The Energy & Geoscience Institute (EGI) is one of the world’s largest university-hosted, cost-shared energy research consortia. Its history traces back to two energy institutes created in the early 1970s: the Earth Sciences & Resources Institute (ESRI) at the University of South Carolina and the University of Utah Research Institute (UURI) at the University of Utah. ESRI’s petroleum science division and UURI joined together in 1995 to become EGI. This year, EGI celebrates 50 years of global science and collaboration with our corporate associate members and our partners in academia, government, and industry.
Serving the Energy Industry
EGI thrives on collaboration with member companies in the energy industry. In 50 years, EGI has served over 170 companies through its Corporate Associates program, which offers cost-shared and sole-sponsored research. We have enjoyed engaging members in annual Corporate Associates Technical Conferences held at EGI in Salt Lake City, Utah, or at other locations such as Houston, Texas; Bratislava, Slovakia; and London, England. Besides joining cost-shared and sole-sponsored projects, members choose EGI to lead short courses and field courses to sites around the world, or through the rich geologic settings of our home state of Utah and the intermountain west. These and more benefits are available to current corporate associate members.
Some of EGI’s past successes came through topically focused collaborations, long-term partnerships, or special initiatives for scientific discovery. One example is the Technical Alliance for Computational Stratigraphy (TACS), created at EGI in 1997. TACS’ goal was to maximize the value of biostratigraphic information in multidisciplinary geologic studies. Since 2014, the EGI Oceans team has published several detailed biostratigraphic analyses of the world’s oceans, drawing on DSDP-ODP and other data sets. Corporate associate members who participated in this series continue to enjoy the value the reports generate for offshore environment exploration. EGI’s geothermal research team has enjoyed a 45+ year relationship with the U.S. Department of Energy, which sponsored many geothermal projects with EGI such as the Raft River demonstration project in Idaho starting in 2009. In another noteworthy partnership, BP selected EGI to receive its Paleontological Database Systems and Services (PDSS) database representing 40 years of paleontological research in 1999.
To date, EGI has delivered over $850 million USD in value to corporate associate members and project sponsors through completed cost-shared and sole-sponsored projects. Many of those project reports and our extensive library of reports, well logs, and seismic lines are available to current corporate associate members through EGIconnect, EGI’s members-only proprietary database.
A Global Research Consortia
EGI developed an international focus for its research early in its history. Because of ESRI’s work, petroleum science at EGI entered collaborations and conducted field studies in North Africa as early as 1973. That research surveyed locations in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and the Gulf of Suez. ESRI’s research soon expanded to include surveys and formation-specific analyses of locations across South America starting in 1979 and 1980. The next few years saw even more rapid expansion of field research to four more continents: Australia and Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and Asia. By 1995, ESRI had worked in 35 countries and every continent except Antarctica. EGI draws on a tradition of international work from UURI as well. During the 1980s, UURI completed geothermal research projects outside the United States, such as in India and Mexico.
In 50 years, EGI scientists have performed work on all seven continents and in more than 100 countries, covering a wide variety of specific topics. Much of that growth in international scope occurred in the last twenty-five years; EGI scientists visited 41 countries just between 2006 and 2008. Reports from EGI’s international field work encompass EGI’s full range of scientific experience in onshore and offshore settings, as well as in thematic and regional applications.
EGI’s successes could not have been possible without collaborations with dozens of international organizations over the years—over 55 in all. Beginning with ESRI’s work with North African organizations and UURI’s U.S. Department of Energy partnership, EGI collaborates to increase access, improve knowledge, and make research opportunities and breakthroughs possible. EGI’s partners include government agencies, universities, and independent companies worldwide. The foundation for many of EGI’s achievements is in these continuing and new partnerships. EGI is grateful for all of its collaborators over the past 50 years and values each one. EGI’s staff reflects the institute’s global experience in serving an international energy industry. EGI maintains offices and relationships with affiliate scientists on five continents and includes staff members from more than ten countries. International voices guide EGI on the institute’s advisory board, with members from three continents and more than five countries.
Towards the Future of Energy & Sustainability
In addition to EGI’s deep roots in hydrocarbon exploration and research, EGI’s capabilities include two critical areas in the energy transition environment: geothermal energy and carbon management. Much has changed in these fields since the days of our predecessor institutes, and EGI’s research program is evolving to meet the new demands of the energy transition.
In 1972, scientists from the Anaconda and Kennecott mining companies formed UURI’s Earth Science Lab at the University of Utah. UURI scientists began the decades-long collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy for geothermal research and technology development that continues with EGI. Since UURI became part of EGI, expertise and international standing in geothermal energy at the institute have only grown. A notable example is Utah FORGE (Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy). In 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy selected EGI for the $140 million, five-year FORGE project grant. FORGE aims to explore pathways to sustainable and replicable enhanced geothermal systems development to improve geothermal energy science and economic viability. The FORGE team, led by EGI scientists, has performed record-breaking drilling on its Milford, Utah site and developed a robust demonstration project for future enhanced geothermal systems applications.
The rapidly growing area of carbon management has become one of EGI’s core research focuses. In the carbon science group’s 16+ year history with EGI, scientists have completed research on multiple carbon sequestration sites across the western United States. As the scientific lead for the Southwest Partnership on CO2 Sequestration, EGI scientists conducted research for sequestration viability in Texas, Utah, and New Mexico. This partnership between federal agencies, states, universities, and industry has been one of the EGI carbon science group’s longest-running projects. CarbonSAFE, another sequestration project, implements a comprehensive site characterization of a New Mexico storage complex located to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies. Moving forward, EGI is developing additional capabilities in carbon sequestration to better participate in this growing field.
What’s Next after 50 Years
EGI intends to build on its reputation as a leading energy research consortia as industry evolves to meet future energy demands. In particular, EGI is expanding its research emphases into new areas such as critical minerals. A new application by EGI, iCORDSTM Offshore, is a fully remodeled global offshore geoscience database with over 33 million wells and 11 million samples. EGI is integrating data science and machine learning into new research, now available for sponsorship, taking full advantage of these tools. The carbon science research team is participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SMART initiative, a collaborative research initiative to create machine learning and artificial intelligence platforms for real-time exploration applications. These next steps in EGI’s research programs follow the same trailblazing path that EGI has always taken: creating new knowledge and applying cutting-edge science to the industry’s needs.
EGI is honored to have contributed to the energy industry, collaborated with partners, and served our members during the last 50 years. We eagerly look forward to shaping the energy transition to a low-carbon world.