VERN STEFANIC: Hi. And welcome to this edition of Energy Insights, the AAPG
podcast featuring people who are defining, influencing, and leading today's
world of geosciences. I'm Vern Stefanic, and this installment, once again, is
Digging Deeper by having a conversation with one of the speakers for the AAPG
Foundation's distinguished lecture series.
Our guest today is Irene Arango, Senior Geochemist with Chevron's Energy
Technology Company in Houston, where for the past 12 years she's served as an
internal consultant on exploration and development projects around the world.
She also has been highly active in AAPG activities, presenting papers,
reviewing papers, chairing technical sessions, teaching courses, and, by the
way, doing it all with excellence, as evidenced by her winning the Gabriel
Dengo Memorial Award for presenting the best paper at the 2013 AAPG
International Conference in Cartagena.
And on top of that, she's head of the Houston Organic Geochemistry Society.
And she's currently Co-Convener of a 2019 AAPG Hedberg Conference on the
Evolution of Petroleum Systems Analysis.
Wow. When do you sleep, by the way? We'll talk more about all of that in a
moment, as well as a lot more about Irene's distinguished lecture. But first,
we get to know a little bit more about Irene herself, and the experiences and
success stories she's had that brought her to this moment in her career.
Irene, welcome to Digging Deeper. And yes, in the introduction we're going
on and on about all the things that you're involved in, which just seem
It's like the first question I want to ask is, how do you do it all?
IRENE ARANGO: I don't know. I guess I'm sleeping less these days.
VERN STEFANIC: You sleep less. OK.
Is there a passion that you have? Obviously your passion's for geoscience,
I'm going to guess. Right?
IRENE ARANGO: Yes. Correct.
VERN STEFANIC: So at this point do you have a preference over researching,
or writing papers, or presenting papers, or teaching courses? How does all that
fit in your life?
IRENE ARANGO: OK. So yes, I love geoscience, of course. And I love
geochemistry as well. I've specialized in. And I'm very lucky that I work at a
place that allows me to explore more than one facet of that.
So in the work I have we do technical support, which is basically helping
business units do their work more effectively. But we also get to do technical
development and research. So even though I am in a company, I'm not working in
academia, I still get to flex the research muscles and look at things a little
more in detail because of the nature of my position. And I get to teach as
well, internal classes for Chevron. And also I have taught classes outside of
Chevron for AAPG, or given presentations, or for universities that we sponsor.
So I do get to do a little bit of all, which is great. And I love that,
because there's a portion that is very nice about doing work applied when you
are helping, say, a business unit tackle a particular problem that you have an
It's nice that you have an objective and you can accomplish that in a
certain amount of time. So there's a practicity to that that I really enjoy.
And it's not necessarily a long term thing.
But there is also questions that you have that are longer that require
perhaps digging a little deeper, and doing a little more research, and taking a
little more time.
And before I joined the industry I had this perceived perception that when
you will work for the oil industry you are at a fast paced type of work, and
those sort of things will belong solely in academia. And it's not the case. It
depends, of course, on what you do particularly. But in my space I get to also
dig deeper, and work on research, and look at problems. Like what I'm talking
about for this presentation. I take the time to read what others have done, to
see how it relates to what we do, to try to find new ways to understand it, and
then looking for the application.
So before I worked for Chevron, I was, of course, finishing my dissertation,
doing my PhD work. And I, of course, love to do research, because that's what
you do with a PhD. Right?
But I really enjoy the fact that this very applied what I get to do, because
we are ultimately trying to work towards a goal. So yeah.
VERN STEFANIC: Well, actually, if you don't mind, let me back up just a
little bit more at that point. I just am always fascinated by how we connect
the dots, and the arc of people's careers, and how they get from one place to
another. And it all has to start somewhere special. Maybe I should ask, did you
always know that geochemistry was going to be what you were going to excel at,
and you're going to be a professional doing it? Did you have a love for it?
Or in just geology in general. Where did that come from?
