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Lyceum 2021 | Together Towards Tomorrow

The number of countries announcing pledges to achieve net-zero emissions over the coming decades continues to grow.

This panel will discuss how geoscientists and engineers support many decarbonization initiatives and the broad range of renewable energy sources (geothermal, wind turbines, solar, tidal, hydrogen, nuclear, biomass, etc) to help in the transition to a net zero energy system by 2050.



John Jansen
Senior Geophysicist & Hydrogeologist, Collier Consulting

Walter Jaslanek
Senior Data Architect, Field Data Automation Lead, GZA

Joe Smith
Senior Engineer, Arup

Facilitator: Lorraine Godwin
Director, Segment Business Development, Seequent


30 min

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Video Transcript

(upbeat rousing music)

<v ->I’d like to welcome you to today’s panel discussion</v>

on Net-Zero by 2050.

and the rule of geoscience and engineering

in meeting decarbonization goals.

My name is Lorraine Godwin

and I’m the Director of Business Development

for Sequence North American office

and as facilitator for today’s panel discussion,

I’m thrilled to welcome our panel experts.

We have joining us today,

Joe Smith, who is a senior geo-technical art engineer

at Arup.

John Jansen,

Senior Geophysicist at Collier geophysics

and Walter Jaslanek, Senior Data Architect

for GZA geo environmental.

Thank you gentlemen for joining us

to share your expertise and insights with us.

So today we’re going to discuss how Canada and the US

have been pledging carbon neutrality by 2050,

and their commitment to building back better

with a focus on more efficient infrastructure

and better use of renewable energy

while ensuring that we’re protecting our environment.

We’re also going to discuss how geoscientists and engineers

are supporting these de-carbonization initiatives

and the broad range of renewable energy projects

to help in the transition to a Net-Zero energy system.

But before we launch into the discussion,

I’d like to ask each of you to tell us

a bit more about yourselves

and your experience in these topic areas.

So we’ll start with Joe.

<v ->Hi Lorraine, my name’s Joe Smith.</v>

I’m a Senior Geotechnical Engineer with Arup

in our New York office.

And I also lead our geothermal energy efforts in the region.

I’ve been a geotechnical engineer for 10 plus years,

and my experience ranges from deep foundations,

deep excavations and for major infrastructure projects

through to the buildings environment.

And in the last five or so years,

I’ve become more heavily involved on the geothermal side,

including closed-loop systems and thermal piles.

We are a multidisciplinary firm.

So I work closely with my colleagues in other disciplines.

And so it gets some exposure to how we’re tackling

some of the major sustainability challenges across

disciplines outside of geotechnics as well.

<v ->Wonderful, thanks, Joe.</v>

And John.

<v ->Yeah, hi, I’m John Jansen.</v>

I’m a Senior Geophysicist with Collier Geophysics.

I’ve been working well over 30 years in resource management,

groundwater energy engineering.

Last 10 years,

I’ve been involved in several energy storage projects,

compressed air energy storage.

Now several hydrogen storage projects,

Collier consulting, Collier geophysics.

We offer geophysical services to the engineering,

environmental groundwater and energy markets.

And well, we’ve probably got about 17 geophysicists

in like five states.

So we work all over the country

and a broad variety of clients.

The energy storage has really become a fascinating

and a growing part of our practice.

<v ->Great.</v>

Thank you.

And Walter.

<v ->Oh, thanks for having me.</v>

So my name’s Walter Jaslanek.

GZA Senior Data Architect and Field Data Automation Lead.

I work alongside our CTO and many of our companies,

other data technology leads,

but the focus on data applications,

standards and mobile field data deployments.

We work with many of our business leads

in the company to drive digital adoption.

And we use a wide range of technologies to collect,

analyze model and report data for our clients.

Our company GZA is a multi-service engineering company

that does work in many markets,

offering many services, including sustainability services,

where we offer unique integrated approach of scientists,

engineers, and data specialists

to meet energy efficient needs

and communicate data results and analytics

to key projects stakeholders.

We do a lot of innovative projects

focused on Net-Zero design,

such as in wind, solar, hydro power and storm water.

