Odinn Melsted is an Austrian-Icelandic historian and postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University. His research interests lie in the transnational history of energy at the intersection of technology, business, science, and environment. In 2020 he obtained his doctorate from the University of Innsbruck with a dissertation on “Icelandic Energy Regimes: Fossil Fuels, Renewables and the Making of a Low-Carbon Energy Balance.” Since 2020, he has worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the NWO-funded project “Managing Scarcity and Sustainability” on the oil industry and its ties with environmentalism and alternative energy during the “long” 1970s.
As a fellow at the Science History Institute, he will investigate several questions about the oil industry and how it approached resource availability and scarcity questions, environmental pollution, and alternative and synthetic fuel development with the help of (geo)chemical research in the 1970s and 1980s. What role did geochemical exploration and research play in oil and gas resource assessments? How did oil companies address environmental pollution challenges? Was there a potential for energy transition in the synthetic fuels research of oil companies? To that end, he will work with the archival collections of scientists who worked for and in the oil industry, such as Seymour Meyerson and Heinz Heinemann, as well as the records of firms like Carbogel and associations like the American Chemical Society Division of Petroleum Chemistry.