IRENE ARANGO: So I actually didn't know about geochemistry until later when
I was already in grad school. I enrolled in geology. I did my undergrad in
geology, because I do have a love for Earth, and understanding Earth's systems.
And I did have, as a teenager, a lot of interest in environments.
So really environmental science kind of took me in the way into geology. But
as I explored geology, I had the chance when I was an undergrad to do an
internship for an oil company in my country, which, of course, exposed me to
other aspects that I hadn't considered as a profession up to that point.
And it was very interesting. I did work a little bit for the oil industry
after I finished my undergrad back in Colombia before I decided to pursue grad
school. But when I was in grad school I was initially looking more at
environmental aspects of geoscience, and looking at what I did on my masters
had to do with remediation of sites impacted by acid mine drainage.
VERN STEFANIC: OK.
IRENE ARANGO: And looking at applications of geoscience. And there was a
little bit of geochemistry involved in that. And by the time I got to grad
school, I really delved into geochemistry. I had a chance to work on a project
that related to extreme environments. We were looking at some alkaline lakes in
Oregon, and how life can progress in environments that are extreme like that.
And to study them, you have to really use geochemistry. And I just fell in love
And in the process of doing that, you realize that a lot of what you do that
might have an application can be equally valuable in a different context. So
while in my dissertation work, I was focusing on a potential analog for extreme
environments in the Precambrian era, sorting all the planets, because I was
working on a project that was sponsored by that NASA Astrobiology Institute.
VERN STEFANIC: By NASA?
IRENE ARANGO: Yes. My dissertation work was part of that effort that they
were, at least at the time, working on, having universities as centers for
learning and applying geoscience to help decipher clues of life in environments
where it might be bacterial, or some form of life like that that you might not
detect directly, but you can find evidence of that in the isotopes or in other
VERN STEFANIC: Wow.
IRENE ARANGO: So I worked with sulfur isotopes. I also did some QC
measurements and general geochemistry measurements on sediments in the lakes,
and the rocks that surrounded these lakes. And those are the same type of
methods that we can use in petroleum geochemistry with other intentions.
So I had my background from working in the oil industry back home, and now
these new methods that I learned during my masters and my PhD. So when I had a
chance to explore, again, getting into the oil industry, it was actually more
natural than you would think, because I had the tools. And it was just changing
your mindset and thinking, what can I do with the tools I have to help advance
this particular field? And that's what I've been doing.
VERN STEFANIC: Oh, wow. And grad school was the University of Indiana, I
believe I remember you saying?
IRENE ARANGO: Yes. So my masters was in Indiana State University that is in
Terre Haute, Indiana. And my PhD I did in Indiana University that's in
VERN STEFANIC: OK.
IRENE ARANGO: So yes. Great time in Indiana.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah.
IRENE ARANGO: I had a really great time.
VERN STEFANIC: (SINGING) Oh, Indiana!
IRENE ARANGO: Oh, absolutely. For sure. I'm a Colombian Hoosier.
VERN STEFANIC: But that was interesting the way that your appreciation, and
perhaps even love for the Earth and environmentalism already started arcing a
little bit more into a more petroleum industry type profession, how all that
You know, and it occurs to me. Probably a lot of our fellow AAPG members
understand geochemistry. But maybe there are some people listening who aren't
quite sure what that means. What exactly would geochemistry be? And why does it
matter to the petroleum industry?
IRENE ARANGO: OK. That's a really complex question, but I'll try to explain.
VERN STEFANIC: OK.
IRENE ARANGO: Well, first of all, one thing that geologists sometimes forget
is that when we are dealing with oil, even though we geologists love rocks, and
as well we study oil, it's a fluid. So, in fact, there is a whole lot of
chemistry behind that fluid.
And we have in oil a lot of elements that kind of help us decipher where it
came from, what properties it has today, but also what we can expect in other
parts around an area where we have produced some oil, for example. So
geochemistry offers a lot of tools for oil and in the industry.
