Future Directions for the
U.S. Geological Survey’s
Energy Resources Program
Committee on Future Directions for the U.S. Geological Survey’s
Energy Resources Program
Committee on Earth Resources
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
Division on Earth and Life Studies
A Consensus Study Report of
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This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Geological Survey under Grant Agreement No. G17AP00048. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Geological Survey. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Geological Survey.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-47740-6
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-47740-9
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25141
Top Left: Map showing the location of the Phosphoria Shale Gas Assessment Unit in the Wyoming Thrust Belt Province, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah, U.S. Geological Service. ©2018. Accessed at: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2018/3001/fs20183001.pdf.
Top Right: Geothermal energy plant. Licensed under CC0: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en.
Bottom Left: Map created using the EnergyVision tool of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Energy Resources Program. Image used courtesy of the committee.
Bottom Right: Geothermal energy drill rig at the Fallon FORGE site in Nevada. Image used courtesy of Bridget F. Ayling.
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Future Directions for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Energy Resources Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25141.
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COMMITTEE ON FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY’S ENERGY RESOURCES PROGRAM
REX C. BUCHANAN (Chair), Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence
BRIAN J. ANDERSON, West Virginia University, Morgantown
BRIDGET F. AYLING, University of Nevada, Reno
PETER M. KAREIVA, NAS, University of California, Los Angeles
ROBIN L. NEWMARK, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
JACK C. PASHIN, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater
J. CARLOS SANTAMARINA, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
BRIDGET R. SCANLON, NAE, The University of Texas at Austin
LORI L. SUMMA, ExxonMobil (retired), Houston, Texas
ROBERT E. VANCE, UMNP Consultants, Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Staff
SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Senior Program Officer
COURTNEY R. DEVANE, Administrative Coordinator
NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate
RAYMOND (REMY) CHAPPETTA, Senior Program Assistant
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The world of energy has long been dynamic. The past decade was a reminder of just how dynamic that world can be. Just ten years ago, the United States contemplated the threat of a slow but inexorable downturn in worldwide fossil fuel production (i.e., peak oil). Experts worried that declining production would affect not only energy production and use but also the economy, the environment, even U.S. foreign policy. Today, oil and natural gas have made an incredible resurgence, mainly because of the application of improved and new technologies to resources that were previously difficult or impossible to extract. Natural gas is cheap and plentiful, and it may remain so indefinitely. Oil production in the United States has increased dramatically, and oil imports are down. Nuclear energy continues to produce a significant (20%) share of U.S. electrical power. At the same time, the use of renewable energy has continued to increase. In a few years, the country may, by some definitions, be energy independent—something unthinkable a decade ago. This transformation, however, had wide-ranging consequences. Greenhouse gas emissions declined based largely on the substitution of natural gas for other fuels. Anthropogenic earthquakes (induced seismicity) and concerns about potential groundwater contamination accompanied the newly applied technologies. Coal production dropped.
Some things have not changed. Reliable, affordable energy continues to be central to the nation’s economic and social vitality. The environmental impacts of energy extraction and use are of great concern to the public, and good decisions about energy require high-quality information about energy resources and their use. The speed and magnitude of the recent energy transformation has highlighted the need for reliable and timely information about the nation’s energy resources and challenges, especially those related to the subsurface. In the midst of such a transformation, organizations that provide such information are critical for good decision-making.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS’s) Energy Resources Program (ERP) focuses on geologic energy resources, providing information and undertaking research related to them, including greatly-used resources such as oil and natural gas, and lesser-used resources that may someday play a role in the nation’s energy mix. The ERP provides heavily relied upon assessments of energy in subsurface basins in the United States (and, occasionally, in other parts of the world), while attempting to anticipate and be prepared to study and report on changes in the energy mix here and abroad. The ERP works to make all this information publicly available in a timely manner.
In light of the ERP’s role as a public purveyor of subsurface geologic resource information, the USGS asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) to analyze the ERP mission and direction. In 2017, an ad hoc committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was specifically asked to summarize the nation’s energy resource challenges; to describe how ERP work aligned with those challenges; and to recommend ways that the ERP could direct its work over the next 10 to 15 years to better meet those challenges. T he following report is a chapter-by-
chapter response to the committee’s charge, including recommendations that will help guide the ERP to most effectively meet those challenges.
The past decade has demonstrated the difficulty in predicting U.S. energy production and consumption and that production and consumption are subject to massive change with little notice. Those changes have sweeping implications for the nation’s economy, environment, and even social behavior. That makes organizations such as the ERP more important than ever. To fulfill its mission, the ERP needs to be nimble, to be responsive, and to anticipate changes in the energy mix.
As committee chair, I want to thank all the members of the committee for their time and dedication to this task. I particularly want to thank Sammantha Magsino, senior program officer at the National Academies, for the incredible time and effort she devoted to the committee, particularly in the report-writing stage. Our thanks to Raymond Chappetta, senior program assistant, and Elizabeth Eide, Senior Board Director of the National Academies Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, for their assistance throughout this process. Although too many to list here, numerous consumers of ERP products from different federal and state agencies and the private sector also provided input to the committee, for which I owe them thanks. And finally, our thanks to the staff of the USGS who met with and provided information to the committee.
Rex C. Buchanan
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Wendy J. Harrison, Colorado School of Mines, Golden
Douglas Hollett, Nova Systems, Adelaide, Australia
Susan D. Hovorka, The University of Texas at Austin
Joseph Kiesecker, The Nature Conservancy, Fort Collins Colorado
Robert L. Kleinberg, NAE, Balboa Energy Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sebastien Matringe, Newfield Exploration, The Woodlands, Texas
John Robbins, Orano Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
David B. Spears, Virginia Department of Mines, Charlottesville
Stanley C. Suboleski, NAE, Evan Energy Investments, Richmond, Virginia
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by G. Paul Willhite (NAE), University of Kansas, and Corale L. Brierley (NAE), Brierley Consultancy LLC. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
The committee met three times over a six-month period: once in Washington, DC, Denver, CO, and Irvine, CA. In the course of those meetings, the committee consulted with interested and affected parties, including those from the private and public sectors. The committee would like to thank, in alphabetical order, the speakers and panelists, listed below, as well as other individuals who provided input during those meetings or in the many discussions held individually with committee members: Scott Anderson, Margaret Coleman, Margo Corum, Richard Desselles, Vincent DeVito, Christopher Garrity, Stephanie Gaswirth, Walter Guidroz, Murray Hitzman, Douglas Hollett, Vito Nuccio, Daniel Schwartz, Brian Shaffer, Christopher Skinner, Andrea Travnicek, and Colin Williams.
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