And I’d also like to quickly mention

that we have a publication focused insights page

on a website that users can find the articles

to some of these innovative solutions.

<v ->Thanks for that Walter.</v>

Now with both Canada and the US

rapidly shifting towards a low carbon future.

And at the same time

announcing major infrastructure packages

that are going to stimulate the post pandemic recovery.

We’re seeing ambitious actions being taken

to reduce emissions and develop clean energy systems.

Infrastructure undoubtedly

has the power to support this transition,

but what does that path to Net-Zero really look like?

So we’re going to hear from these three experts today,

we hear a lot about different energy storage methods

and how they’re being used on engineering projects.

John, can you tell us about the variety

and scale of geologic structures

that are being considered for energy storage?

<v ->Sure.</v>


You know, as you know, renewables like wind and solar

have really taken off over the last 10 years

and the problem has always been a storage.

You know, the wind’s not always blowing

and solar power is not always available.

So there’s been a need for storage that’s been growing

and it’s kind of the Achilles heel right now

to going to a fully renewable energy grid.

Batteries have been done very well,

but there are capacity limitations,

limitations and the duration of the storage

and there’s some safety and cost concerns.

So there’s been a big push

to find large scale energy storage

with geologic structures.

Up until today, pumped hydro storage has been the workhorse

and has done most of the energy storage,

but there really aren’t that many sites available anymore.

It’s very difficult to develop new projects.

So there’s been a search for other ways to store

large amounts of energy.

That’s meant usually storing some type of a compressed gas.

In the last 10, 15 years,

we’ve worked on probably over a dozen projects to site

compressed air energy storage projects.

And that’s basically taking energy off the grid

using it to compress air

and storing it in some deep geologic structure.

And those are often caverns in salt zones

can be depleted gas fields or confined aquifers.

Now that it’s been a problem that compressed air

requires very specific geologic conditions.

So it’s limited the development.

There’s also been an issue that in the past,

the compressor energy storage actually uses natural gas

to heat the gas on the way out.

So it has not been zero carbon.

There are new systems out there now

that do not need natural gas

and they are actually going to be zero carbon.

So we’ll be seeing more interest in that.

But lately last few years,

the bulk of the interest has been in hydrogen storage.

And there,

the idea is to take excess energy off the grid

from solar wind and use it to a power an electrolyzer

to produce hydrogen from water

and then store the hydrogen in a deep geologic structure.

And once again, these are mainly salt masses,

salt domes, bedded salts, or other salt structures.

And these things are typically a couple thousand feet deep,

a couple thousand feet thick,

maybe four or 5,000 feet thick.

And they cover, like say a couple of square miles.

The idea is to solution mine, large caverns

say, you know, two, 300 feet in diameter

and maybe a thousand feet deep

and use that to store the hydrogen

while the hydrogen storage has got great interest

and great potential for storing energy

in balancing the grid.

There are some things that have not been really dealt with

yet by the industry.

And some of those things are the fact that

existing pipelines and compressors and turbines,

aren’t going to handle straight hydrogen for quite a while.

They’re going to be need to be retrofitted.

And they also there’s a factor that

hydrogen, while it has, you know, high energy potential,

it has low energy density.

It’s a very light molecule.

So you need a much bigger storage cavern to store hydrogen,

than say you would use for natural gas or compressed air.

So as we move through and we see more of these projects

planned out and designed,

I suspect that there might be more interest

in incorporating some compressed air energy storage

into these hydrogen projects,

just to help balance the performance of the system

and meet the space requirements,

you know, for your geologic structures.

So in short,

there’s a lot of activity right now

in geologic storage structures,

we provide the geophysical imaging to help map these things,

find these things, map these things, design the systems.

And I think it’s going to be an important part

of the energy future

balancing the renewable energy and leveling out the grid.

And we are looking forward to decades of good work

and helping the, the whole economy

move on to the next phase.

<v ->Wonderful.</v>

Thanks for that, John.

And then John touched on

some of the renewable energy methods,

wind solar that are being developed now

to meet the stated governmental goals around clean energy.

Well, what success has your company had

in developing renewable energy projects for your customers?

