Geomatrix Consultants is an environmental engineering and engineering geology firm headquartered in Oakland, California. A mid-sized, employee-owned firm, it delivers consulting services in the fields of engineering, applied environmental and earth sciences, air quality and toxicology, and decision analysis and risk assessment.
While the firm’s geosciences engineering projects center mainly around land-based seismic hazard work, it also works a great deal in the offshore environment. Clients include many of the major oil and gas corporations – such as Shell, BP, and Chevron – as well as municipalities and major utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. Geomatrix also conducts seismic hazard research under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
"A mid-sized, employee-owned firm, [Geomatrix] delivers consulting services in the fields of engineering, applied environmental and earth sciences, air quality and toxicology, and decision analysis and risk assessment"
As oil and gas exploration moves farther offshore, the need to study the associated geohazards becomes more critical. “When you move off the shelf and onto the continental slope, you move into an environment characterized by significantly higher rates of geologic activity,” explains Michael Angell, a senior geologist at Geomatrix. “Slope failures, turbidity currents, and debris flows; mud volcano activity; overpressured formations; and accumulation of shallow gas – all these things can present hazards that require understanding in order to move forward with deepwater engineering projects.” That’s where Geomatrix comes in.
Planning for pipeline placement, the kind of project for which Geomatrix is hired, involves many steps. The first is to compile and interpret existing data on the geologic site conditions. This involves reviewing data from satellites, seismic reflection, side-scan sonar and multibeam, and USGS studies, for example. The firm builds a project database with all this information, synthesizing it in a project-specific GIS (geographic information system) platform for easy analysis. Geomatrix geologists and engineers then work together to recommend the best preliminary route for the pipeline placement, after which the client will hire a firm to do a geophysical survey of the pipeline route, using a deep-tow fish with side-scan sonar, multibeam, and sub-bottom profilers. Although Geomatrix doesn’t do the geophysical survey (providing analysis rather than actually operating the survey equipment), the company will typically put someone onboard the survey vessel to do real-time quality control and interpretation of the data.
"Within the technical staff (totaling about 250), 21 percent are scientists, 39 percent are engineers, and 40 percent are geologists. Three-quarters of the technical staff hold advanced degrees in engineering or the sciences"
Geomatrix currently employs roughly 300 people, working in offices in Northern and Southern California, New York, Texas, Minnesota, and Ontario. Within the technical staff (totaling about 250), 21 percent are scientists, 39 percent are engineers, and 40 percent are geologists. Three-quarters of the technical staff hold advanced degrees in engineering or the sciences. “We sometimes hire people with four-year degrees for entry-level positions, but to advance within the company, typically those individuals will go back to school and get a master’s degree or doctorate,” explains Angell.
In addition to pipeline placement and offshore hazard analysis, Geomatrix is involved in many other marine-related areas. Other areas of expertise include geotechnical engineering for port facilities, wastewater engineering, water resources management, and storm water management.
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