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
American Geosciences Institute

Latest News

Atlantic waves
(2019-04-01)
March 7, 2019 On March 7, the Subcommittee on Energy of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee met to discuss the complex web of connections between the energy and water sectors, as well as the implications of this nexus for society and the economy. The committee heard from experts in...
Study group
(2019-04-01)
March 5, 2019 On March 5, the House passed the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act of 2019 (H.R. 762), a bill that directs the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to provide a clearinghouse of information on programs and funding geared towards...
The Noble John Sandifer jackup rig
(2019-04-01)
March 6, 2019 On March 6, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing to discuss the policies and priorities of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS...
Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.
(2019-03-07)
February 25, 2019 House Democrats held a series of hearings throughout this month to highlight the scientific evidence and impacts of climate change. Beginning on February 6, both the House Natural Resources Committee and the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held...
Natural gas pump
(2019-03-07)
February 8, 2019 On February 8, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a resolution proposing an economic stimulus program known as the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal resolution (H.Res. 109/S.Res. 59) calls for a complete overhaul of U.S....
Capitol at night
(2019-02-06)
January 2, 2019 On January 2, 2019, the final full day of the 115th Congress, senators met to confirm a lengthy list of President Donald Trump’s nominees by voice vote. Now halfway through his term, President Trump is still looking to fill many key agency positions in his administration. According...
Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic
(2019-02-06)
January 28, 2019 Throughout the month of January, several bills were introduced in the House relating to natural resource sustainability, especially at the energy-water nexus. On January 3, Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) and Frank Lucas (R-OK-3) cosponsored the Energy and Water...
Natural gas pump
(2018-12-05)
November 30, 2018 The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy met on November 29 to consider a series of energy-themed bills as Congress begins look toward the next session. The hearing considered fourteen pieces of legislation, including bills to provide for the full operations...
Natural gas pump
(2018-10-09)
September 26, 2018 The House passed the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Reform Act (H.R. 6511) on September 25, which would create a pilot program to lease underutilized storage facilities in the reserve to private entities. Under current policy, the Department of Energy (DOE) may only lease those...
Study group
(2018-10-09)
August 29, 2018 The House Committee on Natural Resources held a field hearing, entitled “Energy and Education: What’s the Connection,” on August 29, 2018, in Roosevelt, Utah. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) led the hearing, which considered testimony from two panels of local stakeholders and aimed to...

Case Studies & Factsheets

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 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 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 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 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 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...
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...
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 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 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...
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 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...
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...
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...
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 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 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...
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 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 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 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 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 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...
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 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...
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 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 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 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...
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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 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 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...

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...

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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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...
1998, Oklahoma Geological Survey

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2007, United States Geological Survey

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2010, United States Geological Survey
Energy resources (coal, oil, and natural gas) are among the cornerstones of modern industrial society. The exploitation of these resources, however, is not without costs. Energy materials may contain harmful chemical substances that, if mobilized into air, water, or soil, can adversely impact human...
1997, United States Geological Survey

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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...
2000, Kansas Geological Survey
This report will examine the history, current status, and future of energy in Kansas. Total energy consumption continues to grow in Kansas. However, Kansas is more energy efficient than 20 years ago. In 1998, 70% less energy was required per dollar of gross state product than it was in 1977. Growth...