The 2018 Industry-Rice Earth Science Symposium (IRESS 2018) assembled experts from academia and industry in Houston, Texas from 22-23 February 2018 to discuss “Unconventional Views of Whole Earth Carbon Cycling: From Formation to Production” at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Each year the workshop—hosted by Rice’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences (EEPS)—identifies and explores a new topic of mutual interest to scientists in both academia and industry. The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) sponsored the attendance of early career scientists to the fifth annual IRESS in 2018 due to its focus on whole Earth carbon cycling and the symposium’s growing tradition of building industry partnership and academic networking opportunities.
Cin-Ty Lee (Department Chair, EEPS) launched IRESS 2018 with opening remarks and Rajeep Dasgupta (Rice University, USA), who is a member of DCO’s Reservoirs and Fluxes Scientific Steering Committee, introduced the symposium science program. The IRESS 2018 program brought together a diverse set of experts from academia and industry to follow carbon from geology to biology, to the energy that sustains the people of our planet. Four themes were presented for the two-day event: 1) whole Earth carbon cycling; 2) unconventional science; 3) energy, economics and environment; and 4) unconventional technologies. The IRESS 2018 program, including the symposium agenda and available abstracts, is here.
Science program speakers included two DCO Executive Committee members: Marie Edmonds (Cambridge University, UK) who discussed “Volcanic CO2 flux into the atmosphere” and Taras Bryndzia (Shell) who addressed “Organic matter, porosity and gas production in the Marcellus shale.” Edmonds also chairs DCO’s Synthesis Group 2019 and co-chairs the DCO Reservoirs and Fluxes Community.
Lee Kump (Pennsylvania State University) provided the kick-off talk describing the state of knowledge regarding how carbon cycling has evolved throughout Earth’s history. Kump also reviewed current research that is helping us better understand the Anthropocene carbon contribution to Earth’s atmosphere and strategies for mitigation. The following talks by Mark Torres (Rice) Chris Reinhard (Georgia Tech), and Marie Edmonds (Cambridge) provided the biologic and geologic framework necessary to understand source-to-sink carbon cycling. The symposium’s unconventional science theme focused on how current research has led to the discovery of new types of hydrocarbon source rocks, and subsequent generation of reservoirs, to new technologies for rock characterization, hydrocarbon exploration and enhancing production. These presentations featured speakers Lori Summa and Kurt Rudolf of ExxonMobil, Daniel Minisini and Taras Bryndzia of Shell and Andrew Madof of Chevron. A poster session that concluded the meeting day included over 30 posters, which remained available for the duration of the symposium—sparking ongoing discussion and interaction.
The symposium’s second day transitioned to discussions of carbon in the context of energy economics, energy policy and new technology. Rice’s Ken Medlock of the Baker Institute tag-teamed with Alex Archila of BHP Billiton to discuss the challenges of meeting the world’s energy needs through strategic energy-science partnerships. Similar to the first day, the talks from Rice faculty (Melodie French) and alumni from both industry (Tobias Hoeink, Baker Hughes) and academia (Priyank Jaiswal, Oklahoma State; Yingcai Zhen, University of Houston) described new technologies arising from interdisciplinary research; such as how rock mechanics can inform fluid pressure and seismicity, to how modelers are using data science to illuminate fluid pathways and permeability in reservoir rocks, and how biologic activity interacts at the granular level in sediments, all to better understand the range sources to sinks in carbon cycling.
A one-day pre-IRESS 2018 workshop, The Frontiers of Whole Earth Systems, proved to be as exciting as the full symposium. Packed with over 20 short presentations and significant discussion time, the workshop was structured to maximize participant interaction. The workshop, which was geared to academics, explored numerous issues and concepts of great DCO interest as reflected by its agenda. The day concluded with brainstorming about opportunities for developing research programs and identifying support to drive large-scale interdisciplinary scientific efforts forward.