One of the things that we can do is we can assess the chances of having a
successful exploration play from the standpoint of charge. So a petroleum
system has four key elements. It's going to be charge, seal, trap, and
reservoir. Geochemistry fits squarely into the charge concept, because we help
determine whether a rock has the properties that it needs to have in order to
generate oil, whether that source rock-- we have determined it to be a source
rock because it has those properties-- is capable of generating, at this point
in time, or has generated in the past based on the assessment of thermal
And we can even help predict what type of oil we should be expecting,
because if you have a source, you know something about the fluid that that source
is going to generate based on the chemistry of the source itself. So we can be
very involved in exploration in helping define the potential success for a
given play that has been considered.
And we also can help in development and in production to solve a variety of
issues. For example, in the field of unconventional geochemistry is extremely
valuable. Because unconventional plays are really geochemical plays. And a lot
of what happens is defined by the chemistry of the rocks and fluids.
So not only can we help establish the viability of the play, what expected
volumes of hydrocarbons can be associated with that play, but also, once you
have a play in development, you can use the chemistry of the oil to help define
the stability of fracking stages, help better define development plans for a
Because it's not that expensive to obtain data from oil and rocks from a
geochemical standpoint. It's actually very cheap compared to other methods. And
you really need directly from the fluid that is in those layers that you are
So it's like if you are a doctor, and you can get so much out of the blood
of a patient. So we get all of that of the oil. You know?
VERN STEFANIC: (LAUGHING) OK.
OK. So your role in the process of exploration and development comes after
there's already been some drilling, and there's some samples that come up?
IRENE ARANGO: Well, actually exploration it depends on what stage you are.
If you are in early exploration, there are certain parts of the world where you
might not have any wells drilled. But we can look at surface geochemistry data.
Things like slicks on the surface of the waters in the ocean. We can look at
piston core information.
They have companies that are dedicated to obtaining piston cores in certain
areas. And we can look at those piston cores. And we can assess whether there
are fluids in those cores.
And it doesn't have to be something you actually see with your naked eye. It
can be things that you can detect at the molecular level. Using geochemistry,
they can tell you that there is a leak of oil.
So if you are in an area that is remote enough and there haven't been a
whole lot of wells drilled nearby, you are not certain that it is actually
going to produce what you need, but you have piston core, and surface
geochemistry, things of that sort, you can actually assess whether or not you
have a working petroleum system, at least to the extent that it has generated
hydrocarbons, if you can detect them with chemical means.
And later, if there are wells drilled, you might have wells in the area, but
not necessarily where you have in acreage. So we, as geochemists, can come in,
look at the data we have from wells in other parts that are nearby. And we can
actually assess, is there a source rock even in that area? If there is a source
rock, is it going to be more gas prone or is it going to be more oil prone?
Maturity. Is it perhaps the best source rock in the world? But is it over
mature and we are only making gas? Or is it so immature that it doesn't make a
difference? I can assess all of that before we drill a well in our particular
acreage. And that way when we run the economics and try to decide the value of
going into that area, I already have a starting point. And I'm not going in
So we do provide a lot of value, looking at the type of data we look at.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. This is something that, well, your company
specifically, or any company using geochemistry consultants and expertise, this
is just going to be a valuable asset, a valuable tool in the hunt for energy.
IRENE ARANGO: Yes. And the other thing that also comes into play when you're
using geochemistry, OK, so there is a space of exploration that I've been
talking about here. But also there is a space for us in development and
In development, for example, many times you find yourself trying to maximize
recoveries from a field that might have been in production for a while. And you
are trying to decide if you need to maybe put a few more wells here or there.
Or unconventional, even do we need more laterals to really drain effectively a
particular volume of rock?
And geochemistry can provide clues to that. We can help determine if a
reservoir is compartmentalized, or if it's actually a continuous reservoir
throughout, which has impact on the way how we would like to drain it by
looking at molecular evidence in the oil, biomarkers, using isotopes, looking
at gas analysis, in addition to the rock analysis in itself.
VERN STEFANIC: OK. Let me just say, the name of your distinguished lecture
that you're giving for AAPG, and, by the way, which is available on the AAPG
website-- and you got to see this one, cause this is a great talk. But the
title is Understanding Expulsion Capacity in Organic Porosity in Unconventional
Now, first, to start out, I'm going to guess that when you first started
with Chevron, and it's been 12 years that you've been with the company,
probably unconventional was not the way that everybody was going?
