For as far back as I can remember I have been passionate about social and environmental sustainability and the possibilities to advance this agenda within our sector. Three small children, an offshore husband and a full-time job didn’t lend me much time on the side, so I took the decision 18 months ago to step back from my 16-year career as a reservoir geoscientist to upskill in this area. I investigated what the industry is doing and what’s happening outside to get a more holistic picture to inform how we can accelerate our efforts to address today’s urgent sustainability challenges and how I might pivot to devote my skills and experience in this new direction.
I immersed myself in all things related to energy, climate action and sustainability more broadly; growing my network both within and outside the petroleum sector, attending live and virtual conferences and becoming an active volunteer with the industry’s professional societies—curating panel sessions and conference programming. This gave me the opportunity to broaden and deepen not just my technical but my social and political knowledge on these topics, gaining perspectives from across the energy debate spectrum—climate scientists, politicians and activists from both outside and within the industry..
UN SDG 7: Action to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all is often regarded as the most influential of all the SDGs having a major impact on whether we meet the rest of the Goals. Earlier this year, Amina Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary General in her address to the IEA cautioned that we are currently not on track to achieving SDG 7 or limiting global temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. She stated that society has ‘picked a fight with nature’ and that the energy transition can act as an ‘olive branch’ to enable us to achieve SDG 7.
This presents a significant opportunity for our sector and indeed our discipline as Petroleum Geoscientists to be a central part of the solution. The Atlas details the pivotal role played by geoscientists in all energy and decarbonization strategies to ensure energy security, equity, and environmental sustainability. It points out the need to extend and repurpose these skills and technologies to advance today’s energy transition efforts from the characterisation of geothermal energy sources to sustainable mineral extraction to supply the demand for renewable technology through to tackling GHG emissions from hydrocarbons with CO2 storage monitoring and methane detection and mapping.
Last October as a panellist on the SEG20 Sustainability Panel (key Takeaways), I was asked to share an insight from my year. I believe the challenges our planet and society face are so great and so urgent that a collective, multi-pronged approach is required. Sustainability is not something that should be niche or exclusively top-down and the sole responsibility of CEOs and ESG teams because the reality is, many of these objectives don’t always filter down to everyone. We are all accountable and all capable of action. As scientists we are problem solvers, solutions driven. As geoscientists, and by extension all subsurface practitioners, we are the custodians of mother earth with the expertise and tools to unlock the subsurface so we should be at the vanguard of more sustainable solutions.
18 months ago, I believed my move would be a departure from geoscience but I now have a better understanding of the crucial role we need to play to bend that emissions curve.
We as industry individuals are critical to the social and environmental performance of our industry yet most of us do not have direct responsibility for it. This has been a personal frustration for me and what lead me to take Personal Development Leave.
This accelerated level of mobilisation of industry professionals, external collaboration and aggregation of efforts is crucial in aligning sustainability efforts within the sector with the scale and the urgency of the challenges that need to be addressed if human activity is to be returned within planetary boundaries.
All IEA scenarios show oil and gas continuing to be a part of the global energy mix in the future and we should be proud of the role it has played for energy equity and socio-economic development around the globe. We need however to be cognisant of the damaging impact this resource has on our environment and act accordingly. Changes are happening in the sector; the shift towards green energy policies, oil and gas companies becoming energy companies, shareholders prioritising environmental standards and students and young professionals embracing a broader energy mix. Our industry is evolving, for the better and I believe it needs to enable its workforce to act on the single biggest environmental challenge that is facing society and our planet so that we can indeed be part of the solution.
Author information: Emer Caslin is a Geoscientist specialising in reservoir interpretation, structural and property modelling. She has held roles in technical consulting, business development and Petrel Portfolio Management; ranging from daily technical operation support to advising on corporate-level geoscience strategy. She graduated with a BSc in Geology from Queens University Belfast and an MSc in Reservoir Geoscience and Engineering from the IFP School in Paris. She is passionate about accelerating the industry’s contribution to sustainable development.