<v ->We’ve done a lot of scope one scope two,</v>

scope three carbon emissions for our clients.

And we’ve had some real good success.

We’ve won some awards and different different services,

different markets.

We just performed an award-winning solar work job,

particularly around brownfields,

and recently finished the largest rooftop solar installation

in the state of Rhode Island.

We’re deeply involved in wind energy

and involved in the first US offshore wind project

Block Island.

We recently have won also a groundbreaking hydro prize

from department of energy

for a modular hydro-power system that we designed.

And we also offer quite a bit of a supply chain tools,

one being a tool that helps customers

quantify their supply chain emissions.

As mentioned before,

some of these are on our company site

and we’ve had a lot of success,

either building things for people or helping them,

you know with other parts of reducing carbon emissions

on their sites on a properties.

<v ->Great.</v>

Thank you.

Thanks for that.

John, Collier Geophysics specializes in geophysics.

How are you seeing in general

with regards to geoscience playing

in supporting decarbonisation

and clean energy goals?

<v ->Well, from our perspective,</v>

these very large scale storage projects

are just going to require geologic structures.

I mean, the batteries are coming along,

they’re doing a great job,

but they’re really designed for storing power

for like hours or maybe days,

if you want to have long-term storage,

you know, weeks months,

you’re going to need large geologic structures.

And they’re very difficult to find,

you know, they’re very limited where they’re at

they’re deep.

You can really only afford to drill a few bore holes,

and you never going to know what’s just beyond your bore holes

or in between your boreholes.

So geophysics is really the only practical way

to image these structures and find out where they’re at,

get the shape, get the thickness,

identify potential zones of weakness or impurities

things that’ll affect your design.

You know, from our perspective,

you really have to be able to see a project in your mind

before you can build it in the ground.

And these high resolution imaging techniques,

particularly seismic reflection

are really the only practical way to get the data you need

to design these systems and to monitor them,

to be sure that that they are performing as you intended.

<v ->Wonderful.</v>

Now gathering up all of that.

Geo-physical data, geological boreholes, all that.

Joe, how are you combining all of that data

into 3D ground models and creating digital twins

to use that on infrastructure and decarbonisation projects?

<v ->Yeah, I think that’s a nice segue.</v>

I mean, I would add to the geophysics discussion

that it has a really significant role to play

when we’re thinking about foundation reuse.

One of the ways that we can reduce the carbon cost

of our new structures is to not build new.

And as we look to change the use of existing buildings,

retrofit them to perform better,

we’re continuously now grappling with the challenges

of what can the existing foundation do

and how will it perform under this new loading condition.

And one of the key challenges there

is knowing what’s in the ground.

So we’re doing exercises to find out what’s there.

And that often includes geophysical methods,

for example, to try and image existing piles,

to find out depths and the diameters.

And then it’s a good example of why digital twins

and good building information modeling

is critical going forward.

Because if you don’t really know what asset you have,

how do you a, make it efficient in design and construction

and b, operate it efficiently?

And so, you know,

we think that use of digital tools and digital twins

is a critical piece

in grappling with some of these key challenges,

specifically around carbon streamlined material volume

estimates that can drive carbon accounting

and allow optimization

and optioning around embodied carbon are really important.

So know we’ve done exercises to compare

different sport excavation methods for deep excavations

and having 3D models that can spit out material volumes

that can then be rapidly and automated post processed

to deliver carbon accounting

allows you to actually make sensible decisions about…

And not always decisions that are obvious

without going through the process.

And then I guess the second piece to add on

ground modeling specifically

is around the construction aspect.

So in the field computerized equipment management,

particularly for large scale earthworks jobs

means that we can deliver major earthworks jobs

in a much more efficient way

using less fuel, less man hours,

less equipment, time and more safely.

And that can only happen if there is a reasonable model

to input to the machines

that that can drive a strategy for that earthworks.

And then, you know, finally I touched on it,

but digital twins for operational optimization.

So outside my sphere of expertise,

but a really nice case study

is some work that some of my colleagues have done

trying to improve the performance of supermarkets

for a large supermarket chain in the US

and that typically their operational controls

for their supermarkets have something like 110 variables

that could be adjusted.