IRENE ARANGO: Yes. That is correct. That is correct.
VERN STEFANIC: OK. Yeah. Talk about that a little bit, the evolution that
IRENE ARANGO: Yeah. That's a very interesting story for me personally,
because we didn't invent unconventionals, by any means. There are many
companies that have been working on this.
And smaller companies than Chevron sometimes are more aggressive. They go
in. And they try new things. And faster than bigger companies might at a
So there had already been some movement in that direction. But we weren't
going really into it as intensely at a certain point. And I remember this because
I was pregnant. And we were discussing getting into more research in
unconventionals at the time internally. There were some very nice discussions.
We were trying to determine how to plan a research program in that space.
And at the time there was perhaps not as much buy in internally. And before
I left to have my baby, there didn't seem to be a progress in that direction.
It seemed like perhaps we were not going to be doing a whole lot of research in
So I went and I had my baby. And I was off maternity leave for a little bit.
And then I came back. And when I came back, they said, OK. So this project is
ongoing. And you are on it. And I was like, what project? I thought that that
wasn't happening. They're like, oh, no, no, no. Lots can happen since you had
your baby and came back. We decided to move forward with this.
So since 2009, personally-- and I'm saying, of course, it's my experience.
Not saying that this is when anything starts for anyone. But since 2009 I've
been working fairly steadily in unconventionals within Chevron.
And we started at that time trying to learn the basics, what they call first
principles, like how do these type of systems work? Because we're trying to
come in and have an intelligent plan for looking for exploration opportunities,
and then later on, how to more effectively develop and produce these type of
So when we, at least in my team, started looking at these type of plays, and
looking at this type of research, we were looking at it at a very basic, like
how do they function, these unconventionals? How do they distinguish
themselves? What do I have to do to go into a new area, and define what is that
core area that I want to focus?
Like if you look at the map view, where within this acreage should I be focusing
my efforts? And what can I use to assess that. And then later, once you have
defined that core area, how do I go back in depth and determine where is my
sweet spot that I'm going to be producing from?
And so we looked at lots of things. And we continue to do so. And we looked
at evidence in the rocks, evidences in the fluids, and on other methods, like
mixing things that normally we used in conventionals, but let's apply them in a
different fashion here and see what we can learn. We did a whole lot of work on
isotopes, on looking at gas data, because early on we were really more focused
on gas than on fluids.
One of the biggest changes I remember was at the beginning when we started
in this space we were told, we don't really produce economically if it's in an
oil window. Like we really want to be in the gas window, perhaps in the
condensate window. But the oil window, it's really difficult to produce liquids
out of these very tight reservoirs. So let's not worry too much about that.
So we were using maturity to guide us into that dry gas zone, or maybe even
a little condensate zone. Of course, this is when the price of oil was higher
and gas was a better business. Right? It was a good business.
But then as time passed changes happened in the price of oil. And the
technology also progressed in a direction that allowed us to be much more
effective at producing liquids. And there was a shift.
And then suddenly you were told, guess what? You did all this research in
the gas space. But we need to understand what's happening in the liquid stage,
because we want to produce those liquids, and that's where the future is. So
you continue progressing.
So I would say since 2009 to now we explore the use of geoscience, and
particularly geochemistry, to help us better produce gas in unconventionals,
then how to move to the oil and get it to produce more effectively. And we have
changed the technology in such a way that now we are able to measure, at the
field location, things that before you needed to send the samples to a lab and
wait for three months to get data. And now we can get it by field side because
of the need.
So the need brought the technology to evolve in the direction that allows us
to be more effective, have quicker results, and be more, let's say, capable of
integrating quickly so we can make plans and change plans as we go.
VERN STEFANIC: Oh my. So basically, after you came back from maternity
leave, it was like you were going to school again, wasn't it?
IRENE ARANGO: In a way. For this at least.
