Ursula Hammes, Spring 2012
As I am taking over the Presidency for the year 2012, I am not even close to the Gulf Coast. I am currently spending one year in Germany at the University of Potsdam where I am studying Late Permian German shales for their shale-gas/oil potential as part of a Mudrock Systems Research Laboratory project at the Bureau of Economic Geology. I've been involved in shale-gas research for the past three years when I first investigated the Upper Jurassic Haynesville mudrocks for its shale-gas potential. The Bureau of Economic Geology has been on the forefront of shale-gas research that started with Barnett Shale research on reservoir characterization and facies models and now expanded to various topics such as pores in the nano-world, petrophysics, and geochemistry to name just a few. Shale gas has become a desirable commodity over the past five to eight years since the advent of completion techniques that efficiently exploit gas and oil out of these very tight mudrocks. The learning curve of most geologists has been very steep in interpreting geochemical and sedimentological variations of these fine-grained rocks. Suddenly, geochemists are a hot commodity! Having a background in geochemistry, stratigraphy, and sedimentology myself, studying mudrocks seemed to be natural to me. One of the great side effects of shale-gas exploration/ exploitation was that companies are again investing more money into basic rock research that supports geochemical analyses, paleo-oceanographic interpretations, and environmental SEM. Coming from decades of neglecting the rocks by relying mostly on seismic and elaborate imaging techniques, mudrock research has changed the interests and necessity for efficient exploration towards basic rock research. This change has provided new enthusiasm to basic rock research and companies have been willing to take more core and run more basic rock analyses again, much to the delight of geologists such as myself.
Although my background is carbonate diagenesis, sedimentology, and stratigraphy and having worked clastics of the Gulf of Mexico region before, mudrocks sparked my interest because of their complexity and proximity to surrounding carbonate shelves. I received a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado under David Budd in carbonate sequence stratigraphy and geochemistry. My dissertation in the Floridan Aquifer involved diagenesis of a modern aquifer and sequence stratigraphy of the Oligocene Suwannee Formation. Well, there wasn't much rock-water interaction in the present-day Floridan aquifer but some indication of Oligocene fresh-water lenses that had developed on small islands on a shallow-water carbonate ramp in concert with small-scale sea-level fluctuations generated some calcite cements. After my degree I spent a few years working for an environmental company, IT Corporation, as a geoscientist. Environmental work wasn't exactly my cup of tea and I soon jumped on the opportunity to work at the Bureau of Economic Geology as a post-doc researching Permian Basin carbonates. A stint in Houston working for Anadarko provided excellent experience in oil and gas exploration. I gained my insight into worldwide business development as well as Mid-continent and Gulf of Mexico exploration.
Over the past 10 years, I have been working at the Bureau of Economic Geology following my passion of applied research including the needs of industry and fundamental research in the Gulf Coast. Project STARR (State of Texas Advanced Resource Recovery) kept me engaged in Gulf Coast geology and thus an interest in being part of GCSSEPM.
I was first introduced to GCSSEPM when I presented a paper at one of the Bob F. Perkins conferences organized and sponsored by the GCSSEPM Foundation. These specialized theme conferences are exceptional and result in world-class publications. Thanks to the GCSSEPM Foundation, which is independent of GCSSEPM section, and especially Norm and Rashel Rosen, the Perkins conferences are always a success with topics ranging from seismic imaging techniques to reservoir characterization to salt tectonics.
As section president I would like to see more involvement of young professionals and students in the society by appealing to all supervisors and advisors to challenge your students and young geologists to join our society whether they are working Gulf Coast or not. Eventually most geologists will work the Gulf of Mexico onshore or offshore. Our society provides great support for Gulf Coast geology through meetings and publications. We need to advise young geologists that networking and volunteering will contribute to success in their respective careers.
One of the tasks of our team of President-elect (Mike Blum), past president (Bruce Hart), and vice president (Don Van Nieuwenhuise) is to offer a GCSSEPM-sponsored short course for students. Following the successful short courses taught by Bruce Hart on seismic interpretation and by myself on mudrocks, Mike Blum will offer a one-day short course on Gulf Coast depositional systems in the fall.
Please stay tuned, pay your dues so you'll receive your newsletter, and get involved.
University of Texas
Bureau of Economic Geology