Volunteering

A one-hour volunteer session can lead to a life-long career in oil and gas

Being an Energy4me volunteer means getting the opportunity to make the simple seem extraordinary. To take everyday items and turn them into learning tools. To make a bottle of water and some oil show eager minds how molecules behave.

Being an Energy4me volunteer means that you get to be part of the wonder that is the potential of a life in STEM. Two volunteers experienced this in Benin City, Nigeria. Engineers Ifeanyi Ndukwe and Peter Asemota visited the St. Maria Goretti Girls Secondary School where more than 450 students were waiting to greet them.

Our Energy4me volunteers were greeted which much enthusiasm.

Spreading the message of the importance of pursing STEM related subjects, the Energy4me volunteers then spent some time in the classroom, showing students how oil and water don’t mix and what that means for the oil and gas industry.

The Energy4me program is designed not only to teach the public about the exciting scientific concepts that are dealt with in the real world, but also to have the audience discover these concepts themselves by participating in the activity. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Students playing the Peak Oil Game

Students played the Peak Oil Game which uses beans, spoons and some paper bags to show how technology and the right decision making can lead to the discovery of potential energy.

It’s a great game that both educates and spurs and competition among students as they learn the important lesson of cooperation between various sectors within the industry. After completing the game, one student said, “This is fun. Now I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

Of course, learning isn’t always just for students. As the Energy4me volunteer, Ndukwe also gained some knowledge.

“The activity is one of the most amazing ways to introduce kids to the energy sector and it was a success,” he said. “I totally enjoyed the session, and it even strengthened my knowledge during the exercise.”

Energy4me helps to dispel the myths about the industry and educate students about the many career opportunities that await aspiring students. Teachers at St. Maria Goretti understood that potential and inquired if Ndukwe and Asemata would be available to work with the students again.

This is one of the main objectives of the Energy4me program –building a relationship beyond just the interaction with our activities. Energy4me has a range of volunteers that have given their time to mentor and answer all of the questions that the public might have.

There is no better reward than giving back to the community that has given you so much and thanks to the SPE Benin Section, we might have a few future leaders and energy professionals that emerge out of this school visit.

Bacteria lead the way to more efficient oil production

Photo: Biota / Biota

Biota, a California startup, is developing a means of improving oil and gas operations by analyzing the bacteria that emerge from the wellhead. Photo: Biota

In the rocky depths of the nation’s shale oil fields, thousands of feet below the production frenzy, primordial bacteria subsist on the very hydrocarbons that make up oil and gas and have transformed the U.S. into an energy powerhouse rivaling Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The microbes are among the least-studied life forms on earth, emerging to the surface as anonymous organisms thought to have evolved within the harsh extremes of the subsurface over hundreds of millions of years. Oil and gas producers for decades paid them limited attention — until a cutting-edge startup recognized their potential to help produce oil and gas even more efficiently.

Now, as industry competition intensifies, a growing number of producers have partnered with Biota, a startup developing the means of achieving that goal by analyzing the bacteria that emerge from the wellhead. More than 20 producers in the Permian Basin and elsewhere have shipped rock and fluid samples to the company’s San Diego lab, intrigued by the promise of data that could help them drill more precisely, lower production costs and boost profits.

Think of it as biotechnology meets petroleum engineering. Unique microbial colonies reside within the various layers, cracks and faults in any given oil basin, making it possible to discern the boundaries of deep underground formations by analyzing the DNA of the bacteria within them. In the Permian, for example, bacteria in two overlapping layers — the Bone Spring and the Wolfcamp — are biologically distinct, providing markers that could determine whether a well is drawing from one source or the other during the course of operations.

That’s critical information for drillers trying to make the best use of each well. Right now, if a company drills two wells, one targeting the Bone Spring, the other the Wolfcamp, it is challenged to know for sure if those wells are drawing from their intended targets. Both wells could be sucking oil from, say, the Bone Spring, depleting that source more quickly while missing out on the crude from the Wolfcamp.

Biota CEO Ajay Kshatriya, a chemical engineer who grew up in Katy and spent much of his career in California’s biotech industry, compares oilfield acreage to a six-pack of soda, each can a distinct formation or reservoir. The producer aims to place one straw in each can, but sometimes, two straws wind up in the same can, doubling the company’s cost to produce what could have been done with one. And there’s the chance that some cans will remain unopened, leaving profits underground.

“By understanding the boundaries of those cans,” Kshatriya said, “you know where to put the wells.”