Yeah. And I think this applies with many companies. We have very active
projects we work on. And in my regular job, I have to look at more things, not
just work in unconventionals, or even in a specific project.
But the conventional was, for a while, a really important part of the line
of work I was doing. And definitely lots of learnings. There's also the
Initially we were in what we call a strategic research stage, which is very
similar to research at university. You read. You try to find what is it that we
should be looking at? What have others been looking at?
And then you start slowly progressing in the direction that is more
technical development. Like now we know these are things that are important.
How do we apply them in a way that helps us do our work more efficiently? And
then eventually you start developing workflows and things that are advanced
enough that you can tell the reasons you need, hey, I can help you with this
project. Let me just do a technical support project with you. I'll do this for
you. And it's very specific and very targeted towards the specific issue.
And so we have gone through that in the space of unconventionals. There's a
lot of learnings in the strategic research state. And now we are in the TD,
Technical Development to technical support stage.
VERN STEFANIC: I just find it interesting that there's been so much progress
that has been made kind of in the name of the unconventional play that's going
And you mentioned earlier that technology has really advanced to a certain
stage. Could you talk just a little bit about what that means for those of us
out here? I mean, we accept, yes. Technology has changed. But what is it that
we're talking about? Is it the ability to work better in the research lab? Or
is it the ability to better get samples? It's the better ability to manage our
operations down the well hole? Where have the technology advances really been
IRENE ARANGO: I think everywhere. All of the above. Everything you
mentioned. Technology basically has pushed us. Or better said, there needs to
have made technology move forward in a certain direction.
So if you think about unconventionals, unconventionals are tight reservoirs
that are difficult to produce from unless you enhance the flow that comes out
of them in some way.
So there were methods that were available but perhaps not used in a similar
fashion, and new things that have happened since the boom of unconventionals.
But definitely hydraulic fracturing and other types of means, like such, have
allowed the companies to produce at the commercial level from reservoirs.
So the key thing is, being able to produce from these tight reservoirs, open
up a space that we didn't have before. As you know, the US is experiencing a
humongous boom in production. And we were not at the level of production that
we are today before the unconventionals.
And the reason is that, OK. So from a geochemical standpoint, like I was
telling you, you have a source rock that generates oil. So source rocks have
been there always. And it's always been part of an assessment of risk when
you're looking at exploration, for example.
But in a conventional system, your source rock is down below. There is a
migration path. And then you hit a reservoir. And a lot of effort is made into
understanding that reservoir, because of its outer container, and getting
there, and producing from it.
In unconventionals in most cases, the source is the reservoir. Or the
reservoir is closely associated with the source layer. So we are now going down
at the source level to locations where perhaps we would have never dreamed of
putting down a well, and we're draining from it.
Now, in a conventional setting we know for years, expulsion efficiency from
the source rock to the reservoir is not necessarily the most effective process.
We do leave a lot of hydrocarbons in the source. Or lost along the path of
Well, now that we are going to the source to get the resources out, we are
talking about volumes of hydrocarbons that are quite significant that we always
knew were there, but we weren't able to get to them.
Technology is allowing us the opportunity to not only drill those
conventional reservoirs, but also go to the source itself and drain from it, or
from those tightly linked reservoirs too.
So without the advancement of the methodologies, without having all this
incredible engineering and work that has been done, we wouldn't be where we are
today, and the US wouldn't be experiencing this boom in this space.
But from the standpoint of geochemistry, this unconventional space has
allowed us to be very upfront and very in depth in the front of development.
Because we always studied the sources. And now there is more people looking at
the sources than only us.
So we can use the tools that we have. And we have refined them even more to
be able to assess them, and learn from them, and understand porosity in the
organics, and understand the effect of expulsion in the ultimate volumes that
you find in your tight reservoir, and helping in other aspects.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. It sounds like there's still surprises to be learned as
we're up. And technology is helping that. But as technology provides more data
and more results, you're probably sharpening, refining, and improving the
discipline that you've been working in for all these years is what it sounds
IRENE ARANGO: Yeah. I think that there's been, like I said, a lot of
development and growth. And I think unconventional have been partially
responsible for that. Because it's like everything in nature. You have a need,
and you create a way to get there. Human nature, it pushes us that way. It's
rare that you are going to develop unless there is a true need.
