
World Energy Supplies: One model for the primary sources of energy into
the future shows oil and gas dominating the supply until 2040 to 2060, suggesting
that careers in oil and gas remain important for at least three more generations
of geologists and petroleum engineers.
World Petroleum Basins: The worlds known petroleum comes from a widely
distributed number of areas, but the largest reserves are concentrated in
the Middle East, Western Siberia, and Venezuela.
North American Petroleum Basins: In North American, the major oil fields
occur in a limited number of basins, and supply less than 50% of current domestic
Field Work: The quest for oil and gas continues on a global scale as
current over supply in likely to disappear within 10 years, driving the price
upward and encouraging a renewed effort in exploration for new discoveries
and enhanced production techniques to recover more reserves from known reservoirs.
of Petroleum: A useful resource since ancient times, but mostly since
invention of the internal combustion engine in 1885.
Industry Breakthroughs: Driven by the demand for petroleum, the creative
efforts of geoscientists and engineers have resulted in technological innovation
that has successively provided new tools for exploration and enhanced recovery.
Theory: Gas being lighter than oil, and oil lighter than water, provides
the most fundamental fact used in exploration and production of oil and gas.
Either field mapping or subsurface mapping of structurally high reservoir
rocks provides definition of potential traps.
Industry Scientists: A broad array of technologists work in the petroleum
industry, from exploration through production and refining.
Importance of Developing Technologies: The constant infusion of new technologies
and tools results in new opportunities in old places. New, more cost effective
exploration and production techniques open up opportunities in locations where
old technology was not cost effective. The infusion of the new tools is now
largely driven by computer technology, creating a demand for a new generation
of computer literate employees.
Oil Companies Have a Viable Future: Many economic pundits predict the
demise of the oil companies. This prediction is refuted by three facts:
1) Petroleum company demographics; 2) Expanding international opportunities;
and 3) Infusion of new technology.
Demographics: The current staff of most oil companies is rapidly aging
with the hiring peak of the 1978-1983 "boom" entering retirement
age within 10 years, and an inadequate replacement population in place. Just
to sustain operations, oil companies must significantly increase hiring.
Undiscovered Potential: New geographic areas provide an increase in opportunities
to discover new reserves. In the 1990, there has been a doubling in the areas
open to western oil company activity, driven largely by the opening of the
former Soviet Union and the partnering with national oil companies in China
Exploration: The on-going and emerging opportunities for exploration
and production are globally distributed in a broad spectrum of structural
and stratigraphic environments, driving the need for an educationally and
culturally diverse work force.
Search for Oil and Gas: Because the process of exploration and production
is complex, it demands a work force with diverse skill sets working together
- Integrated Technology: For example, in order to increase production and improve recovery from a producing field, a team of geologists and engineers must work together to find the best field development plan. Cross discipline communication is essential in such teams.
Reservoir Management: The integrated team can optimize existing data,
analyzed using new tools, and test new ideas for development using computer
of Integrated Reservoir Management: An example of a successful team effort
is shown by this production history for one Neogene deltaic field in Nigeria.
The history of production and predicted production decline is show in red
and orange. An integrated team of technologists re-interpreted the depositional
environment, developed a plan for placement of injection wells to drive the
hydrocarbons into production wells, and achieved both an immediate increase
in production and a much greater total recovery from the reservoir. This
translates into a significant increase on investment return.
Reach Drilling: In addition to integrated team efforts, the application
of new technology provides economic incentive for continued exploration and
production. Drilling technology now allows wells to be drilled laterally
thousands of feet away from drilling platforms. This technology required
not only downhole motor and steering assemblies, and a new generation of drilling
muds to reduce friction on the drill string, but development of geologic techniques
to keep the bore-hole within the objective pathway.
Reach Drilling: By using extended reach drilling, one gas field in the
southern North Sea achieved a cost savings of $70 million, and increased reserve
potential by 54 billion cubic feet of gas. Economically successful examples
such as this encourage companies to continue investing in the new technologies.
Careers for Geoscientists
Mapping and Sampling: Traditional roles of collecting field data, both
geophysical and geologic, are only one small example of the opportunities
open to geology majors working for oil companies.
