A Word from the Board

By: Alvaro Chaveste, Editor

With this issue I close my two-year tenure as GSH Editor. Exciting two years, characterized by a continued decline in exploration for Oil and Gas (O&G) fueled, mainly, by the exploitation of resource plays (which require little or no exploration); the push to move away from fossil fuels into renewable energy; and, in 2020-2021, a global pandemic that slowed demand for oil to, almost, a complete stop. 

The shift of the energy industry, from fossil fuels to renewable resources, is evident in the GSH Journal (GSHJ) and other scientific publications. Their content is evolving. NextGen (a subgroup of the GSH), for example, had the series “Under a Different Rock”, in which the presentations were focused on geophysical applications unrelated to exploration for O&G.  Themes like: “Geophysical Applications in Mineral Resources” and “Revisiting how we use seismic data to detect explosions” were presented in this series.

Experts in the Geophysical Industry acknowledge the shift often. The column “Word from The Board” gives GSH board members a space to express their views. In the March issue Marianne Rauch, 1st VP Elect, expresses hers saying “… renewable energy sources will eventually replace most of the hydrocarbons and less and less exploration will be performed… I believe that it is essential that we adapt with the times and adjust the usage of geophysics…”. Katja Akentieva, 2nd VP Elect, mentions, in the April issue, that “… we are, as an industry, grappling with fundamental change in the energy sector, the rise in renewables and transition toward a lower carbon future”. She exemplifies geophysicists’ inventiveness in adapting to the challenge with the Geothermal Eavor loop in Calgary. In personal communication, Katja expressed that; while renewable energy is on the rise, fossil fuels are expected to be a critical share of the energy portfolio during the next decades.

Klaas Koster, President Elect, looks, in the January issue, at changes in working habits associated to the lockdown due to COVID-19. The reduced membership and corporate sponsorship that resulted from it are also related to changes in the energy sector.  With the intention of setting the GSH up for a healthy future, Klaas proposes a wild idea: “… recast independent local societies as local chapters of a large organization that provides the business backend. This would get rid of all the expensive and time-consuming business of running a multitude of independent, non-profit organizations…”. After January, when Klaas’s paper was published, an ad-hoc committee was formed, and recommendations to the GSH board have been made.

In the early 80’s the growing concern that oil, a non-renewable resource, would be depleted pushed the O&G industry into developing innovative technologies to find new reservoirs. In February’s GSH Movie Time, the video “Seeing the Unseen” documents these concerns, as well as efforts in the development and application of the new technology. The movies in the October 2020, November 2020, and April 2021 GSHJ issues illustrate, with operations carried out in Alaska and Canada’s Northern Territories in the early 80’s, the complex logistics involved in using the developed technology. Today we see the possibility of having renewable energy sources replace fossil fuels before these are depleted.

The geophysical industry has adapted, through its existence, to meet humanity’s energy needs.  Seismic exploration was born from the need of creating subsurface images when surface geology was no longer enough for finding traps. Later, the need of better images resulted in the extension of the seismic method to creating three-dimensional images. The 3D method required the development of hardware to store and process vast amounts of data, as well as the creation and application of sophisticated algorithms to interpret it. As the energy industry shifted towards exploitation of non-conventional resources, the geophysical industry shifted its focus into characterizing the mechanical properties of rocks. Today we, geophysicists, are modifying and accommodating geophysical methods again; this time to support the flourishing renewable energy industry.

I have had an interesting career as a geophysicist; characterized by continuous change, optimization of tools and methods, and adaptation to ever-changing needs of the energy industry. The latest adaptation is underway. Geophysicists are making use of available methods or inventing new ones to facilitate energy generation from renewable sources.