Even if you could have improved it, you won't do it unless you think there
is a reason why you should put the effort and the time into it. And definitely
knowing that there is a large resource that is waiting to be taken, it's a very
good motivation for getting things to develop.
VERN STEFANIC: Oh, yeah. So even though the public may think that you just
have the industry, and it's just this one entity that's providing resources and
energy for us, in fact, I'm going to guess that what we found out is that not
all unconventional plays are exactly the same, and that there's a lot of
complexity that goes on.
And I'm going to guess that maybe we hear names. We, the general public,
hear names like the Marcellus play in the Bakken, and the Barnett shale, and
all of these things. And in our minds it's just like, well, that's just the
same thing. But it's probably more complex than that.
IRENE ARANGO: It is quite complex. And it is quite complex, because even in
geology, even as a geologist, at the beginning of the boom in unconventionals
everybody thought, OK, the Barnett shale, which was like the pioneer area where
a lot of the initial boom took place. And so people would use that as an analog
for many other plays and think, OK, we did this in Barnett. It's got to work
here and there.
What actually we have learned, that is not the case. Because the same as
with anything in geology, different formations have different properties. And
those properties influence everything down to producing from them. So over time
we have learned that there are significant differences between the plays that
play a role in not only where the resource is at, but also how we produce from it
So that's partially what I'm talking about in my talk for this program. One
of the things that we've learned is that in addition to the typical shale
reservoir, which is what people think about, this massive rock that contains
the oil inside, and you go and get it, and it's super fine grained, there are
also mixed types of unconventionals where you have interlayering of sands with
shales, or sources bounded with a bounding tight reservoir in the middle. And
all those things are going to have an impact on how we're going to produce from
them, how we're going to develop them.
I would say, though, that one thing that the general public tends to get
concerned with is the impact that any activity related with oil has on their
lives, like in a certain community or to the economy.
And on the economic side, of course, unconventional has been very positive,
because it allows us to generate more revenue and whatnot. Also for the
communities where this takes place. And technology development has allowed to
make these now much more clean, much more straightforward, and so I think that
in that regard, going back to the technology topic, it has helped a lot.
And then from the geologic learnings, yes. There is quite a bit of
diversity. And not all plays are the same. And that's why we need to do
research and continue learning as we go.
VERN STEFANIC: In your talk you emphasize the connection between porosity
IRENE ARANGO: Mhm.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. So can you talk a little bit about the point of that?
IRENE ARANGO: When you have an organic-rich unit you are going to have
organic matter that's been deposited with the sediments. And that organic
matter eventually breaks down to oil and gas. Oil and gas, of course, being the
products that we're after.
So part of that volume that is generated will eventually make it out of the
rock. And part of that will be retained within the rock. That is expulsion
right there, that concept to allow us to estimate how much of the initial
volume is actually still available for production.
But also, it ties to porosity, because you need storage space for those
hydrocarbons. So if you have hydrocarbons retained within the rock, where are
they retained? Are they inside fractures? Are they in pore spaces? And if they
are in the pores, where are the different types of pores? Because they will
form differently, they might be associated with different facies within the
And so understanding what is the distribution of pores in a given system and
the types of pores that dominate that system will help us better assess where
we want to land our wells. And understanding the expulsion model for a given
play will help us figure out how we want to develop that play. And they are
interrelated. Expulsion can affect porosity. And porosity impacts that
retention concept as well.
VERN STEFANIC: We've spoken about some of the unconventional plays in the
United States. But I'm going to guess Chevron's involved in plays beyond the
United States as well. Vaca Muerta in Argentina I believe. Is that something
that you've been involved in?
And if so, what's the unique characteristic of the Vaca Muerta?