Paths: Each individual can direct their career path by continuous learning
of new skills and the optimal application of those skills. This not only
provides sustained interest in the job but significant opportunity for lateral
Professional Development: The employee and the company are partners in
career development, whether the career pathway is that of a specialist or
generalist. As experience increases, an employee's primary activity evolves.
Technical ladder geoscientists can work toward roles of specialist, consultant
or integrator, each providing a rewarding career.
Data Analysis: Petroleum exploration and production is a data driven
science. Computers provide a tool to better manage and interpret that data
using a broad spectrum of fundamental laws and concepts of geology, hydrology,
physics and chemistry.
Petroleum Geologist - A Detective: In most cases, the petroleum geologist
will be dealing with relatively small amounts of data and must learn how to
interpolate and extrapolate from that limited data set to achieve success.
This challenge is met by using all the tools and data available, evaluating
the economic potential based on the interpretation of the data, and recommending
a plan of action to management. Where else but in an oil company is a geoscientist
going to find the resources to test geologic predictions with a well that
costs millions of dollars?
Calibration for Petrophysical Analysis: The data available to the geoscientist
can range from analysis of rocks, either from outcrop or core, which are used
to calibrate well logs and provide interpretations of depositional environments,…..
Simulation and History Matching: ….to the use of computers to evaluate
the depositional model by altering the model to fit the production history
of a field. This iterative process results in better geologic models used
to interpret the rock based data.
Geoscience Careers: Exploration and producing geoscience spans a broad
range of subdisciplines: the following slide set attempts to show elements
of each discipline with the technical fields or activities highlighted in
the red box:
Geology: Once a geographic area of opportunity is identified, the regional
geologist assembles the data and interprets the paleogeography of the area,
identifies existing petroleum systems or probable petroleum systems of that
area, and recommends the potential exploration plays that meet the economic
parameters of the company.
Modeling: Computer simulation of the generation, migration and entrapment
of petroleum within the structural, stratigraphic and thermal context of a
basin provide critical estimates on petroleum system potential for economic
Geology: Interpretation of the structural history, using seismic record
sections, interpreted following fundamentals derived from both computer and
physical models, provides definition of potential traps for hydrocarbons.
as Seals and Conduits: Geology is a four dimensional discipline; the
evolution through time of three dimensional entities. An example is faults,
which at various times in their history can be either barriers to hydrocarbon
migration or conduits along which oil and gas migrate.
In petroleum geology, the depositional environment of reservoir, source and
seal rock is often interpreted from stratal geometry identified on seismic
reflection profiles. This work requires an understanding of depositional
systems, sequence stratigraphy, petrophysical analysis of well logs, and biostratigraphy
and paleoecology from fossils.
One example of stratigraphic analysis is for the potential of oil from coaly
source rocks, which requires: 1) an understanding of the geochemistry of
the oil; 2) matching the oil to a specific type of source rock; 3) understanding
the physical, chemical and biologic aspects of the probable depositional environment
of that source rock; and 4) predicting when and where that depositional environment
would occur within a potentially effective petroleum system.
Similary, in carbonate systems an understanding of the evolution of organisms
that produce carbonate sediments and the consequent distribution of those
sediment-type and their diagenetic history is essential to effective petroleum
exploration and production.
Geochemistry: Understanding the origin of different types of oil and
gas provides ideas about where the source rocks of that hydrocarbon may have
been deposited and how it may have migrated from the mature source rock to
the trap. Such understanding provides a template for additional exploration
along the migration pathway.
Characterization: At the production scale, the depositional fabric of
a reservoir controls fluid flow, and will vary between different depositional
environments. Models based on modern analogs, selected by careful analysis
of subsurface data, can then be tested through computer simulation and history
matching. This type of integrated study can result in much better estimates
of reservoir volume and reserves in place, and development of an optimal production
plan optimizing recovery.
Geochemistry: A tremendous aid to reservoir characterization is provided
by detailed identification of hydrocarbon types within the reservoir. If
distinctly separate and/or mixed types are identified, they provide constraints
on the connectivity of different parts of the reservoir, and perhaps even
the migration and entrapment history. From this understanding a plan for
maximum hydrocarbon recovery can be developed, including when and where to
use fracturing, acidizing, water flood or other techniques to enhance recovery.
