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Energy development summit begins, showcases Utah geology

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9 2013 6:06 p.m. MST

They're used to entertaining.

Every October, they host about 800 fourth-graders from across the state who visit as part of Earth Science Week.

The two men, who enthusiastically announce they love their jobs and most likely will have to be carted out some day as old specimens themselves, help guide children's fingers across the smooth and glistening surface of polished oil shale samples and show core samples drilled and donated by industry.

One company gave 500 feet of core to the center and about $100,000 worth of analysis.

Sharing is what the center's mission is all about, even if it comes with a bit of nudging.

"Cores are expensive to acquire, the result of a lot of research, time and effort," Chidsey said. "We ask for them; we are not proud."

There is no law that compels any company to share the results of their efforts from drilling in Utah's ground, but Chidsey's crew expects there are more than 40 miles of core in the warehouse, which also features thousands of separate, marked envelopes with samples of cuttings that tell stories of geologic timelines. In 2011, center staff examined more than 3,000 boxes of core and cuttings.

Last year, more than two dozen workshops were hosted at the center — Dempster said it was easily their busiest year — with Utah's geology providing critical information for doctoral students, other researchers and geologists from as far away as Jakarta, Indonesia, and Brazil.

All the research, cuttings and core obtained by the center become part of the public domain, furthering the understanding of geologic formations, resource-producing landscapes and mineral deposits. Chidsey and the crew do their own analysis, presenting their findings at national and global conferences.

Walking past another display, Chidsey said it is easy to get excited about geology, given where he lives. While the center may act as a repository and research center, he says the state of Utah is a wondrous classroom with its resource rich, geologic formations that speak to all manners of ancient environments.

In Sevier County, the Covenant Field reaps oil from a 176 million-year-old landscape that is much like the Sahara Desert with its Navajo Sandstone.

Utah's largest producing natural gas field, Natural Buttes, is out by Vernal, deep in ancient sand bars and river deposits.

In San Juan County, Chidsey said the Greater Aneth oil field sits where there was once a warm shallow sea, much like the Bahamas.

Utah's coal can be found in swamp land from 70 million years ago, while oil shale is in area formerly covered by fresh water.

"We literally have everything, which is why everybody is so interested," Chidsey said. "Utah is really unique."

And, as such, the crew at the center is never, ever bored.

"I wake up and can't wait to get to work," Dempster said.

* * *

The Utah Governor's Energy Development Summit is Thursday and Friday at the Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 S. West Temple. Roughly 1,200 people have registered to attend the event, but there are still about 100 spots available, according to organizers.

The $95 fee at the door covers two meals each day plus an evening reception Thursday. It also includes participation in one of five optional energy tours Friday afternoon.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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