For all of their advanced technology — seismic imaging, computer models and production monitors — energy companies still can’t be certain where oil and gas is coming from once the shale rock is shattered through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It’s like throwing a rock at a window; even with perfect planning and aim, the cracks will zig-zag unpredictably in any direction. It becomes even more unpredictable thousands of feet below ground.

That’s where the bacteria, among the earth’s oldest organisms, come in. Over the eons, the bacteria adapted to particular conditions underground, diversifying genetically into different strains depending on heat, pressure and other conditions in the mishmash of prehistoric sediment overlapping in different formations. In other words, the strains of bacteria in the Wolfcamp have a different genetic makeups than those in the Bone Spring.

Biota, which has offices in California and Houston, uses DNA sequencing, computer algorithms and a proprietary database to identify the strains of bacteria that come up through oil and gas wells and maps those microbes to their respective formations based on where the samples were taken. Drawing on more than 20,000 samples from some 500 wells in the Permian and nine other basins, Biota has analyzed more than 400 million DNA sequences from the nation’s most prolific production areas, and recently began working with offshore customers in the Gulf of Mexico and Asia.

As the map becomes more extensive and detailed, oil and gas companies would be able to confirm the source of crude — and adjust operations as needed — with information about the bacteria produced from the well. It’s another tool for an industry than can no longer count on $100 a barrel oil to cover cost overruns, especially as investors increase pressure to keep a lid on costs and boost profits.

Marathon Oil and EP Energy of Houston and Anadarko Petroleum of The Woodlands have signed on with Biota, as have Norway’s Equinor and Australia’s BHP Billiton, among others. Recently, Midland’s Concho Resources, Pennsylvania’s EQT Resources and Malaysia’s Petronas joined the customer roster.

John Gibson, chairman of energy technology at Houston energy investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., has worked for the past year to connect Biota with the bank’s oil and gas clients, extolling the insights expected to come when the company has analyzed enough bacterial DNA to map wide production areas. The bank has not invested in Biota.

“The more we know about the bacteria, the more we know about the reservoir,” Gibson said. “There is enormous potential here.”

For oil and gas companies, the data has the potential to show far more than how a single well performs once it’s fracked. Data from multiple wells could determine how they interact and help producers find the optimal number of wells to develop a reservoir. And it could enable them to monitor production over time — a well that starts off siphoning oil from the Wolfcamp, for example, could, at some point, begin to draw from a different formation.

Anadarko was one of the first companies to conduct a large-scale pilot program with Biota last January, starting with a study of 33 wells in the Delaware region of the Permian. It has since expanded the study to include more than 100 wells there in pursuit of a broader data set that could help it enhance its drilling models and more quickly determine the most efficient means of achieving production targets.

Blunt, K. (2018). Bacteria lead the way to more efficient oil production. [online] HoustonChronicle.com. Available at: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Bacteria-leads-the-way-to-more-efficient-oil-13178180.php [Accessed 6 Sep. 2018].

Working in petroleum: it’s a sweet job

Who knew that heavy crude oil could be delicious?

Secondary students at the Bayflower International School in Benin City, Nigeria, were treated to some fun and educational experiments recently through SPE’s Energy4me program. The 30 students had a taste of the types of work that petroleum engineers do in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas.

Students experiment on extracting oil in this experiment.

Through the Energy4me presentation, students learned the importance of pursuing STEM-related school subjects and career paths. SPE member Akwiwu Ugochi, projects officer for Nigerian Petroleum Development Co., led the presentation, which included an activity called Getting the Oil Out. This simple experiment explains how artificial lift extracts light and heavy crude.

Of course, Energy4me does not recommend tasting crude oil! In our experiment, light crude is represented by soda while chocolate syrup stands in for heavy crude. Hence, its tastiness! “Heavy crude tastes delicious, but is a lot of work to extract,” one student told Ugochi. She also had the students perform the Sedimentation Bottle experiment, which illustrates in a very simplistic way why the different layers of sub-surface materials formed the way that they did.

I enjoyed taking the class, and the students’ energy was quite infectious,” Ugochi said. “I also was able to talk about oil spillage, environmental implication and clean-up during the Getting the Oil Out activity when we had an issue of a ‘pipe’ rupture with one of the straw tubes.”

Akwiwu Ugochi hands out materials for an experiment.

Having industry professionals come into the classroom and interact with students via Energy4me highlights the importance of making the right decisions during early stages of an engineering project. Students not only learn about the industry through the Energy4me hands-on activities, but also hear about the lives of the engineers through a career talk and question and answer session.