And we’ve used a machine learning and an algorithm

to run many, many scenarios

to try and work out what the optimum operating approaches

for that system.

And it’s proving its worth in the field

because they are using

significantly less energy in operation

once the refined operational model is employed.

So to finish,

I just think that ingenious use of digital tools

is critical to our success.

And you know, the final thing it really does,

which I think is probably the most important is that

when you use wisely,

it frees up engineers to spend time thinking and innovating

and collaborating.

And so if we can remove the tedium of repetitive tasks,

and there is more resource available

for us to do things better and do things differently

and make step changes

to the way that we deliver buildings and infrastructure.

<v ->You mentioned machine learning.</v>

I hope we’ll touch on that as we come back to that question

towards the end.

But now John,

you had spoken earlier about the geological structures

and capturing and storing gases

such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Now this requires obviously continuous monitoring

to map the migration over time,

ensure that we’re protecting the surrounding environment.

What methods are being used in this regard?

<v ->Well, one of the big applications</v>

is for carbon sequestration.

There is a big push now to look at capturing carbon

and storing it underground for perpetuity.

And that requires that you be able to find

a zone that has a permeability and the lateral extent

to accept the carbon

and that it has a confining units to keep it in place.

So it doesn’t make its way back to the surface

or migrate off into other areas.

So once again, it’s very expensive to drill holes.

And every time you drill a hole through a confining unit,

you have created another breach

that’s a potential leak for the system.

So we’ve been using geophysics, mostly seismic reflection

to help clients map potential carbon sequestration,

storage zones.

And matter of fact,

there are several states right now that are requiring it

before you can permit a CO2 injection well.

So basically, we’re able to map the depth to the layer,

the thickness of the layer.

We can infer the permeability or the porosity of the zone.

We can inspect the confining units,

look for faults or fractures that might compromise things.

But then more importantly,

once you start pumping the carbon dioxide

into the subsurface,

you’re now starting to displace the formation fluid,

and that changes the seismic properties of that zone.

You get a large rise in the amplitude of the reflector

as you have gas displacing the water.

So it’s possible to use seismic reflection surveys

over time, they call it 4D

basically time being the fourth dimension,

sequentially do seismic reflection surveys

to map the migration of the CO2 through the formation

to make sure it’s going where you want it to,

and it’s stay put,

and not going to places where you don’t want it to.

So this is something that we expect

also will be much more common over the next few years.

You know, especially as a lot of coal fire power plants

and manufacturers look for a way

to try to capture their carbon.

So we expect that the the need for these services,

the geophysical services is just going to increase

over the next few years

<v ->Now, Walter, as a Data Architect</v>

can you speak to the importance of data

and data transparency

on these kinds of engineering projects

when it comes to collaboration and communication

with the various levels of stakeholders

that you’re dealing with on these projects

from the public, to your clients,

to the environmental regulators?

<v ->Yeah, we do a lot of projects</v>

where data is either being collected

or shared in many different ways.

We do a lot of, mobile field data collection projects,

as well as a lot of many continuous monitoring systems

where, there’s sensors and stations

and we do a lot of that work

in our geophysical, geotechnical, geostructural

air and water markets.

What’s common to all of them

is that there is a tremendous amount

of data sources coming in.

We’re taking that data and we need to quickly get that over

to someone to review it

and ultimately to make decisions

from whether it’s someone in the field, to a stakeholder,

to a a public entity that’s reviewing that.

And we do a lot of that with web technology

and dashboards.

So we use a lot of, information,

business analytics types of dashboards

to get both regular,

and then almost near real time information out to people

throughout the process.

<v ->Joe, you had touched on artificial intelligence</v>

and machine learning earlier in your your comments.

So I’ll just open up this question to the three of you

and how are you seeing technology evolving

over the next few years to support this drive

for a cleaner and more environmentally sustainable future?

So Joe, do you want to start with,

or you will work a way around?

<v ->Sure, yeah, I mean, so I’m extremely excited</v>

about the potential

and it being realized in a number of sectors already.

