The Bureau of Economic Geology The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences
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November 2013

Yanchang Group
The "mysterious Orient" may become a little less mysterious as a team of Bureau researchers pursues answers to research questions arising out of China's quest to exploit its potentially vast oil and gas reservoirs. On November 8, a team of executives from Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Company, Ltd., visited the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) to sign a $1 million, two-year agreement to investigate various exploration properties of lacustrine shale formations in the Shaanxi Province of China.

Chief in the negotiations with Yanchang was Bureau organic geochemist and geologist Tongwei Zhang, who will also lead the gas geochemistry portion of the study as co-principal investigator. Zhang points out, "Yanchang searched the U.S. for the right group of researchers. They think BEG has a very good integrated team with talented researchers who publish great papers." He pledged, "We are going to try to demonstrate to them our abilities." Also on the BEG team are co-principal investigator Hongliu Zeng, Kitty Milliken, Stephen Ruppel, Robert Loucks, Harry Rowe, and Sheng Peng, each spearheading a different research effort under the agreement.

China's oil and gas industry began centuries ago. China claims to have dug the world's first natural gas well in 250 BCE, and the first 1,000-meter gas well in 1835. In the 1950's, the Chinese began investing in their fledgling oil and gas industry, establishing a handful of training institutions to produce knowledgeable technicians. The 1960's saw the discovery of the massive Daqing Oil Field in

northeastern China, still considered one of the largest oil fields ever found. In the early 1990's, the Chinese began to actively seek western technology and expertise. They began to visit universities and companies in the U.S. petroleum industry, and to place visiting scientists with them. The Bureau of Economic Geology welcomed some of these scientists, and began to explore the potential of stronger ties to the Chinese petroleum industry and its supporting training organizations.

The first Bureau trip to China took place in 2004 when a BEG team, led by director Scott Tinker, visited Chinese companies and educational institutions to spread the word about Bureau research, and to make new friends. Since then, the Chinese have come to know BEG better and better. Bureau researchers have traveled frequently to China to conduct research, exchange ideas, teach classes, present at conferences, and offer technical help. A dozen individual research projects at the Bureau have received funding from various large Chinese oil and gas companies over the past ten years, although none have been of the magnitude of the new Yanchang initiative.
Associate Director Eric Potter (L) with Deputy General Manager Wang Xiangzeng

"We're very excited about this new partnership with Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum," says Eric Potter, program director of BEG energy research. "It gives us a unique opportunity to conduct research in areas where we have technical strengths. The experience we gain from this extensive relationship, investigating rock properties and reservoir characteristics we've never seen before, will be invaluable."

"It takes a very motivated scientist to want to conduct research half a world away," adds co-principal investigator Hongliu Zeng. "We are very fortunate to have those kinds of motivated people on our team, and the opportunity to conduct important research in China at a high level." - Mark Blount


Scott Tinker with AIPG President Ron WallaceLate October saw Bureau director Scott W. Tinker accepting two national awards for his years of extraordinary service to the general public. On October 24th, the American Institute of Professional Geologists President Ron Wallace presented Tinker with the John T. Galey, Sr., Memorial Public Service Award at its awards dinner in Broomfield, Colorado. The Galey Award is established to honor geologists who provide "geological expertise where it is needed by the public at large," and who "have outstanding records of public service on the national, state, or local level well beyond their normal professional responsibilities." On October 28th, AGI President and JSG Dean Sharon Mosher, on behalf of the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), presented Tinker with its Outstanding Contribution to the Public Understanding of the Geosciences awaAGI President Sharon Mosher and Scott Tinkerrd at its Friends of AGI reception in Denver. The AGI award is bestowed annually on an individual "for contributions leading to greater public appreciation and better understanding of the role of geosciences in society." Both awards recognized Scott Tinker's distinguished service as director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and State Geologist of Texas, and his tremendous outreach efforts through teaching, writing, public appearances, and his documentary film about global energy, Switch. Photo courtesy of American Geosciences Institute.


Gregory Frebourg at the Grand Canyon: click to see full image
Each summer the GeoFORCE program takes about 600 students from minority-serving high schools in rural South Texas and inner-city Houston on geologic field trips in Texas and throughout the United States. And each year since its inception under the guidance of former BEG Associate Director Doug Ratcliff, Bureau researchers have played a key role in the program's remarkable success. This year, five Bureau researchers led field trips throughout the United States to give students an expert's view of some of nature's richest geologic treasures. Peter Flaig led a field trip for the Arizona academy, Jeff Paine toured the northwest as instructor for the Oregon academy, Linda McCall, Dallas Dunlap, John Andrews, and Reuben Reyes taught the Uvalde Young Geoscientists, Tiffany Caudle instructed the Austin Young Geoscientists, and Greg Fr├ębourg served as instructor for the Arizona Academy. Feedback from Program Interim Director Eleanour Snow to Greg Fr├ębourg summarized the impact these researchers have on the program's students: "I hear nothing but rave reviews for your teaching, your interactions with the kids, your energy, everything. It is teachers like you who are the heart of a great GeoFORCE experience. I have no doubt that a few years from now I will get some emails saying "please tell Greg that I am a geology major because of that trip."
Paine



 

 
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