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Looking Beyond the Bust: Energy Trends Into the Next 50 Years – Geoscientists Will Continue to Meet the World's Energy Needs


As we close out the first century of AAPG and look forward, the unconventional resources technology revolution continues to radically change the North American and global energy picture. Major oil production spikes created by the Bakken, Eagle Ford and other developing plays will each have limited life spans, but North American oil production levels by 2065 and beyond are projected to as good as, or better than, they were in 2010. With heavy drilling and infrastructure investment, North American gas production will continue to increase for at least the next 50 years. At one quarter the carbon footprint of coal per BTU, gas will be the most likely “bridge fuel” toward an energy future that uses a higher percentage of lower carbon footprint sources. Without that heavy investment in gas, alternative energy delivery options will fall woefully short with respect to the BTUs required for North American and global energy demands. Implications for the global energy future are being determined by the drill bit, with some multinational companies betting heavily on success. Access to unconventional resources in basins around the world varies greatly with political regime and with the character of the basin fill (basin size, lacustrine vs. marine shale, intensity of structural deformation, degree and uniformity of organic richness and variation in thermal maturity all matter). Distinct “haves” and “have nots” will arise as evaluation continues. Significant unconventional production is proven in Latin America, while China and Saudi Arabia work to determine the viability of their domestic unconventional opportunities and try to overcome significant technical challenges. Ultimately, the rocks and the geoscientists working them will determine the outcomes as we strive to understand how to best extract hydrocarbons from nano-pores that are close to the scale of individual methane molecules. This work will require new technologies and new ideas, integrated with good basic geoscience concepts. Global trends in population growth suggest a major increase in energy demand that will far outstrip present and projected rates of alternative energy infrastructure growth, with strong positive implications for oil and gas demand and prices over the next 50 years. Near-term volatility will ultimately give way to increased demand. Geoscientists will continue to be integral to the process of predicting, finding and producing energy to fuel the world well into the AAPG's second century.