Geo Profiles: Manon van Goethem
A new section is born for the NSRG, intended to celebrate the individual geoscientist working on sedimentology in the Nordic region. We plan to interview a sedimentologist, willing to tell a cool story about who they are, how they ended up where they are today and any advice they wish to impart to our community.
ln this geo profile we caught up with Manon van Goethem, to hear all about her career as a sedimentologist and the adventure of transitioning from petroleum to groundwater exploration.
Manon studied Geology in the Netherlands, specializing in Carbonate Sedimentology.
Her research projects were focused on diagenesis and fracture distribution in carbonates. She left the Netherlands for Denmark to join the exploration department in Maersk Oil, where she started in their graduate program leading to her living and working in Copenhagen, Aberdeen and Doha. In her position as an exploration geologist she was still focusing on sedimentology, e.g. in projects defining a stable isotope reference curve in the Danish chalk formation and facies analysis of Angolan pre-salt carbonates.
After almost 6 years in the company low oil prices led to the decision of the company to let a lot of people go, including Manon. She took this opportunity to take a year off and travel around the world, including half a year of overlanding in South America. After this adventure life took her to Norway and she started her search for work.
Manon van Goethem, groundwater explorationist at Ruden AS (Photo private).
What kind of company is Ruden AS and what are their main activities?
Ruden AS is a company that uses its competences in hydrogeology and geophysics to apply in well-based geo-energy systems and the exploration for deep groundwater, based on data from the oil and gas industry. Besides this we deliver geological and geophysical services, such as borehole logging and refraction and reflection seismic on land to different customers in Norway.
How did you come to work as a geologist at Ruden AS?
I was lucky enough to be approached by Ruden AS during my job search. At that time, about 3 years ago, finding a job as foreigner in Norway was challenging, and therefore my job search was still really focused on the petroleum industry, as I thought I had the highest chance of finding a job there based on my experience. But then, I was contacted by Ruden AS with the question if I would be interested in working with them. What attracted me was the small size of the company and the variety of applied geosciences in the day-to-day job. After 6 years in a large company in the petroleum industry I was looking forward to a refreshing change. When I started, I was mostly involved with the fieldwork activities that we do, as well-logging and seismic. Now, after 2.5 years in the company, I am focusing on deep groundwater exploration.
Manon (middle) giving a well-logging demonstration to hydrology students at NMBU university in Ås (Photo private).
What is a typical working week like for you?
We are a small company, currently with 13 fulltime employees, but with large ambitions. This also results in no week being typical! Currently my focus is on a project we do in Somalia, where we map the whole country for potential of deep, freshwater aquifers. For this, we utilize all information that is already available, as data acquisition is challenging in a country like Somalia. But the unique part of our method is the integration of information from the petroleum industry, as seismic data and well data. Even though it was never a target, hydrocarbon exploration wells hold a lot of valuable information to identify freshwater aquifers at depths of more than 400 m, a depth that is not reached by traditional groundwater research.
Manon (left) and her colleagues in a mine in Odda (Norway) performing well-logging to define the hydraulic conductivity of the formation to assess the potential for waste storage in the mine (Photo private).
In this project, my main tasks are literature research, interpretation of well and seismic data, facies analysis and 3D modeling. All these tasks are very similar to tasks I would have in an exploration department in the petroleum industry, but now my focus is on hydrology and the identification of aquifers.
"I really enjoy the meaningfulness of the job. Being able to apply my skills on a project that potentially discovers freshwater reserves that can supply thousands to maybe millions of people with fresh water is very motivating."
Next to my position in the water team I am still actively involved with projects in our energy and geo services teams. This means that I support on geothermal projects, for example by visiting our client sites to perform tests or monitoring. On our geophysical services projects I still assist occasionally in the field performing well logging.
What do you enjoy the most in your current job?
I really enjoy the meaningfulness of the job. Being able to apply my skills on a project that potentially discovers freshwater reserves that can supply thousands to maybe millions of people with fresh water is very motivating. I am happy that I managed to make the change and left the petroleum industry to apply my skills in a more sustainable way. On top of that, working in a small company allows for a very dynamic work environment and a high level of responsibility.
Are there any particular challenges or difficulties in your job?
I think one of the challenges in our work is that we like to be innovative, stepping away from the traditional way of doing things, which makes us easily experience resistance. An example is our approach of using data from the petroleum industry as well logs and seismic, for the exploration to water. Traditionally this data is held very close and confidential by the petroleum industry or can be acquired against enormous fees. Fees that can not be afforded by companies who explore for water. But I am confident that we can at least show the potential in the projects that we are doing and hopefully make the way for better collaboration between these different industries in the future.
To what extent are you using knowledge and skills obtained during your studies and previous jobs?
Most of the potential deep groundwater aquifers in Somalia are in limestones, on which I can directly apply my background in carbonate sedimentology in terms of understanding facies, chemistry and potential for karstification. More in general, there are a lot of methods and techniques used in petroleum exploration that are actually applicable on water exploration too; e.g. Play Analysis.
Manon taking time out of the office and field to explore the mountains of Romsdalen, here hiking on Romsdalseggen (Photo private).
What would be your advice to other young sedimentologists that are interested in working outside of academia or the petroleum industry?
I believe Norway is a country with a lot of opportunities for geologists/sedimentologists. From geothermal energy and storage, geotechnical analysis, carbon capture and storage to hydrology; there are a lot of opportunities outside of academia or the petroleum industry. I would encourage anyone who is interested in a different career to look around depending on their interest, as there is more out there then you would maybe think.