You know, from a ground point of view,

when it comes to machine learning,

have this interesting challenge,

which is that you need big, high quality data sets

or at least of some acceptable quality.

And, in theory, the opportunity is huge

because we regularly install

and test full scale elements to failure,

and those data sets exist, they’re spotty.

Some of them are open source,

some of them aren’t, but in a world where data opens up

and we get better access to full scale, low test data sets.

There is a world where a machine can start to compete

with a human, particularly at the early stages of design

in terms of foundation design.

And, that affords the opportunity

to look at many more foundation design options,

to do it faster and more efficiently,

and ultimately to potentially drive a foundation design

that uses less material.

But you manage your geotechnical risk

to an acceptable level.

So I see huge opportunities there,

but also big challenges around data ownership, data quality.

And then there’s a second follow on example

is around automated back analysis of the performance

of geo structures during construction.

So on major infrastructure projects,

we often put in many miles of the same element,

whether it’s a retaining wall or a foundation,

or an embankment.

And, for 60 plus years,

there’s been the concept of the observational method

in geotechnical engineering,

which a high level allows you to observe what’s happening

and adapt your design and construction accordingly.

And so, particularly for linear infrastructure,

with many repeating elements,

there are huge advantages potentially available

in terms of material efficiency.

And they can be only be realized

if you collect data during construction,

and prior to construction,

if you can rapidly and accurately process that data,

and then you can use it to influence

what gets designed and constructed.

And time is often one of the biggest barriers to that

because in a world that’s driven by construction cost,

if you can’t turn around and optimize design fast enough,

it will cost a contractor or an owner more money to wait

than it will to just use more resource.

And so a world where we automate that back analysis

and potential optimized and redesign,

I think opens up an exciting range of of possibilities

when it comes to being efficient.

<v ->Yes.</v>

And John, same question to you, technology advancements,

geophysical advancements that you see coming.

<v ->Yeah, well, as we go towards a zero carbon world,</v>

we’re going to need big engineering solutions

and there’s a lot of risk there, financial risk,

and there’s risk in the environment.

So monitoring, and verification, and citing,

they’re all going to be bigger and bigger problems.

So I just think that any data source that you can get

that is going to improve your ability to monitor

the performance of these systems is going to be important.

That’s going to be direct monitoring such as wells,

and other things, but also just remote sensing,

the ability to image these things with geophysics,

or even some other technologies like InSAR and such,

that’s going to be very important

in terms of making sure that we understand

how they’re performing

and that we are actually accomplishing the goals we need to

cause there’s going to be a lot of money committed to this,

and people are going to have to have high confidence

that it’s going to perform.

<v ->Yes, lots of talk about big data.</v>

Walter, what are your thoughts

on technological advancements,

and how data management has to keep pace?

<v ->Yeah, I think we’re obviously evolving</v>

with data streams being available, data sources available,

my colleague spoke about different types of data sources

and how to basically take all those data sources,

including direct monitoring or continuous monitoring,

get them into complex visualizations or models.

Being able to bring that in, do those models,

but also be able to look at all the assets or features

in that model and bring up that real time stream of data.

So just continue to see the digital twin world grow

as well as all the different types of analytics

and visualization that we can bring into things

such as, GIS and other types of modeling as well.

<v ->Yes, and as we talk about these bigger data sets</v>

and the needs for visualization modeling,

how do you see software needing to keep pace

with what’s happening?

<v ->Some specific examples when it come to ground modeling,</v>

I really think that we need,

yeah, the more we can build carbon accounting

into our ground modeling tools, the better

and make those workflows easy.

Not just because it means it’s efficient to do,

but because it will drive an attitude

and an approach in the industry

where we still are putting carbon up near dollars

when we’re, we’re making value judgements

about what to construct.

So that’s one thing.

And then I guess the other thing, and I think those tools

are well underway,

but sustainability in a sustainable sustainable world

isn’t just about carbon.

One of the biggest challenges we’re facing

is probably due to our need to adapt

to climate changes, its resiliency,

and whether that be seismic or flood or wildfire,

those challenges doing robust seismic design,

or flood design all relies on our ability to process

say, store process and manage large sets

and extract useful conclusions from them.

