Energy

All of the energy we use comes from the Earth, its atmosphere, or the Sun. Some resources are mined or extracted, like coal, uranium, oil, and gas. Others, like wind, solar, tidal, biomass, and hydropower resources, are harnessed at the Earth’s surface. Geoscientists play an essential role in developing energy resources and evaluating their environmental impacts.

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute

Case Studies & Factsheets

Cover of Land Use in the Oil and Gas Industry

Introduction All energy production requires land. Reducing the land-use “footprint” of the energy industry is an important part of limiting environmental impacts while meeting our energy needs. Advanced exploration technologies such as 3D seismic imaging, and drilling technologies such as...

Cover of Water Sources for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Demand Hydraulically fracturing a modern well can require millions of gallons of water for the initial fracturing process. This is a potential problem in arid regions with competing demands for fresh water (i.e. high water stress), such as Colorado and West Texas (see...

cover of Currents Factsheet 2019-001

According to recent American Geosciences Institute (AGI) workforce data, less than 11% of geoscience graduates receiving a BA/BS or MA/MS degree develop a career in academia and/or research. Given this statistic, the question then arises: How are geologists making a living upon graduation in 2019?...

Cover of Oil and Gas in the U.S. Arctic

Introduction The Arctic hosts large oil and natural gas resources both onshore and offshore.1 However, the harsh climate, extreme weather, remote locations, and limited infrastructure make exploration and production expensive and sometimes hazardous. In recent decades, decreased summer sea ice has...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Kern County case study highlighted

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil.

Cover of Mitigating and Regulating Methane Emissions

Introduction Methane is the main component of almost all natural gas, and gas delivered to end-users is purified to 95-98% methane.1 There are three main sources of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry: When a well is being drilled, cleaned out, or hydraulically fractured. As the fluids...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the DeSoto Parish case study highlighted

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil.

Cover of Induced Seismicity from Oil and Gas Operations

Manmade Earthquakes Any activity that significantly changes the pressure on or fluid content of rocks has the potential to trigger earthquakes. This includes geothermal energy production, water storage in large reservoirs, groundwater extraction, underground injection of water for enhanced oil...

Cover of Spills in Oil and Natural Gas Fields

Introduction Oilfield spills can harm wildlife and pose a risk to human health if they reach fresh water sources or contaminate soil or air. The enormous size of the oil and gas industry and the huge volumes of oil and produced water that are handled, stored, and transported result in thousands of...

Cover of The Pinedale Gas Field, Wyoming

Introduction The Pinedale field is the sixth-largest gas field in the United States.1 The core development area covers about 70 square miles in a sparsely populated area of southwest Wyoming, 70-100 miles north of Rock Springs.2 In 2015, the Pinedale field produced 4 million barrels of gas...

Cover of Using Produced Water

Opportunities and Concerns in Using Produced Water Produced water is natural groundwater that is extracted along with oil and gas. It is commonly salty and mixed with oil residues,1 so it must be either disposed of or treated and reused. About 2.5 billion gallons of produced water are extracted...

Cover of Water in the Oil and Gas Industry

Introduction The oil and gas industry consumes and produces water. Water is used to drill and hydraulically fracture (“frack”) wells, refine and process oil and gas, and produce electricity in some natural gas power plants. Water is also naturally present in the rocks that contain oil and gas and...

Cover of Oil Refining and Gas Processing

Introduction Crude oil and natural gas are complex chemical mixtures that are generally unsuitable for direct use. Oil refining and gas processing turn these mixtures into a wide range of fuels and other products while removing low-value and polluting components. Refining and processing have both...

Cover of Geoscientists in Petroleum and the Environment

Introduction Geoscience – the study of the Earth – underpins our understanding of the many intersections between petroleum and the environment, from the search for resources to the study of air pollutants. Without the work of geoscientists, we would have neither the energy system nor the...

Cover of Subsurface Data in the Oil and Gas Industry

Introduction Drilling for oil and gas is expensive. A single well generally costs $5-8 million onshore and $100-200 million or more in deep water.1 To maximize the chances of drilling a productive well, oil and gas companies collect and study large amounts of information about the Earth’s...

