Industry and the Environment: News from Recent Professional Meetings

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

One of my goals as this year’s DEG president is to expand and broaden my observations on news concerning energy and the environment. While I already stay abreast with news services and readings from two organizations – AAPG and SPE – I committed myself to go to as many related meetings as possible to observe what is happening.

Mary Barrett
Mary Barrett
No, I am not spending all of your DEG dues! AAPG covered costs for only one meeting – the rest were just mine to attend and enjoy. They included URTeC (July), SPE’s annual meeting (September), the GCAGS annual meeting (October), AAPG’s Eastern Section annual meeting (October) and GSA’s national meeting (November). I sat in on technical talks that covered the environment and sustainability. And while I was not yet DEG president at the May 2018 AAPG annual meeting, I also sat in on those sessions as well.

Sustainability and sustainable development were a very prominent part of some SPE presentations. Like AAPG, this is an important discussion item for its 2018-19 national and international meetings. My greatest takeaway from sustainable development discussions at the SPE meeting was: What are the metrics for this? To have metrics, something to measure actions and successes, is to have a plan of action.

All industry-related meetings prominently featured produced water management related to unconventional shale production. The other major topics were induced seismicity and carbon capture and sequestration – several meetings had dedicated sessions to these topics.

Other talks scattered at various industry meetings included climate change. Luncheon speaker Gregory Wrightstone spoke at URTeC (see September Explorer), and there was a climate change session at GCAGS. Most of the talks did not support any future actions to limit gasses at issue (carbon dioxide, methane), and the reasons varied (like, not recognizing any or much human impact; proposed actions would not be successful; future climate change impacts would not be as harmful as curtailing hydrocarbon energy usage, etc.).

The national GSA meeting was very diverse in subject matters. There always is a “Best of AAPG” session, but these talks were about energy development only, not industry and the environment. There was a session concerning pollution and the energy industry – I gave a talk there on the history of arsenic corrosion inhibitors and their environmental signature. Overall, these papers were not as strong and as diverse as I witnessed at some of the industry meetings (AAPG’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City, for example). GSA had a few sessions on climate change science and education, and they were well attended. Generally, these talks spoke to the human impact.

What seemed lacking to me was any paper talking about future transitions – it was not due to some hostile environment (like speaking about natural gas and the future) but more that industry-related people who could speak to this scenario were not there. This was unfortunate, as I did take the time to correct one speaker’s interpretation of recent usage numbers for coal and natural gas. He simply did not have an awareness of what was going on with natural gas, and the audience was appreciative for this correction. (No, I was not mobbed …).

Overall, it has been a mind-expanding experience, and I know it helps me to understand the importance of the DEG’s role in continuing to bring these subjects forward at both meetings and in our journal.

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