Photo: Each of these geoscience subdisciplines uses a spectrum of tools
and data. Some traditional tools, such as aerial and satellite imagery have
improved in resolution or surface features, where as …..
Seismic Image: ….. new tools, such as 3D seismic data, allows imaging
of the subsurface as we have never seen it before. This 3D seismic image
shows the distribution of reflection amplitude of a data volume that looks
like, and probably is, a channel-fed submarine fan.
Definition from Trap and Reservoir Images: 3D seismic volumes allow display
of a structural image, identifying synclines and anticlines (horizontal -
two-way time slice), and a stratigraphic image, identifying channel fed sand-prone
fan reservoir facies (stratigraphic - RMS-amplitude extracation from an interval
immediately above a sequence boundary. Where the stratigraphic reservoir
occurs within a structural trap is the drilling target, if further analysis
suggests the occurrence of hydrocarbons.
Seismic Image of Channel Sand: State of the art techniques in analyzing 3D
seismic volumes are rapidly expanding. This picture shows a three dimensional
view of a submarine channel sandstone, a single hydrocarbon reservoir. The
channel sand was penetrated in one well, characterized by the petrophysical
properties measured by core-calibrated wireline logs, and then extrapolated
through the 3D seismic volume using parameters identified by neural network
analysis of the petrophysical data. The application of these techniques resulted
from the teamwork of a sedimentologist, geophysicist, petrophysicist and mathematician.
Increasingly, petroleum geology requires teamwork with cross discipline communication
being an absolute requirement for project success.
System, Play Definition, and Risk: Exploration for hydrocarbons is most
often organized about the Petroleum System, which defines the source, reservoir,
seal and trap as elements, and generation, migration, entrapment and preservation
as the processes. This necessitates construction of a series of cross sections
and maps that reconstruct the history of an exploration play area.
System Definition: The essential elements and processes as well as all
genetically related hydrocarbons that occur in petroleum shows, seeps, and
accumulations whose provenance is a single pod of active source rock. [also
called hydrocarbon systems and oil and gas systems][Magoon and Dow, 1994].
Petroleum System at Critical Moment: [the Deer-Boar is a fictitious name
for a conceptual model petroleum system] Map view of the geographic extent
of the Deer-Boar petroleum system at the critical moment (250 Ma). Thermally
immature source rock (Light green) is outside the oil window. The pod of
active source rock (pink) lies within the oil and gas windows. Critical moment
refers to the time that best depicts the generation-migration-accumulation
of hydrocarbons in a petroleum system. In fact, it is an interval of time
rather than a geologically instantaneous moment.
System at Critical Moment: Geologic cross section showing the stratigraphic
extent of the fictitious Deer-Boar petroleum system at the critical moment
(250 Ma). Thermally immature source rock lies updip of the oil window (above
green dots). The pod of active source rock is within the oil window.
Day Petroleum System: Subsequent rifting of the basin results in modification
of traps containing the initial accumulations of hydrocarbon.
and Gas Fields of Deer-Boar Petroleum System: Inventory of accumulations
which provides the basis for the geochemical typing of hydrocarbons and biomarker
matching of a hydrocarbon to a specific source rock. This provides the basis
for identifying a petroleum system.
History Chart: Showing the Critical Moment (250 Ma) when the source rock
reaches maturity and hydrocarbons are generated during the interval of 260-240
System Events Chart: The events chart shows the relationship between
the essential elements and processes as well as the preservation time and
Petroleum System Elements:
System Elements: The physical entities of a petroleum system are called
elements, and consist of the source rock, migration route, reservoir rock,
seal rock and trap. Each of these elements constitute a critical component
of a petroleum system and must be carefully studied.
System Elements: Defined.
Origin of Petroleum: Fine-grained sedimentary rock contains insoluble
organic matter called kerogen, which can generate hydrocarbon when subjected
to sufficient heat for enough time to crack the kerogen to hydrocarbon.
Rock for Petroleum: Organic matter occurrences in rock are controlled
by both productivity and preservation. This laminated rock from the Monterey
Formation of California has seasonal laminations; dark layers represent wet
season clay from surface runoff that is also organic rich as the marine productivity
system peaks during this season due to both nutrients in the runoff-waters
and coincident upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water.
