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Reservoir Geomechanics (Spring 2017)

Monday, April 3, 2017 to Tuesday, June 13, 2017
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About This Course

This interdisciplinary course encompasses the fields of rock mechanics, structural geology, earthquake seismology and petroleum engineering to address a wide range of geomechanical problems that arise during the exploitation of oil and gas reservoirs.

The course considers key practical issues such as prediction of pore pressure, estimation of hydrocarbon column heights and fault seal potential, determination of optimally stable well trajectories, casing set points and mud weights, changes in reservoir performance during depletion, and production-induced faulting and subsidence. The first part of the course establishes the basic principles involved in a way that allows readers from different disciplinary backgrounds to understand the key concepts.

The course is intended for geoscientists and engineers in the petroleum and geothermal industries, and for research scientists interested in stress measurements and their application to problems of faulting and fluid flow in the crust.

Recommended Background:

Introductory Geology and Geophysics
Familiarity with principles of drilling and petroleum production

Course Format:

  • 20, 90 minute lectures (in ~20 minute segments). 2 lectures will be made available each week.
  • Lecture 1 is a course overview to introduce students to the topics covered in the course. Lectures 2-17 follow 12 chapters of Dr. Zoback’s textbook, Reservoir Geomechanics (Cambridge University Press, 2007) with updated examples and applications. Lectures 18 and 19 are on topics related to geomechanical issues affecting shale gas and tight oil recovery. Lecture 20 is on the topic of managing the risk of triggered and induced seismicity.
  • 8 Homework assignments (and associated video modules) are intended to give students hands-on experience with a number of the topics addressed in the course.
  • The course grade will be based solely on homework assignments. There will be no quizzes or exams.
  • Homework assignments will be graded electronically and will consist of multiple choice and numerical entry responses.
  • There will be an online discussion forum where students can discuss the content of the course and ask questions of each other and the instructors.

Course Staff

Dr. Mark D. Zoback

Dr. Mark D. Zoback is the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University. Dr. Zoback conducts research on in situ stress, fault mechanics, and reservoir geomechanics with an emphasis on shale gas, tight gas and tight oil production. He is the Director of the Stanford Natural Gas Initiative and co-Director of the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity. He was one of the principal investigators of the SAFOD project, in which a scientific research well was successfully drilled through the San Andreas Fault at seismogenic depth. He is the author of a textbook entitled Reservoir Geomechanics, published in 2007 by Cambridge University Press. He is the author/co-author of over 300 technical papers and holds five patents. He was the co-founder of GeoMechanics International in 1996, where he was Chairman of the Board until 2008. Dr. Zoback has received a number of awards and honors, including the 2006 Emil Wiechert Medal of the German Geophysical Society and the 2008 Walter H. Bucher Medal of the American Geophysical Union. In 2011, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and in 2012 elected to Honorary Membership in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. He is the 2013 recipient of the Louis Néel Medal, European Geosciences Union and named an Einstein Chair Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 2015, he received the Robert R. Berg Outstanding Research Award of the AAPG and in 2016 he received the Outstanding Contribution to the Public Understanding of the Geosciences Award from AGI. He served on the National Academy of Engineering committee investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident and the Secretary of Energy’s committee on shale gas development and environmental protection.

Gader Alalli, Graduate Teaching Assistant

Gader is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geophysics at Stanford University. Gader works with Professor Mark Zoback to investigate the relationship between pore size distribution and permeability in unconventional gas shale reservoirs. His research can shed some insight into why certain ultra-low porosity gas shales with varying mineralogical compositions can have significant permeability variations, which can therefore impact recovery factors. Gader has a Master of Science in Geophysics from Stanford, where he worked on enhancing post-stack crosswell seismic profile (XSP) reflection imaging using AVO-Analysis of separated Up/Down wavefields, with Professor Jerry Harris. Gader previously worked for Saudi Aramco as a Geophysicist for 5 years working on special projects for both exploration and development wells in Saudi Arabia. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University, where he majored in Geophysics and minored in Geology.

Jens-Erik Lund Snee, Graduate Teaching Assistant

Jens-Erik Lund Snee is a 3rd year Ph.D. candidate at the Stanford University Department of Geophysics. Jens works with Professor Mark Zoback to study tectonic stress in Texas. His research has implications for enhancing oil and gas production, mitigating human-triggered earthquakes, and understanding the factors that control the stress field. Jens has a Master of Science in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford, where he studied the tectonic history of the Basin and Range Province, western USA, with Professor Elizabeth Miller. Jens previously worked for Statoil as a deepwater Exploration Geologist, and he studied fault zone geology with Professor Virginia Toy at the University of Otago in New Zealand as part of a Fulbright Fellowship. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Whitman College, where he majored in Geology and Politics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I at least access the course materials, even if I can't take the course?

Yes. All course material is archived and available for download for non-commercial purposes. To do so, register for the course.

Will I receive a Statement of Accomplishment in this course?

Yes. A Statement of Accomplishment will be given to those students who obtain more than 70% of the maximum points on the 8 homework assignments.

When will my Statement of Accomplishment arrive?

The Statement of Accomplishment will arrive a few weeks after successful completion of the course.

Do I need to purchase a textbook for the course?

While it is not required to purchase the Reservoir Geomechanics textbook for this course, it is recommended. Lectures 2-17 follow the 12 chapters of the book. The book provides significant additional detail and explanation of the course concepts. It is available through:
Cambridge University Press:
Amazon and Kindle:

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