So I think from a very practical point of view,

we are really looking to our software providers

to give us platforms where we can access data

from lots of different locations,

store it in a safe way that continues

to maintain the right permissions

for all of the original data owners,

but allows us to retrieve it and create value from it

in like a nimble way.

And at the moment we do that in quite a disaggregated way.

So softwares that provide unification

and workflows that can drive that value are important to us.

<v ->Yes, I definitely agree on that (laughing)</v>

John, what are your thoughts on software of the future?

What does it need to do to keep pace?

<v ->Well, I think Walter, Joe both hit on big topics.</v>

I mean, it’s important for the software of the future

to take large data sets,

be able to visualize it easily.

You know, the days of burying data and tables that’s over,

we need to be able to put large data sets together

and draw the eye to the important aspects

and show how things relate in 3D.

It’s also important that we be able to handle data

from multiple sources.

I know geophysically,

sometimes we’ll have one software package

that handles the seismic,

another software package

might be doing the magnetics or something else.

And it’s very hard sometimes to bring those together.

You know, some of the new size software packages

that we’ve gotten GeoSoft being one,

allows us to bring a lot

of those data sets together

and either toggle back and forth quickly

or jointly invert them

or show them in some kind of combined form

that really let’s to see how things relate.

That’s really going to be important

as we try to get more stakeholders involved

in permitting and managing these projects,

the ability to take large data sets, very complex data sets

and make it something

that the human mind can understand and visualize

once again, see it in your mind

before you build it on the ground.

That’s going to go a long way to getting people on board,

getting support for these projects

and tracking them to make sure they’re performing.

<v ->Complexity to clarity is our tagline at sequence</v>

and something we believe strongly in

and being able to take that complex data

and make it into something that’s clear

and easy to understand

Walter, any final thoughts

on software needs of the future?

<v ->Yeah, I mean, I definitely think we’re also going</v>

to a cloud managed world

and data lives on different servers.

or those data streams or services are available.

So certainly, the modeling programs

that can be configured to do that,

to handle that is very important

as well as the file exchange,

as well as to be able to version comments

and everything that would happen

in an enterprise environment.

I think a lot of things are evolving

where modeling, you know black box

and somebody does a very specific model,

but it’s untouchable, it’s, it’s not interactive

while now in a more enterprise or cloud managed approach.

Those aspects are available for other people to interact

and make decisions from.

<v ->Just a second, what John says</v>

and one thing about those discreet tools

that are very powerful is the way that information

is shared between them

and what we don’t need as an industry is to be hamstrung

by the route that that has to happen in.

And we as engineers need the flexibility with the tools

that we are using to adapt them,

make them bespoke and deploy our ingenuity.

So one person’s streamlined approach

is not another person’s depending on the application.

So that building in that flexibility

which often is in the format of how data is brought in

and comes out of a program is vital to us.

<v ->Absolutely.</v>

Well, as we wrap up, are there any final thoughts

that you would like to share?

<v ->Well, thank you for posting this.</v>

It’s been interesting to hear

what my panel mates have to say.

I think it’s an important topic

and I think it’s going to be something

we’ll be spending a lot of our time in the future

taking care of.

<v ->Yeah, I’ll second that John.</v>

I think just, this small sample that we’ve got here

shows the huge range of sort of skills,

knowledge and experience we need to tackle these scary,

big challenges, and it’s going to take all of that

to get us even close as a society.

So I’m glad to be part of the conversation.

Thanks for the invitation.

<v ->Thank you.</v>

<v ->Just want to thanks, Lorraine.</v>

And thank my colleagues John, and Joe

for being on this panel.

Yeah, I definitely agree like what we do today

around this topic will definitely impact,

and in the next couple years

will definitely impact our future.

So a lot more work on this on this topic as we zero in.

<v ->Well, we definitely appreciate all three of you</v>

participating and taking the time out of your busy days

to share such insightful comments on this topic

and helping us become more aware on what the path

ahead to Net-Zero, and what the future looks like.

So thank you so much, much for your time

for joining us and for your expert opinions.

(upbeat rousing music)