Types: The dominant types of organic matter are algal and woody.
biological productivity produces algal organic matter that is rich in
hydrogen atoms and yield oil under thermal cracking, while much of the terrestrial
organic matter is woody with low hydrogen content and thus is gas prone.
Accurate prediction of probable hydrocarbon type and volume, based on paleogeographic
and productivity models, is critical to exploration success.
Sandstone: A reservoir rock is one in which pore space exists for the
accumulation of hydrocarbon, and the pore spaces are interconnected (permeability)
so the hydrocarbon can move both into and out of the pore spaces. Understanding
of diagenetic processes and predicting diagenetic histories within three dimensional
reservoir facies is essential for optimal reservoir development strategies.
Sandstone: Diagenesis of the reservoir rock, such as cement formation,
can reduce the pore space volume and reduce the permeability so less hydrocarbon
can flow through the rock.
A broad range of trap types exists.
Trap Types: Traps illustrated.
Imaging of Anticline: Most early discoveries of hydrocarbons were from
anticlinal traps, either mapped by surface geologic patterns, or from anticlines
imaged in the subsurface using reflection seismology.
Image of Anticline: Example of a subsurface anticline imaged on a 2D
seismic reflection profile.
Imaging: Currently, 3D seismic data is the primary exploration tool.
This allows for much more precise imaging of both the structure and the stratigraphy
of a trap.
Seismic Image - Submarine Fan: The 3D seismic volume permits imaging
of depositional elements of the rock record, such as this confined flow (channel)
systems feeding a less-confined flow fan. If the high amplitude facies, shown
in red, is sand-prone, the 3D seismic image clearly defines a potential reservoir.
Texas Oil Field: Discovered in 1930, the East Texas oil field was located
first from surface mapping. It is a combined structural/stratigraphic trap
with an erosional unconformity on one limb of folded strata.
Bay Oil Field: Discovered in 1968 using 2D seismic reflection profiles,
as also a combination structural/stratigraphic trap, with an unconformity
across the crest of an anticline.
Petroleum System Processes:
System Processes: The processes of the petroleum system consist of generation,
migration and accumulation, and also the preservation of the hydrocarbon once
in the trap.
System Processes: Defined.
Maturation History: Generation of hydrocarbon requires the thermal cracking
of the kerogen. Depending on the composition of the kerogen either gas or
oil or gas and oil will be generated. With increasing depth of burial the
oil may be further cracked to gas.
System Events Chart: The petroleum system events chart captures the timing
of each element and process of a system. Once the source rock as been buried
with sufficient overburden, the thermal cracking of the kerogen generates
hydrocarbon. Once the kerogen has produced sufficient hydrocarbon to saturate
the source rock matrix, the excess hydrocarbon is available for migration.
System: Timing is Critical: For accumulations to occur, a trap must
exist either before or coincident with the time of migration. The petroleum
system events chart helps capture these critical aspects of timing.
System: A petroleum system is dynamic, constantly changing as a consequence
of migration, deformation, etc. If an oil-prone source rock matures to gas
generation, it is possible that early entrapped oil can be displaced if the
accumulation is confined between two highly effective seals.
Play Analysis: Once a petroleum system is defined and/or a trap mapped,
an evaluation of its economic potential must be carried out. Given the volume
of a trap, and the type of hydrocarbon expected, a reserve in millions of
barrels of oil equivalent (MMBOE) can be calculated, and using historical
data, the probability of finding an accumulation of that size can be estimated.
That potential accumulation can then be risked based on the confidence in
the analysis of petroleum system elements and processes.
Costs: The driver for the economic analysis is clearly cost. Collection
of seismic data for exploration is very expensive, and wells in environmentally
sensitive locations or remote areas are extremely costly. Thus, a careful
economic assessment is essential.
of Drilling Rigs: One of the problems with any economic assessment is
changing parameters. For example, in late 1988 costs for drill rigs was high
due to lots of wells being drilled with oil at $22 per barrel. Then in late
1988 and early 1999, collapse of the Far East economy resulted in excess supplies
of oil and the price per barrel dropped to less than $11 per barrel. This
drop in price resulted in many plays no longer being economic and lots of
drilling was canceled, resulting in a surplus of drilling rigs and a drop
in the daily cost for a rig. By late 1999, production reductions by OPEC
countries had decreased the surplus of oil, and the price rose to $24 per
barrel. Such variations make planning very difficult.