Energy4me is not a boring lecture, and combining the hands-on activities with a discussion about life in the industry helps students put a face to the industry and understand what is required to be successful.

The Energy4me excitement is evident in the students’ reactions. They said the presentation was “very enlightening and educational.” As an SPE member giving an Energy4me presentation, you know you are successful when a student asks “if the engineers can come back again.”

Or course, teachers love Energy4me also. Program resources are available free to the teachers, allowing them to further educate their students in a fun and dynamic way. The teacher asked Ugochi if she could conduct similar sessions with the students during regular class time. Absolutely – Energy4me provides instructions for many hands-on activities for all grade levels.

Shaking up a bottle to learn how sediment forms under the earth’s crust.

“As I left the classroom that day, the teacher said the presentation was fun, and it made the students interested in science,” Ugochi said. “I look forward to doing more Energy4me presentations and encouraging my section members to do likewise.”

Want to volunteer in your community? Contact energyed@spe.org for more information.

Fracturing with gelatin

Making gelatin is fun, and it certainly is delicious. But fracturing gelatin from the inside is a cracking good time.

Hydraulic fracturing was one of the experiments conducted by the SPE Calgary Section during a recent school visit. About 60 students participated in a range of Energy4me activities where they learned concepts such as porosity and perforated well casings in addition to hydraulic fracturing.

Dispelling many of the myths about this form of hydrocarbon production, SPE members explained to students about the technical aspects that are involved in the process, and why it is one of the most regulated and safest forms of hydrocarbon production. The Society of Petroleum Engineers provides good information on hydraulic fracturing on the Energy4me website.

Through Energy4me’s hands-on activities, the students also saw first-hand the results of core sampling on different sub-surface terrains. The SPE members offered instruction on why it is important to use science when investigating what is beneath the surface during hydrocarbon exploration.

From porosity to perforated well casing, students left with a better understanding of the various steps that go into exploration and production.

Globally, Energy4me excites students about the oil and gas industry. Through its award-winning program, Energy4me teaches students that engineers are investigators and problem solvers, often leading to new technologies and innovations for the world’s energy needs.

 

STEM Day at Elmore Elementary in Houston, Texas

SPE member Randi Steele represented SPE’s Energy4me program and the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Elmore Elementary’s second annual STEM Day on Jan. 26. The program was organized by Crystal Williams, fourth grade STEM, computer science and robotics educator.

Williams instituted STEM Day as a way to motivate the students to think big about their futures and get them to focus on going to college. The day consisted of science presentations, robotics labs, a math competition and six science workshops.

Steele presented a basic discussion of fossil fuels and drilling for oil using materials from the Houston Museum of Natural Science where she is a master docent in the Weiss Energy Hall. Steele presented twice to large groups of about 30 fifth graders. They were very attentive and asked great questions.

“They loved learning about the rocks – especially the coal, halite, and sulfur samples,” Steele said. “Another highlight was showing the perforating gun and discussing the chemical explosive involved. This was a very worthwhile experience, and I look forward to doing it again!”

 

 

 

SPE SA showcases at 2014 Science Alive!

By Helena Wu, SPE South Australian Section Vice Chairperson

How do you keep over 20,000 students, parents and children of all ages, dazzled and entranced in the science of oil and gas?

After months of planning, the SPE South Australian Section brought the science of oil and gas to life, at the recent 2014 Science Alive! event.  In its first foray into this annual expo, the South Australian Section partnered up with two local sections of other professional societies to share a 6m x 6m booth titled ‘Discover the Science of Oil and Gas’.

The calm before the storm – SPE-PESA-ASEG booth at 2014 Science Alive!

Held from 8-10 August at the local showgrounds, Science Alive! is a three day science and technology expo which attracted over 4,000 students on the Friday ‘Careers Day’ and an estimated 20,000 children and parents on the weekend public opening.

Through a mixture of presentations, exhibits and hands on activities, attendees were provided with an understanding of the petroleum lifecycle, starting from generation and migration, right through to production and integration into everyday society.

SPE members volunteering at the booth were kept busy dispelling common perceptions of oil and gas being found in underground caverns.  “Many were surprised by the numerous everyday products made from petroleum,” said James Griffiths, Event Coordinator and Community Liaison Chair for SPE South Australian Section.

Future petroleum engineers in training!

 

Prior to the event, SPE Senior Manager Communication and Energy Education, Paige McCown and SPE Southern Asia Pacific Regional Director, John Boardman, made a special donation of Energy4Me materials to the section, which were well utilised for the event.  The bookmarks proved to be most popular, while both students and parents shifted through the career brochures and quizzed each other using the IQ test questions.

