Emily Sekula: The key to mapping - Energy Factor
Behind the energy

Emily Sekula: The key to mapping

Jan. 23, 2018

I love making maps.

For geologists like me, maps give us a view into the past, but grow with us as technologies and ideas evolve. They provide us a view of our history while guiding us on where to go tomorrow.

Maps are stories.

I’ve worked at ExxonMobil for seven years as an exploration geologist, and today I’m focused on the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Part of what makes my job really exciting is that I get to help find new oil and natural gas reservoirs, which can create benefits that can last more than 30 years.

To do this, my team analyzes large geographical areas, looking for data that would indicate the presence of oil or natural gas. We work with other teams, poring over different types of information. Together we create maps that blend our data to create a rich story of our findings. With that, our team can highlight areas of attractive geology that may have the potential to hold oil and gas.

We don’t just look for new areas, though. We revisit areas we’ve previously explored, looking for new ideas and concepts. Some of the maps archived at our library might look totally different to a scientist today, with fresh eyes and new information derived from new technology. That’s why we have to be willing to rethink or rework a map that looks finished.

Geologists are, in general, very visual people. We like to show an actual rock formation instead of just talking about it. That way, if a fellow scientist sees something differently than we do, we can discuss and often agree there can be multiple scenarios that are possible.

When we encounter a surprising find, something that goes against a pattern we’d found, it’s important that we’re willing to reconsider what we thought we knew. We ask questions. Geologists work with rocks that are millions of years old, but we always refresh and modernize our approach. It’s the constant questioning and debate that often leads to a deeper understanding.

This knowledge, these collaborative breakthroughs big and small, are why I love mapping out my ideas. As geologists, we layer our expertise like the rock formations we study to generate ideas that can lead to amazing discoveries that impact generations.

Tags: upstream, Behind the energy
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