IRENE ARANGO: Chevron has explored outside of the boundaries of the US for
unconventionals. We have some assets in the Duvernay in Canada. We did consider
someplace in Europe, and definitely Argentina, Vaca Muerta is one of those
assets that we have worked on.
I have looked at samples. I have worked on some data from Vaca Muerta. I
don't know that I can necessarily comment much about that. But yeah. There is
definitely-- it's not the US.
In fact, a lot of what has been done globally in terms of searching for good
plays, unconventional plays, is looking for good source rocks and following
them. Because unconventionals, like I was saying, in many cases the source is a
reservoir. It's everything. It's a self-contained petroleum system.
And when you're trying to find places to go, when you think about where did
I have a really good source rock? What are the chances that a source rock still
has a lot of hydrocarbon in it? And if so, can I get it out? And then you start
thinking back about your basic geology, and you start finding these places
where perhaps your conventional assets have already been drained, or maybe
they're not necessarily very good associated. But what about the sources? Let's
go back there and take a look, see what we can learn, and maybe we can get some
production out of them.
VERN STEFANIC: OK. So that's exploration, but also production, and going
back into those areas. And, in fact, I've heard some talks that that's going to
be an important part of our energy makeup going forward, is going back and
finding the things that we thought we'd already exploited, but there's still a
IRENE ARANGO: Yeah.
VERN STEFANIC: And you and geochemistry is going to be especially important
at that point?
IRENE ARANGO: Yes. I believe so.
VERN STEFANIC: So if you could look ahead, look into the future, where are
we going with technology and geochemistry? Are there still more areas where we
can improve or evolve into, or make a bigger and different kind of impact?
If you could look ahead, how do you think we're going to look 10 years from
IRENE ARANGO: You mean from within geochemistry?
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah. Yeah. I'm sorry. Yeah. Geochemistry is mainly what I'm
looking at. And the reason I'm asking that question, Irene, is because you've
been part of this, what? 10 years ago, 12 years ago, to here, and you've seen
how much change and progress we've made. What would you like to see happening
IRENE ARANGO: I think over time what we strive to do is to be more
efficient. Find ways to simplify data acquisition, but still have significant
learnings and continue to improve production.
Like I was mentioning before, one of those spaces is in production, helping
better produce and better develop fields with the use of geochemistry. One of
the wonderful things about geochemistry is that acquiring data from fluids and
rocks is really not that expensive compared to other methods that are out
So using geochemistry to help us understand how effective we frack an area,
or if the frack stages are stable, or if we are losing some of that production
over time. I can see geochemistry becoming more and more a part of our standard
workflow for just production projects so that we keep the geochemistry
monitoring, helping us continue to produce for assets.
And then learning more about how things function will also make us more
effective, understanding the difference between the different plays and all
that. So I can see definitely a space where we are going to maximize recovery,
where we're going to be more targeted.
And also, the technology developments have been amazing. Even methods that
we are using regularly are now being started over again, and used again with
much more precision. Instruments that used to occupy, in geochemistry, a room
and a half of space are now something of the size of a microwave oven. So
having the ability of taking all that instrumentation and putting into by well
side, tremendous impact already.
And we'll continue to do so, because there is a huge difference between you
taking samples and learning something from them three weeks later, or even
more, versus having those samples taken by well site, getting the results in a
few hours, and within a day or so, being able to tell the geologists in charge,
hey, you know what? I think this target here, you guys should consider it
perhaps. And they can actually make changes.
So in the future I would hope that those changes can be executed with
guidance of what we are providing, and that we can impact well development,
well placements, and so on much more effectively.
VERN STEFANIC: That's fascinating. Which the world and its need for energy
will appreciate very much.
Let me ask you a personal question for you, though. It's kind of similar to
what you were just talking about. But I'd be curious about your own personal
aspirations. Where do you see yourself going?
And I know that you set it all up by talking about your love of Earth, and
even environmental things that you were getting involved in once upon a time.
Where do you see the arc of your life going?
IRENE ARANGO: That's a hard question.
VERN STEFANIC: It's hard. I'm sorry.
IRENE ARANGO: It is a hard question. Well, first, I like what I do very
much. I'm happy.