Ways Industry Pays for Drilling Rights: Most oil and gas exploration
occurs on land owned by governments or individuals. The oil companies must
pay the owner for the right to explore and drill. This is an additional cost
that must be factored into the economic analysis.
Rig: Rotary drilling rigs are the tool used to test the potential trap
for hydrocarbons. The surface rig provides the power to lower the drill pipe
into the hole , turn the bit to penetrate the rock, and pump the mud system
to lift the rock chips out of the hole and prevent formation fluids, oil,
gas or water, from entering the hole until testing. To protect both people
and the environment, a system of blow-out preventers is attached to the casing
which is cemented to the rock formations. This system controls both the drilling
fluids and formations fluids as the depth of the drilling hole penetrated
into higher pressured intervals.
A rock bit chips the formation providing cuttings, which are easily removed
by the circulating mud and provide the geologist with information about the
subsurface. When more detail in needed, a core bit, often set with industrial
diamonds, is used to drill into the formation leaving a solid core of rock
in the center of the bit. This rock core provides observations of sedimentary
structures, bedding patterns, and detailed microscopic analysis for interpretation
of environmental environments and prediction of reservoir quality.
Drilling Avoids Surface Hazards: Originally, drilling was only vertical,
but new technology and drilling fluids permit directional drilling. For instance,
in California, several oil fields offshore are produced from wells with onshore
To reduce the number of wells needed to produce a field, directional drilling
can be used to selectively penetrate the reservoir. In this example, from
the North Sea, a well was directionally steered using biofacies information
from fossils and rock type information from cuttings and logs. The one well
penetrated nearly 3000 feet of the reservoir interval resulting in the need
for fewer wells and a savings of $12 million.
Analysis for Flow Unit Determination: During specific stages of drilling,
a set of logging tools is lowered into the hole to measure various rock and
fluid properties. This information, calibrated by rock cuttings and drill
fluid analysis, helps identify the type of rocks and fluids encountered.
Interpretation of the depositional environment of the rocks helps in predicting
the distribution and quality of a reservoir or seal, and the porosity and
permeability of the reservoir rock. Measurements of fluids provides information
on the presence or absence of hydrocarbons.
Drill Stem: Once an interval of probable reservoir rock with possible
hydrocarbons present is penetrated, a special tool in lowered down the hole
to recover formation fluids within that specific interval. This provides
a test not only of the type of fluids present but the rate at which they will
flow out of the formation.
Oil Well: A well is completed for production when oil or gas in economically
viable volumes and production rates is located. This is a very complex assembly
of downhole devices to assure that the hydrocarbon fluids do not enter into
other formations where they might contaminate water supplies. Movement of
the hydrocarbons from the formation deep in the earth to the surface can be
driven by water or gas pushing the oil or gas out of the formation, into the
well bore and up to the surface production system.
Recovery: Primary production, that which occurs naturally by earth driven
pressures moving the hydrocarbon to the surface, recovers only about 40% of
the hydrocarbon in the reservoir. Some of the remaining hydrocarbon can be
recovered by injecting water, gas, steam or chemicals into the reservoir to
drive the 'left-behind' hydrocarbon out of the reservoir. Fire within the
reservoir can also help increase the recovery of reserves. While these techniques
are expensive, the initial production infrastructure is already in place,
and through very careful study of the reservoir geometry and flow-unit patterns,
additional reserves can provide additional profit.
Petroleum: Much of the world's petroleum reserves are far from the markets
needing the products. Transportation from fields by seagoing tankers or land
pipeline systems brings the oil to refineries where the oil and gas is processed
into a spectrum of marketable products.
Petroleum: Similar to the natural thermal cracking of kerogon into hydrocarbons,
refining involves the thermal cracking of hydrocarbon into specific products.
drilled in the USA: During this century, the success in drilling has
shifted from dominance of oil to gas discoveries. Technology, such as 3D
seismic, has reduced the number of dry holes but oil has become increasingly
harder to discover in well explored areas.
Domestic Production: Additionally, the total production of oil and gas
in the US has declined since 1973 as the easily found and less expensive to
produce hydrocarbon has begun to be depleted. This has lead to a greater
dependence on imports.
