5,000 “Rock” Stars, One Stage

What the conversation turns to when a multitude of geologists gather

Part of the foundation of protective and effective regulation is hard science. Initiatives like area-based regulation, for example, require a detailed understanding of the geology of Alberta. This is where professional geologists come in. The AER’s Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) is dedicated to geological research, with professional geologists in teams across the organization who support regulatory work.

Twenty-two of our geoscientists recently presented their research at the annual convention and exhibition of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists—an event that welcomes about 5,000 people from all over the world each year. For the first time in more than 10 years, this event was held in Calgary, providing the opportunity for AER geoscientists to attend in greater numbers. In total, AER scientists presented 13 papers in the following themes:

1. Siliciclastics

Siliciclastics are sedimentary rocks that largely consist of silicon-bearing minerals (quartz, for example). AER geologists presented on the Montney and Duvernay formations (two major formations targeted for oil and gas development), which have very complex structures. The research looked at how chemical analysis of sediments can help us form a more complete and accurate picture of what's beneath our feet.

2. Carbonates and Evaporites

As the name suggests, carbonate rocks are composed primarily of carbonate minerals and include rocks such as limestone and dolostone. Evaporites are composed of minerals that accumulated due to the evaporation of salt water (for example, calcite, dolomite, gypsum, and halite). We presented two posters under this theme: one about how detailed mapping of the rock layers under the Athabasca and Cold Lake Oil Sands Areas helped produce a three-dimensional model of the area, and another that explored the history of the Prairie Evaporite Formation in northeastern Alberta.

These studies are essential to a detailed and accurate understanding of Alberta’s geology. Through these studies the AER is able to develop models and maps of the rocks beneath us, which forms the basis of further research by us and industry to find new pools of oil and gas and determine how to safely and responsibly develop them—which leads us to the remaining themes.

3. Unconventional Resources

When referring to oil and gas resources, the term “unconventional” means resources that must be developed using unconventional (nontraditional) means. This usually means oil and gas found in “tight” reservoirs (reservoirs with very low permeability) that must be developed using hydraulic fracturing. AER scientists presented a paper and two posters in this theme.

The paper explored the challenges we’ve encountered as we’ve produced a 3D digital model of Alberta’s geology and presents the techniques we’ve used to overcome these challenges. One of the posters explained how we are determining the extent of oil and gas reserves in unconventional reservoirs in the Duvernay Formation. And the other poster looked at how statistical methods can help mitigate uncertainty when modelling geological units.

4. Oil Sands

Alberta’s oil sands are among the world’s largest deposits of crude oil. It’s no wonder, then, that a great deal of scientific research goes into them. This year AER scientists presented a paper and two posters in this theme.

The paper presented the scientific details of our investigation into odours and emissions in the Peace River area. One poster looked at trends of nonsaline water use in oil sands development and how they correlate with production, providing one way of forecasting nonsaline water use in the future. And the other poster presented detailed work on the geology of the Clearwater Formation, which underlies the Cold Lake Oil Sands Area.

5. Research Symposium and History of Petroleum Geology

And finally, three papers were presented in more general themes. We presented a paper in the history portion that looked at early twentieth-century oil sands pioneers in Alberta. The Society for Sedimentary Geology also held a research symposium at which AER scientists presented a poster and a paper. The poster discussed our development of a 3D digital model of Alberta’s geology, in particular, the authors’ work on mapping the sub-Cretaceous unconformity. The paper looked at the Alberta foreland basin and explored how the formation of the southern Canadian Rocky Mountains affected it.

For the full brochure and other information about the 2016 conference, visit the conference’s homepage. All the submitted abstracts can be found on the AAPG’s “Search and Discovery” site. Many posters and presentations can also be found on the AGS website.


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