World-class training for the modern energy industry

Meet the Expert: 5 Minutes with Jonathan Evans

calendar May 15, 2024
Jonathan Evans

We sat down with Jonathan Evans ahead of his upcoming GeoLogica course – Geology for Non-geologists

What is your field and specialization?

I’m a geologist and I worked thirty years with BP, mostly at the front end of exploration and new access (getting access to new countries). I spent part of my career with BP working in a place called Wytch Farm, which is an oil field under Poole Harbour in Dorset, southern England. While I was there, I got to know the geology of the Jurassic Coast, which is the section that runs from Exeter to Poole and is a walk through time from the Triassic and Jurassic up into the Cretaceous. It’s a particular interest of mine now and so I lead field courses along the Jurassic Coast.  

Can you tell us a bit about your career and how you got into teaching?  

As I said, I spent thirty years with BP and the first ten years were in technical geoscience roles and the last twenty were in leadership roles around the world. When I was at Wytch Farm, Dorset, a lot of BP’s introductory courses were run around Wytch Farm because you could visit an oil field and also nearby outcrops of the rocks which make up the oil reservoirs in the field. That’s when I first started teaching. I taught graduate induction courses and an introduction to reservoir geology based on the rocks of the Jurassic Coast. Having started in about the late nineties, I continued to teach right through my career, even when I was in fairly senior management roles, because it is something I really enjoy doing. 

Before BP, while I was a PhD student at Reading University, we used to host the Open University Summer School for the Science Foundation Course. The first thing that those students used to do was a field trip to a sandpit near Bracknell in southern England. That was my introduction to teaching a wide range of people who had completely different backgrounds – and no background in geoscience at all. That was a really enjoyable experience – they asked some of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. I particularly enjoy teaching people who don’t have a background in geoscience how to look at the world in a different way. 

Could you tell us a little bit about some of the favorite projects you’ve worked on?

Two highlights for me – one was with BP in Oman, which is home to a big gas project and now one of BP’s biggest producing fields. Oman is a great country to be based in – lovely people and it was an amazing project – a real career highlight. The other was Wytch Farm, which was a bit detached from the rest of BP and like a business in its own right. It was like working for a small local company and we got to do some things there that would have been difficult to do elsewhere – we drilled the world’s longest horizontal wells and BP’s first ever multilateral wells. It was a great team to be in and I had a huge amount of responsibility looking after two active drilling rigs and doing most of the geology work for a major producing oil field at that time. 

Tell us about your upcoming course with GeoLogica – what is it about and who is it for?

Geology for Non-geologists assumes that participants have no background in geoscience at all. It starts from the beginning – what different sorts of rocks there are, how you can tell which rocks are which, and the importance of them economically. I talk about geology in terms of the oil and gas industry but also about clean energy, geothermal and carbon capture and storage, and other forms of energy where geoscience is going to be important for the energy transition. The course assumes no knowledge and takes participants through to an appreciation of the different types of rocks, why they’re important, how you can understand them, and what sort of data you might acquire from them. It’s a great course for people who work alongside geoscientists and want to understand more about some of the uncertainties in the output that comes from them. Within the oil and gas industry, this course will typically be taken by people in roles ranging from personal assistants and admin staff, through to reservoir engineers, commercial analysts and even lawyers who want to understand a bit more about what their geoscience contacts are talking about. 

Jonathan Evans

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that people might not know.    

In my spare time there are two things I particularly enjoy doing – one is growing vegetables (I have a large vegetable garden), and the other one is something I took up just a few years ago – beekeeping! I have a few active beehives and produce quite a lot of honey. That’s something which has become quite a strong interest of mine over the last few years. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the sector today from your perspective? 

I think the biggest challenge facing the oil and gas sector is the public perception of the industry. We need to tell a positive story about the role of energy in society. We need not to be embarrassed about what we do. It’s important to acknowledge that we believe in climate change and we understand that fossil fuels have been a really important contributor to the climate change we’re seeing today, but also that we, as an industry and as geoscientists, can be and want to be part of the solution to that.  There is a lack of understanding that even in the most optimistic scenarios for how we keep the earth increase in temperature down to below 2°C, oil and gas will still be required as part of the energy mix beyond 2030 to 2050. And in some ways, we need more geoscience, not less, as we move forward. As fields become older, they become more complicated and you need to know more geoscience if you want to understand how reservoirs can store carbon dioxide or other fluids. You need to have a really good subsurface understanding to do that. There will still be some really interesting opportunities for the generation of geologists joining us today, and we need to be better at telling our story about what the energy industry does. You know energy fuels human progress and that’s generally a good thing and it lifts people out of poverty, allowing them to develop their economies. That is what the oil and gas industry has done in the recent past and I think that’s what clean energies of the future will do. We are in a transition phase – and it is a transition; it’s not going to happen overnight. Previous transitions have taken hundreds of years. This one hopefully will take less time, but it’ll still be decades. It’s going to need massive investment. It’s going to need massive projects to do things we need to do to reduce most of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and our industry presents one of the only options about who’s going to do that and pay for it. 

What would be your advice to junior geoscientists starting their careers?

Well, I guess a couple of bits of advice. One would be, don’t worry too much about the future of the industry because the world is going to need energy for many, many years to come and fossil fuels will be a part of that mix. I think gas will be increasingly important but also how we deal with taking carbon out of the atmosphere, things like carbon capture and storage. Geothermal energy will also be important and require geoscience input. 

A second piece of advice would be, when presented with some options, choose the one which keeps the most options open rather than closing things down. Don’t be scared to do things that appear challenging because that’s when you learn the most. But also, given the choice between doing something safe and that you know how to do, and doing something different that will stretch you and create new and different opportunities for you, choose the one that creates the most options rather than closing options down. 

Tell us your best/worst geology joke. 

How about a couple of puns? 

Geologists don’t wrinkle, they show lineation.  

Never expect perfection from a geologist. They all have their faults.