States Petroleum Imports: The global energy market has continued to provide
the necessary oil and gas to drive industrial economies. However, as the
US has used up much of its cheap reserves, and continues to increase energy
demands through population increase and industrial expansion, we have had
to import increasingly greater amounts of petroleum. The purchase of this
energy is increasingly expensive and constitutes a large part of the US foreign
Suppliers of Oil to the US: In 1998, the major suppliers of oil to the
US were Venezuela, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico. When the over production
of oil resulted in a decrease in price from $22 to below $12 per barrel, it
was these countries that helped cut back on production and drove the price
back above $24 per barrel by late 1999.
of Oil - At Well Head: When oil drops from $24 to $12 per barrel, most
of the drop comes out of the 'margin', which is the 'profit' available for
new exploration and production investment. Based on mid-1999 costs, a 50%
decline in the price for a barrel of oil resulted in a 500% decline in the
margin. No wonder oil companies cut back their exploration programs and decreased
their exploration staffs.
Average Wellhead Oil Price: Oil prices have always fluctuated, but recent
changes have been much greater and occurred over shorter periods of time.
Note that the major factors causing the changes have been political, not economic.
This makes forecasting oil and gas prices very difficult.
Gas Price: Despite the fluctuation of oil and gas prices, the average
price of regular unleaded gasoline is near the long term average (currently
about $1.20 nationally, October 1999). In general, technology and world wide
production have made gasoline increasingly less expensive when calculated
in constant dollars. However, the consumer has difficulty believing this
when he pulls up to the gas pump and pays more than a dollar a gallon.
Price: Cost versus Tax: Often missed in the equation of gasoline prices
are the taxes imposed by the state and federal government. In January 1999,
the tax on gasoline ranged from $ 0.35 in Tulsa, Oklahoma to $ 0.43 in Washington,
D.C. But this tax is nothing compared to the rest of the world.
Price: Cost versus Tax: While the US tax on a gallon averages $ 0.40,
most countries have taxes that range from $2 to $4 per gallon.
Price: Cost versus Tax: Those taxes result in a 1999 pump price in the
United Kingdom 454% higher than the US price. While we complain of $1.20
per gallon at the pump, in reality, the US has always enjoyed 'cheap' gasoline
relative to the rest of the industrial world.
Oil Price Forecasts: In planning for the future, companies must forecast
the cost of doing business. Energy is an essential part of that planning.
It is interesting to note that the US Department of Energy believes that the
price of oil will continue to go upward, but is not able to predict what the
base price will be from year to year.
Oil Price Forecasts: The Department of Energy is not the only organization
with difficulty in predicting prices. This diagram shows the predictions
for 1998-2008 by nine organizations. There is no clear-cut pattern, and thus
no unique strategy for planning except maintaining flexibility when it comes
to the price of energy.
Oil and Gas Consumption/Efficiency: With decreasing domestic hydrocarbon
reserves, and valid concerns about the deleterious environmental consequences
from burning fossil fuels, there have been numerous economic incentives for
technological advances in fuel efficiency. For example, the automobile consumes
vast amounts of energy. Since 1971, fuel efficiency in miles-per-gallon for
a V8 engine has nearly doubled. And yet population increases have driven
consumption ever upward.
Efficient Energy Use: But much more can be done with technology. Only
12% of wellhead oil energy is actually driving a car's wheels. The challenge
is to find ways to reduce the heat and friction in powering a car and thus
reduce fuel consumption and the emission of pollutants.
Concentration of CO/2: Carbon dioxide is one of the main 'green-house
gases' and is produced by burning fossil fuels. The record of carbon dioxide
concentrations clearly records significant increases parallel with the industrialization
of mankind. This increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide may result in global
warming, the increase in storm intensity, the shifting of climate belts with
deleterious impact on agriculture and populations dependent on local food
CO/2 Emissions: While advanced technologies can increase fuel economy
and reduce emissions, the increasing world population and the expansion of
industrialization in to the developing nations essentially negates our progress.
Additional solutions are needed.