Fig. 1. Exposure of sandstone capping an economic coal bed. Credit: J. Shaulis, Pennsylvania Geological Survey

Geologic maps provide critical information for coal resource exploration and for planners, regulators, decision makers, and the general public. Defining the Problem Despite Pennsylvania’s long history as a major coal producer, information on the coal geology (Fig. 1), remaining resources, and...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Boone, Logan and Mingo counties case study highlighted

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil.

Cover of Air Quality Impacts of Oil and Gas

Introduction All widely used combustible fuels emit harmful (toxic or ozone-forming) gases and particles when burned to provide energy. These air pollutants can have a wide array of public health impacts, such as increasing the rate of certain cardiovascular (heart) and pulmonary (lung) diseases,...

Cover of Non-Fuel Products of Oil and Gas

Introduction Oil and natural gas are complex mixtures of chemicals. Oil refineries and gas processing plants extract the organic compounds that make the best fuels for transportation, heating, and electricity generation: gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, heating oil, and methane. Other chemicals...

Cover of Transportation of Oil, Gas, and Refined Products

Introduction The U.S. has millions of miles of oil and gas pipelines, thousands of rail cars, vessels, and barges, and about 100,000 tanker trucks that move oil and gas from wells to processing facilities or refineries, and finally to consumers. The U.S. also imports and exports large volumes of...

Cover of Health and Safety in Oil and Gas Extraction

Introduction Hundreds of thousands of people work in oil and gas extraction in the United States;1 ensuring their health and safety is a major concern for employers, regulators, trade associations, industry groups, and local communities. Work in this industry involves physical labor, 24/7...

Cover of Groundwater Protection in Oil and Gas Production

Introduction The United States relies on groundwater for roughly 25% of its fresh water.1 This groundwater is found in porous, permeable rocks (aquifers) that often lie close to the Earth’s surface – the deepest freshwater aquifers are found more than 6,000 feet underground,2 but most are much...

Cover of Heavy Oil

Introduction Naturally occurring crude oil comes in many forms. The most familiar to many people is light crude oil, which is less dense than water and flows easily at room temperature. Heavy oil and bitumen are forms of crude oil that are more viscous (thicker) and dense. The largest crude oil...

cover of Currents Factsheet 2019-002

Traditional geoscience departments commonly require 60 semester hours of geology and geology-related elective courses to achieve a BA/BS degree. Of the 60 hours, typically half are required courses in geology. Recently, the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG®) evaluated more...

Cover of Abandoned Wells

Introduction In 2017, there were one million active oil and gas wells in the United States.1 When a well reaches the end of its productive life, or if it fails to find economic quantities of oil or gas, the well operator is required by regulators to remove all equipment and plug the well to prevent...

Cover of U.S. Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations

Overview Regulation of oil and gas operations has existed in various forms for over 100 years.1 Regulation has several objectives: protecting the environment (including air and water quality), protecting cultural resources, protecting workers’ and the public’s health and safety, and reducing wasted...

Cover of What Determines the Location of a Well

Introduction Oil- and gas-rich rocks are only found in certain parts of the United States, so most of the country has no oil or gas wells. Where oil and gas production is commercially viable, many factors determine the exact location of each well, including leasing, permitting, competing land uses...

Cover of Petroleum and the Environment - an Introduction

Introduction When oil and gas were first extracted and used on an industrial scale in the 19th century, they provided significant advantages over existing fuels: they were cleaner, easier to transport, and more versatile than coal and biomass (wood, waste, and whale oil). Diesel and gasoline...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the North Slope Borough case study highlighted

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil.

Fig. 3. View of part of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at the Denali Fault showing major design features. Fault movement and intense ground shaking were accommodated by zigzagging the pipeline and leaving it free to slide. Credit: M. Metz, Anchorage

On November 3, 2002, the 800-mile long Trans-Alaska Pipeline pipeline was able to withstand the largest recorded earthquake for the Denali fault without spilling a drop of oil and with only 3 days shutdown time for inspections. The survival of the pipeline demonstrates the value of combining...