Someone asked me once, because I've been doing geochemistry now with Chevron
for 12 years. And I've been basically very stable in the job that I have. And
someone said, well, do you want to change, do something completely different?
And the truth is that I don't think I've been doing the same for 12 years,
because there have been so much change in these 12 years that just what we were
doing 12 years ago is not what we're doing today. The applications are very
different. And I am blessed in that I get to work with many different areas of
And I'm not only working unconventional. I work on conventional plays as
well. So it's very varied. And I think that as long as, which I think is going
to be the case, technology continues to develop, and new issues arise, and new
problems are, I'm just going to be happy doing what I'm doing for a while.
Yeah. So honestly, I like my job. So I hope I keep on doing it for longer.
VERN STEFANIC: Yeah.
IRENE ARANGO: Yeah. I do love teaching. And like I mentioned, I get a chance
to do that as well as part of my work, internally and externally.
So I think with time, one thing that I would love to continue to do, and
doing more even is maybe do presentations, teach some student classes, like we
get to do every now and then, teaching in some universities. I enjoy that as
VERN STEFANIC: So we've talked a lot about all of the things that you do, a
lot of activity. You're just like nonstop energy yourself, going, and going,
And one of the things that's about to happen, though, you've already started
as Co-Convener of an AAPG Hedberg Conference. And these are extremely important
in getting together to research, to discuss, to understand some of the science
that's going on.
So we know this is going to be big and important, whatever it is. But could
you tell us what it is?
IRENE ARANGO: Yes, sure. So I am a Co-Convener with Michael Abrams of a
Hedberg Conference in petroleum systems that is going to take place in Houston
next year, in March. I'm very excited about this.
The focus of this particular Hedberg is in understanding the changes in
petroleum systems, geochemistry, basin modeling over the past 30 years.
So we actually have a series of sessions where we bring in some of the
pioneers. So people with a lot of time, expertise, and knowledge on specific
areas. And also as well, speakers that are people that have been actively
practicing in the field, perhaps not as many years, but doing a really great
job, very interesting takes on things.
And we're trying to show this coming together of the traditional knowledge
that we have in this field in geochemistry and basic modeling, how it has been
applied particularly effectively. Like what are these critical building stones
in our field that we already know about, that we use confidently, that are
still important and relevant 30 years later?
And then, what are these new ways of applying things, and new methods that
are being developed? And looking into the future, what is to come? And we're
trying to bridge a gap between these things, because one of the things that
happens, and especially fueled by unconventionals really is that there are a
lot of new people in the field that didn't get involved with geochemistry or
basic modeling in the past. There's a lot of geologists, for instance, that
never even dreamt of using, or even cared for really about any of these. And
now they are invested in it because they can see the value that it brings to
their understanding of their place.
But at the same time, this creates the situation where sometimes methods
that have been in existence, well understood, with their issues and their pros
and their cons, being taken as if they were new. And sometimes people forget
about the basics that we already know.
We want to bring those learnings that have been sitting there for a number
of years to the new audience and say, hey, we know this is here, and also know
what is new and how it can improve upon what we have known.
And so it's a fantastic opportunity. I'm really excited about this Hedberg.
We have so far assembled a great set of speakers. And there's also going to be
several posters. We're going to have a very good interesting poster session.
And so I think it's a great opportunity for the petroleum systems community to
come together, and kind of share and interact and learn from each other.
VERN STEFANIC: We've been talking today with Irene Arango, Senior Geochemist
with Chevron's energy technology company in Houston. Be sure to check out her
lecture, her distinguished lecture at AAPG.org. I'm telling you, you won't be
And then watch this space for more AAPG podcasts that will continue to cover
a variety of important subjects, innovative ideas, and intriguing people,
including our ongoing Digging Deeper look at the AAPG distinguished lectures.
The Distinguished Lecture Program is operated by AAPG and the AAPG
Foundation. We hope you'll take a moment soon to check out the AAPG Foundation
website to learn about how you can be part of ensuring the future of
geosciences. But for now, thanks for listening.