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Meet Jen — Carbon Removal Geologist

07 Sep 2023 | Nora Cohen Brown

5 MINUTES READ

Meet Jen — Carbon Removal Geologist

Economists project Charm can create more than 200,000 jobs by 2040, and we’re already getting started. Jen joined Charm as our first Carbon Removal Geologist in July 2022. We spoke with her about her career as a petroleum geologist, and her new role here at Charm where she is forging a path for carbon removal via bio-oil storage in former oil and gas wells.

What kind of work did you do before you joined Charm?

I spent most of my career in Bakersfield, CA, where I previously worked as a geologist at California Resources Corporation. I was part of a cross-functional team, and in the early part of my career, my role was to describe reservoir characteristics like porosity and permeability, to help them understand depositional trends and how that might influence production and injection operations. Toward the end of my career, I captured this type of reservoir description into a geologic model, and worked with simulation engineers to predict production forecasts for development projects.

When I first started in oil and gas, I felt like if I had an idea for trying something different, I could make the technical justification and see it implemented in the field. It was so cool to learn from the results and continue refining my understanding of the reservoir this way. But by the time I left the industry in 2021, there had been more than five years of reorganizations and layoffs, and even basic things like maintenance jobs were hard to get approved. The volatility in the oil price environment was only increasing, and at the same time, I felt like we were chasing the last barrels in the tank.

What led you to join the team at Charm?

I had a number of different things in my personal life that really forced me to reevaluate what I was doing and if I wanted to stay in my job or the oil and gas industry until I retired. I started volunteering with some local nonprofits just to have a better sense of what was going on in the rest of the community. I was really inspired to see so many people measuring their success not in barrels or dollars, but in lives changed. That awareness gave me clarity that if I was going to invest in career 2.0, it had to be purpose-driven.

It was this angle of social inequality that led me to climate. And while I was tempted to start over in a completely new field, an advisor from Terra.do gave me some great advice: there’s no time to start over in climate; I had to leverage all of my experience. That conversation helped me recognize that my oil and gas background might be valuable to carbon removal companies. I ended up meeting Charm’s Head of Operations, Katie Holligan, through another great climate community called My Climate Journey. What a ride it’s been since!

What does your day to day role look like?

Every day at Charm is a little bit different. Some days, I’m in the field and have the opportunity to monitor operations and collect data. Other days, I’m back in the office incorporating learnings into a broader understanding of how bio-oil is behaving in the subsurface. That’s been critical as we communicate with external stakeholders like state regulatory agencies.

I also spend a lot of time looking for our next injection assets, and understanding the regulatory environment in each state. There's a staggering number—millions—of idle and orphaned oil and gas assets across the United States that are vulnerable to methane leakage and other environmental issues. Charm is pairing its carbon removal process with plugging oil and gas assets to prevent environmental harms, which is a tremendous benefit to both landowners and residents in the vicinity.

Are the skills that you developed earlier in your career applicable to your role now?

Absolutely. On the tactical side, being able to interrogate multiple different data sets and integrate them into a comprehensive interpretation will always be a focus of subsurface geology. What’s fun is the new data sets I’m exploring to confirm bio-oil’s permanence in the subsurface, as well as learning new basins and even asset types like salt caverns! But thinking more broadly, all the reorganizations and consolidation I experienced through my time in oil and gas has left me really adaptable and able to keep pace with a start-up culture. It’s the first time that I’ve found myself to be one of the oldest members of a team, but I’m grateful to bring the wisdom of my past experience to bear on our operations.

What kinds of skills do you think Charm needs to scale? Are there parallels to your past career?

There are a lot of parallels between Charm’s operations and the practices that we heavily relied on in oil and gas. We need subsurface geology and regulatory expertise, as well as support from the entire logistics network to get it to the wellhead like truck drivers and train operators. There's a wide range of different backgrounds that we need to scale along with us!

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Nora Cohen Brown

Head of Policy

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