Cover of Methane Emissions in the Oil and Gas Industry

Introduction Methane is the main component of natural gas, a cheap, abundant, and versatile source of energy that produces less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels when burned. However, methane itself is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks from wells, pipelines, or...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Campbell County case study highlighted

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil.

Cover of Offshore Oil and Gas

Introduction Many of the world’s oil and gas resources lie beneath the oceans. Advances in exploration, drilling, and production technologies allow production in water more than 10,000 feet deep and more than 100 miles offshore. Major spills are rare but damage sensitive ocean and coastal...

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GOLI Online Courses

GOLI Course: Making Produced Water More Productive; Image credit: USGS/ Doug Duncan
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Geoscience is essential to our understanding and management of produced water, an inevitable byproduct of oil and gas development. This course provides a scientific and regulatory background of produced water, how it is commonly disposed, what opportunities exist for the re-use of produced water...

Cover image for How Consulting Works webinar (Image credit: Mimi Thian on Unsplash)
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course covers what it takes to succeed while working for yourself. Topics include why consultants get hired, the pros and cons of consulting, and whether or not you might be a good fit. The course delves into the risks of consulting and how to minimize them...financing and promoting your...

Cover image Understanding Professional Geologist License Requirements: California 2019, (Image credit: Laurie Racca)
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course focuses on the qualification requirements to get a Professional Geologist (PG) license in California and upcoming changes that applicants should understand. It will also provide an overview of the California laws and regulations that govern the practice of geology. Knowledge of...

GOLI Course: Basics of Seismic Petroleum Exploration for New Hires
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course is intended as a basic review of seismic prospecting methods for locating and extracting oil and gas global resources. It begins with a review of world hydrocarbon reserves, production and consumption, as well as overall goals and methods which apply to petroleum exploratory efforts...

GOLI Webinar on Story Maps
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Communicating results of geoscience investigations to a diverse set of audiences will grow in importance in our 21st century world. Story maps are web mapping applications that provide geoscientists with the ability to combine 2D and 3D maps, audio, video, photographs, and narrative that can be...

cover image for GOLI Course on Writing for Environmental Careers
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

This course provides insight into the technical writing skills that are needed by geoscience students pursuing careers in the environmental consulting industry. Speakers discuss skills that are developed during undergraduate and graduate academic training, types of written products that are...

Geological Surveys Database Publications

1995, Kansas Geological Survey

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2017, United States Geological Survey
Solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind turbine technologies are projected to make up an increasing proportion of electricity generation capacity in the United States in the coming decades. By 2050, they will account for 36 percent (or 566 gigawatts) of capacity compared with about 11 percent (or 118...
2003, Kansas Geological Survey

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1998, Oklahoma Geological Survey

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1978, Bureau of Economic Geology
Contributing about 25 percent of all the energy ever produced in the United States, Texas has for 50 years led the nation in energy production. Historically, the Texas production has been chiefly from nearly equal amounts of crude oil and natural gas, augmented by smaller amounts of natural gas...
1991, Arizona Geological Survey
This report is a nontechnical swnmary of the energy resources of Arizona intended to accompany the Energy Resources Map of Arizona. Arizona is endowed with a variety of energy resources and potential resources; each is given its own chapter in this report. Chapters are arranged according to the...
2016, United States Geological Survey
The renewable energy sector is rapidly expanding and diversifying the power supply of the country. Yet, as our Nation works to advance renewable energy and to conserve wildlife, some conflicts arise. To address these challenges, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is conducting innovative research...
2014, United States Geological Survey
Lithium, which has the chemical symbol Li and an atomic number of 3, is the first metal in the periodic table. Lithium has many uses, the most prominent being in batteries for cell phones, laptops, and electric and hybrid vehicles. Worldwide sources of lithium are broken down by ore-deposit type as...
2007, United States Geological Survey

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1960, Illinois State Geological Survey
A five-fold increase in energy consumption has occurred in the United States since 1900. Population has increased to 2 1/3 times its 1900 level, and average per capita energy consumption is equivalent to more than nine tons of coal per year, compared to about four tons 60 years ago. Because of...