As the energy industry broadens, thanks to new technologies and new interest in emerging areas such as hydrogen, energy storage, expanded CCUS, geothermal, there is an increasing need for harmonization of policies, regulations, and coordination.
Welcome to an interview with Nikki Martin, President of the EnerGeo Alliance, dedicated to developing a strategic approach in all the quickly changing areas.
What is your name and your background?
Nikki Martin. I’m the President of the EnerGeo Alliance, the global trade organization for the energy geoscience industry. I lead a Board of Directors composed of the CEOs from the world’s leading geoscience companies, and 43 additional member companies spanning 50 countries, in the strategic development and implementation of the energy geoscience industry's global governmental, regulatory and legal advocacy, communications, environmental and scientific research, and standards development to drive excellence in health, safety, environmental performance and sustainability. I joined EnerGeo (then IAGC) in 2013 and previously served as the Vice President of Government and Legal Affairs. An attorney and government affairs professional by background, I have focused my career on championing effective global advocacy and strategic cross-industry collaboration for the energy industry.
Before joining EnerGeo, I was the Regulatory and Legal Affairs Manager at the Alaska Oil & Gas Association (AOGA) and worked in the U.S. Capitol and Alaska State Capitol for the U.S. Senate President Pro Tempore, the Alaska State Senate President, and Alaska State House Majority Leader.
I sit on the Board of Directors for the Western Resources Legal Center and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of South Carolina and a Juris Doctor from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College.
What are some of your interests?
I am genuinely interested and passionate about connecting people around the world to energy, especially in the developing world where energy abundance can truly transform countries. That’s why I love representing the geoscience companies, innovators and energy developers that use earth science to discover, develop and deliver energy sustainably to our world.
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time enjoying Houston’s zoo, museums, symphony, and parks with my husband and two boys (2yo and 7yo).
How did you become interested in issues of data and data science as they relate to energy?
I grew up in Alaska where people feel a strong connection to the land and take pride in protecting it and its resources. I knew when I graduated high school that I wanted to pursue a career in energy or public policy, or both, and was drawn to policies that balance multi-use and the maximum yield and benefit of natural resources. After college and law school, and a stint in the Alaska State Legislature, Congress, and law, I wound up directly advocating for the oil and gas industry, first, at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, and now at EnerGeo Alliance.
I was not familiar with the field of geoscience coming from a political and legal background, so while its specific operations and technology were new to me, the notion that—what lies beneath the surface of the land and waters is of immense importance to the people and communities around it—was not. Now I make it my mission to ensure that everyone working in energy policy knows our industry and also knows that because geoscience has an irreplaceable role in connecting the world to energy, they must prioritize it in their energy policies. By providing invaluable information about the resources beneath us, energy companies and policymakers can identify and prioritize high density, lower carbon intensive energy sources, locate where offshore wind facilities are best suited for harnessing the energy from wind, prolong the life of existing natural gas and petroleum assets, make it possible to store carbon beneath the surface, and more!
What are some of the biggest challenges that you have observed?
Because the energy geoscience industry literally provides access to develop energy through its imaging, it is very often the first presence of energy development or exploration in a geographic area. Because of this, our members often encounter obstacles and opposition to their operations that are aimed at preventing development of a certain energy source—whether that’s petroleum, natural gas, and even wind. In some regions, extreme environmental advocacy groups have and continue to prioritize preventing any energy geoscience surveys from occurring—even labeling the geoscience research “the gateway drug to oil and gas”—so that data for policymakers and energy companies to make informed decisions about future energy development is simply not available.
This has resulted in increased regulatory scrutiny and, frankly, a lot of false information about what geoscience research is and its impacts. In frontier areas and increasingly even in mature basins, this has meant that our members need to communicate and advocate for an accurate portrayal of their own operations and environmental impact in front of regulators, stakeholders, and the media. And as an industry, we must also be prepared to communicate the need for the energy sources we are imaging. Even though by current market cap, we are a small part of the energy supply chain, when it comes to whether energy can be accessed in any given region, we are the first and most pivotal part.
Last month the world’s population crossed 8 billion people and by 2050 is expected to increase to nearly 10 billion and with it, energy use will increase by at least 50%. With a global energy supply crisis, a growing population and inflation on the rise, citizens around the world need greater access to reliable and affordable energy, including petroleum and natural gas, which will constitute at least 50% of projected energy mix in 2050. Geoscience surveys provide the information governments and policymakers need to make informed decisions in the best interest of their citizens regarding accessing mainstay energy and alternative sources, as well as developing low-carbon strategies. As nations develop and implement their Energy Evolution goals to make reliable, affordable energy available to their citizens and, meet Net Zero Emissions (NZE) policy ambitions, it is important to understand that those goals cannot and will not be realized without the critical data and technology the geoscience industry provides.
What are some of the most exciting trends that you are seeing now?
This is an exciting time to be in energy. No matter where you go, everyone’s talking about energy. Because of the energy crises around the world with increasing populations and decreasing supplies, the war in Ukraine, and an increasing focus on the Energy Evolution, there are more people around the world in the “public square” on the topic of energy – curious about where it comes from and its impact on their environment, how it can suddenly be costly, why it’s not readily available—than there ever has been before. Now is the time to capture their attention.
It is hard to believe that in 2022, 40% of the world does not have access to clean fuels for cooking, and that 13% of the world does not have access to electricity. For the first time in decades, this number is set to increase by 20 million people and with eliminating energy poverty still a top priority of UN Sustainable Development Goals, we need all sources of energy at the table to meet skyrocketing demand for energy security and energy accessibility. This is the time for the energy geoscience industry to tell its powerful story of how it has and can continue to connect people to energy by enabling its discovery and development—both of mainstay sources of energy like petroleum and natural gas, and of lower carbon solutions like wind, geothermal and carbon capture and storage.
At EnerGeo Alliance, we take our platform as the voice for our industry seriously, and that’s why we are rolling out a strategic communications campaign in 2023 to proactively communicate the immense benefits geoscience’s innovation and insight brings to the Energy Evolution, and the pride of its workforce in getting to play a pivotal part in this irreplaceable industry. The reality is, no matter the preferred or prioritized energy source, virtually all sources of energy needed to support the world’s Energy Evolution require “eyes” on something going in, out, or through the ground, and that simply cannot happen without the innovation and insight of the energy geoscience industry. Which is why at EnerGeo Alliance, we proudly say, “energy starts here.” How exciting is that!?
What would you like to see happen in the future with respect to the intersections of data and energy?
Meeting growing demand for energy that is more accessible, affordable, reliable and cleaner will require greater collaboration across the industry. At EnerGeo Alliance, we are proud of our unique collaborations between industry, scientists, and governments to support energy access in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM-PROP) and Brazil (Netuno Program). And importantly, in August this year, our members and Industry Partners worked together to publish an industry-first Guidance for Estimating and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Marine Geoscience Activities, providing metrics for the transparent, consistent and voluntary reporting of Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
But there will need to be more collaborations like this for the industry to be successful. We need to work together to attract investment in the midst of increasing external pressures and to enable the discovery and delivery of more energy, more accurately, efficiently and safely than ever before. But there will need to be more collaborations like this for the industry to be successful. We need to work together to attract investment in the midst of increasing external pressures and to enable the discovery and delivery of more energy, more accurately, efficiently and safely than ever before.
Please recommend a book that has inspired you.
A book that has recently inspired positive changes in the format of our meetings in our office is Radical Candor. As a leader, it’s important to inspire a culture of approachability and accountability in your organization. I am focused on building a healthy sustainable internal organization, so that we can be the best advocate possible for our members for years to come.