Capture and Storage: Given that fossil fuels will remain our primary
energy source for the next 50 to 100 years, we must find ways to capture and
contain the carbon dioxide produced by mankind. Increased reforestation can
help as trees use carbon dioxide in photosynthesis and produce oxygen. Carbon
dioxide can be injected into depleted oil and gas reservoirs, resulting in
both increased recovery of hydrocarbon and reduction in atmospheric carbon
Power Generation: Additionally, development of new or improved sources
of electrical energy, especially from renewable sources, must receive governmental
support. These future technologies are not cost effective in today's fossil
fuel economies, thus we must provide incentives to sustain their development
at the earliest possible time.
Students and Geoscience:
on Students: While the petroleum industry is not the only source of employment
for geology students, is has historically driven much of the enrollment.
This graph plots the price of oil and the number of petroleum engineer graduates
at the Colorado School of Mines. The patterns are parallel. The same graphs
can be made for the number of wells drilled and graduating geology students
at the University of Texas at Austin and Oregon State University. Many of
the petroleum related jobs are with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management
and state agencies responsible for monitoring oil and gas leases.
Case Employment Scenario: Some pessimists have forecast the total demise
of the petroleum industry as our supply of oil and gas diminishes. While
retrenchment and mergers of oil companies continue the loss of jobs, there
are demographic forces that suggest great opportunities for the best geologists.
Demographics: Due to the boom-times of the late 1970's and early 1980's,
most geoscience companies have an aging population with many employees in
their fifties. This holds true for many university geoscience departments.
These geologists will be retiring during the next ten to fifteen years, opening
up opportunities for a new generation of geologists and petroleum engineers.
With very few employees in their forties and thirties, and almost none in
their twenties, there will by necessity be rapid advancement for those high
potential, technically excellent geoscientists who come into the market over
the next ten years. If you doubt this just ask those geologists who graduated
and joined industry in the late sixties and early seventies, just before the
beginning of the boom during which they rode the wave of an expanding market.
Long-range Trends for Geoscience Employment: What happened to the geologists
that were displaced by the layoffs of the mid-eighties and early nineties?
Many left the profession, but many more changed emphasis. The memberships
of professional geoscience societies suggest that response. AAPG and SEPM,
traditionally oil patch societies, peaked in the early eighties and then declined
to the present, while the traditionally academic and research societies of
AGU and GSA saw significant growth.
Theses and Dissertation Topics: Much of the growth in geoscience during
the eighties and nineties has been in environmental disciplines. Legislation
for environment clean-up and monitoring has provided employment for geologists,
hydrologists, engineers and others, but the employment opportunities in those
fields peaked in the early nineties. Thus, environmental geoscience is no
longer a booming growth industry, and if the economy reverses and goes into
recession many of those jobs will end.
Geoscience Student Enrollment: With all this turbulence in the geoscience
employment market student enrollment has also had it's peaks and troughs.
Undergraduate enrollement in geoscience peaked in 1983, crashed into 1990,
and then bounced back some. With the current flourish of oil company mergers
and layoffs it is likely that another decrease in undergraduate enrollment
will occur. Graduate student enrollment has shown much less variation, with
a significant number of non-North American students enrolling in graduate
programs. The best of these graduate students have found a moderately good
market for employment. This is likely to improve as the merging companies
stabilize and begin to hire to offset the loss of their aging staffs.
Between 1970 and 1994, which encompasses the boom years of the oil business,
there were 88,906 Bachelors of Science degrees awarded in geology. This sounds
like a lot but is only about 36% as many as chemistry degrees, and 13% as
many with biology degrees. How does this impact job competitiveness?
Competitiveness: Students graduating with degrees in geology have a much
better opportunity to be employed in geology than the other basic sciences
of physics, chemistry and biology. There are only 1.9 Bachelor of Science
degrees awarded in geology for every geologist employed. This ratio is much
more competitive than for chemists with 2.5 BS degrees/job, physicists with
4.7 BS degrees for every job, and biologists with 5.6 BS degrees per job.
Outside Initial Discipline: Because of the lower competitiveness in geoscience
jobs, there are fewer geology majors (48%) employed outside their initial
discipline when compared to chemists (60%), physicists (79%) and biologists
The number of geologists employed in 1997 was approximately 46,000.
Competitiveness: With the current trends in graduating students in geology,
it will take approximately 17.2 years to replace the currently employed geoscientists.
For biologists, it will take only 2.5 years to replace all currently employed
biologists with the present rate of graduating biologists. Thus, geologists
have a higher probability of getting a job in geology, and more than likely
keeping that job.