The thinking caps are already out to ensure next year’s booth will be even bigger and better!

For more information about Science Alive! and Australia’s annual National Science Week, visit http://www.scienceweek.net.au/science-alive-2014/.

Lagos Teachers Get Energized with Energy4me

Earlier this spring, the Lagos section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers trained local teachers on Energy4me curriculum who then taught energy programs at their schools. Hear about their experience below, and see the energy education happening in the photos!

In a move first of its kind in Nigeria, the Society of Petroleum Engineers has collaborated with the Lagos Power Kids Program to bring Energy4me to 50 secondary schools in Lagos state.  The Lagos Power Kids Program is an initiative of the Lagos state government as part of the power sector development plan to help improve energy efficiency and conservation practice among its citizens. The Power kids program is an interactive, extra-curricular club activity specifically aimed at students of the junior secondary school sector and currently runs as a reward for the top schools which won the Governor’s award for Public schools. One thousand students participated in the program.

SPE prepared the oil and gas module and distributed the Energy4me packs and posters for the students and lecturers.  On March 4th 2014, SPE Lagos section held a teach the trainers workshop where the 50 teachers and 10 supervisors were taken through the module and the experiment.  The Lagos section volunteers had an interactive session with the teachers answering various questions posed by them. The pictures below complete the story.

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Presentation

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Teacher Questions for Volunteers

straws

Getting the Oil Out

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Getting the Oil Out

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Group with SPE Volunteers

 

These pictures and more can be found in our Lagos Teachers Facebook album. Know of other Energy4me activities happening in your region? Share with us!

You can connect with us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/Energy4me

Join the conversation on Facebook— www.Facebook.com/Energy4me

Engineers Week February 16-22, 2014

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Join us in celebrating Engineers Week! This year’s theme is Discover Engineering – Let’s Make a Difference. There is a wealth of resources for teachers, students, and volunteers to celebrate the event, and we have picked some of our favorites!

For Teachers: The Discover E website is full of activities and videos to use in your classroom. Design, aerospace, computer science, environmental and energy engineering are all types of projects included in the list. Here is engineering principles with Slinky Science, electrical circuits with the Power of Graphene, and chemical reactions with Catalysis: Change for the Better. The full list is HERE!

For Students: Check out the Career Outlook on engineering; the average salary for engineers in 2011 was $99,738, and the field of engineering is expected to grow by 10 percent in the next ten years! Engineering Careers explores the many industries looking for new graduates. Remember, Energy4me has a full list of petroleum engineering schools and programs HERE!

Girl Day: Formerly known as Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, Girl Day celebrates the importance of girls in engineering. Great role models and mentors are shaping future engineers during events on February 20. Find an Idea Starter to get involved.

Engineering Challenges: Always a quick activity to encourage teamwork and creativity, while fostering the love of science in kids! One of the 2013-2014 Albert Einstein Fellows, James Town, posted some classroom challenges that are cheap, easy, and great for Engineers Week. Find his full post HERE, but we’re sharing what he says about his best design ideas:

Best Helicopter Challenge:

Materials: Paper, Scissors, Paper clips, Stopwatch (optional)

Students cut out their Bunny Copter and go through the design process to improve it.  I usually host the Eweek events at lunch so there is a natural design cut off.  Then drop the copters head-to-head (or keep a running total of best times) to determine the winner.  I make copies of the Bunny Copter Challenge from PBS Kids.

Best Boat Challenge:

Materials: 1’x1’ squares of aluminum; Something small, but kind of heavy that you can get a lot of (like dice or pennies); Buckets of water

Students craft a boat out of the aluminum foil (and only the aluminum foil) and try to keep the maximum amount of pennies afloat with their boat.  Each trial they redesign and make it better.  (Idea from Jefferson Labs)

Best Airplane Challenge:

Materials: Paper

Students make paper airplanes and try to make one that goes the furthest.

Best Jet Car Challenge:

Materials: Toy cars (e.g. Matchbox cars), Balloons, Straws, Tape, Paper clips

Admittedly, this one has the highest initial cost, but it also is the coolest.  Students need to make the car go as far as possible passed the starting line.  I always emphasize they cannot interact with it in any way once it passes the starting line.  For extra engagement, the winner can keep their car.  I originally got the idea from the e-week website run by American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

 

We’d want to hear your plans for Engineers Week! Share with us in the comments or visit us on Facebook www.Facebook.com/Energy4meYou can also connect with us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/Energy4me!