And the average salary for geologists with a bachelor's degree in the US is
very similar to that of physicists and chemists, and considerably better than
biologists. All of these statistics are based on Bachelor's Degrees, which
for most careers in only the beginning of training. Most science careers
demand at least a Masters degree or more. Thus, continuing training beyond
a Bachelor's Degree should be considered the norm.
Careers: Once the job is achieved, how does the geoscientist keep that
job. With the retrenchment of the geoscience industries, much has been written
and said about attributes for survival. Some of those most often mentioned
include love (passion) for geology, a win-win attitude, being a team player
able to contribute to interdisciplinary projects, perseverance and flexibility
in times of stress and change, and a realistic appraisal of the career market.
Careers: The other half of the survival formula is constant training.
Technology is advancing at break neck speed. For a scientist to adapt, a
strong back-ground in a basic-discipline provides a foundation upon which
to grow. Constant updating and expansion of skills and knowledge is essential,
with development of a truly competitive-edge in one or two areas of specialty.
And most especially in today's market, superb communications skills, oral,
written and graphical, in order to sell ideas and products.
Job Market: All of the major technology career fields are cyclical.
Each begins with rapid growth and rosy predictions for infinite possibilities.
Most reach a peak, retrench and often crash, only to rebound at a later date.
Few people can survive this pattern of boom and bust employment.
Job Market: A survival strategy is to use continuous learning as preparation
for making timely changes from one sub-discipline to another or within one
discipline from one employer to another.
The Present and
Needs our Expertise: Geoscientists bring a special understanding of earth
history and its resources to human society. Consequently, we are and will
be needed for helping sustain an improved living standard in balance with
a livable environment.
of Sedimentary Geology: The primary areas of geoscience employment for
most of us will continue to be mineral resources and environmental issues.
That is likely to be unchanged.
Market Expectations: To get a job one needs to understanding what the
employer is looking for. In today's market, the employer assumes that the
employee is self motivated, computer literate, a well-educated team player
who can effectively communicate with both peers and management.
Market Expectations: Once hired, the employer expects the employee to
have an immediate impact, keep a bottom-line business focus, be highly productive,
proactively seek continuous training, and be a highly successful problem solver.
Market Readiness: To prepare for the above job market expectations, the
student must have a broadly based education, balanced with both theory and
application, so they can change readily from one type of project or activity
to another. Thesis work should reflect this mix of basic and applied science,
and should be targeted toward the type of employment being sought. In the
boom times the thesis topic was not of much consequence. Now the 'practically
focused' student has a competitive edge.
Market Readiness: In the petroleum industry the successful new hire will
be able to approach almost any problem and find a solution. They will be
computer workstation literate, having become so through university experience,
summer internships or self initiated course attendance. And without question,
the successful employee will be self-motivated and proactive, taking charge
of their career within the boundaries of the employer's guidelines.
to Exploration Areas: The petroleum industry has a tradition of finding
new ideas, developing new tools, effectively responding to changing economies,
and finding new discoveries in old areas previously explored.
World Energy Supplies: With at least another sixty years of dependency
on fossil fuels, geoscientists will be in demand to staff the fossil fuel
companies, to find new reserves, recover a higher percentage of known reserves,
to decrease the negative impact on the environment, and seek alternative energy
sources. Thus, at least two more generations of careers in the petroleum
industry await the passionately committed geologist.
Future of the Oil Industry: With fossil fuels continuing to supply most
of the energy for our industrialized society, there is a wonderful opportunity
for rewarding careers for at least two more generations of geoscience students.
Higher efficiency demands for resource utilization requires high precision
and better resolution of our tools. There will be increased emphasis on enhanced
recovery and production based on detailed sedimentology and fluid flow systems
at the reservoir scale. People will be the competitive component, as all
companies will have the same or similar computer systems available.
Hydrocarbon Basins; Many of those job will be focused on enhance recovery
of reserves left behind in complex reservoirs of the major producing basins…..
Simulation and History Matching; ….. of production data to predicted rates
and volumes will be critical to the success of the enhanced recovery programs.
The computer models will require geologically based models integrated with
engineering parameters, necessitating detailed analogues and case histories
combined through effective cross-discipline communication.
There will be good jobs for the