Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Unconventional Resources

Evaluation Methods for Shale Reservoirs

Course Code: N250
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
5 days
10 sessions


Business Impact: This course presents current views on the evaluation methods required to assess new plays, identify sweet spots, and select optimal landing zones.

The evaluation of shale reservoirs presents a challenge: whereas some of the approaches applied are the same as those used for conventional reservoirs, some new tools and many new methodologies have been developed for this rapidly evolving subject. More than ever, the evaluation requires an integrated, multi- disciplinary effort by geoscientists, petrophysicists, and engineers.


I consider this a must course for those actively involved in shale plays, unless you are an absolute expert, you will learn something useful from this course.

Duration and Training Method

This is a classroom or virtual classroom course featuring lectures from specialists in various fields. Lectures are enhanced with classroom exercises.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Determine the key geologic parameters that control the attributes of shale reservoirs, including hydrocarbon storage and deliverability.
  2. Establish the components of basin analysis required when scoping a new shale play.
  3. Evaluate the variety of depositional processes and changes in environmental conditions recorded in a shale succession and tie that information back to well-log character.
  4. Assess the basic stratigraphic framework of shale reservoirs and understand how systematic vertical changes relate to fabric, composition, texture, geomechanics, and, ultimately, reservoir quality.
  5. Select methods for determining reservoir properties of shales.
  6. Assess geomechanical properties of shales.
  7. Understand basic geochemistry results and apply geochemical techniques to evaluate and target tight oil
  8. Determine petroleum quality and production potential
  9. Assess general gas and oil production potential of candidate shale reservoirs. 
  10. Select limiting factors in shale hydrocarbon production such as faults, regional fractures, fluid saturations, natural fractures, and frac barriers.
  11. Assess technologies and factors that can influence hydraulic fracture growth.
  12. Evaluate the role that pre-stack seismic inversion tools can play in characterizing unconventional reservoirs.
  13. Investigate methods to predict geomechanical reservoir properties using seismic data.
  14. Discuss how distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) can assist with reservoir characterization.

This seminar-style course will present an overview of the mudrock petroleum system and then offer views from technical experts on recent evaluation trends on each of several topics: petrophysics and geomechanics, geochemistry, reservoir and completion engineering, and microseismic monitoring.

The course will cover the following items: 

Day 1 and 2: The Mudrock Petroleum System- Deposition, Stratigraphy and Basin Setting (Jeff May)

  • Introduction
         - Mudrock Definition
         - Lithologic Heterogeneity
         - Critical Play Elements
  • Data Mining ( Play Reconnaissance) and Regional Basin Analysis (Sweet Spot Evaluation)
         - Published Literature
         - Existing Production
         - Mudlog Shows and Tests
         - Core, Cuttings, Outcrop Samples
  • Stratigraphic Framework
         - Depositional Processes
         - Stratigraphic Cyclicity
         - Well-Log Patterns
         - Sequence Stratigraphy
         - Regional Correlations and Variations
  • Core Description
          - Mudrock Classification
          - Composition and Texture
          - Sedimentary Structures and Depositional Processes
          - Mechanical Stratigraphy
  • Rock Description (Reservoir Quality)
          - Mineralogy
          - Pore Sizes and Pore Throats
          - Matrix and System Permeability

Day 3: Petrophysics and Geomechanics for Shale Reservoirs (Dick Merkel)

  • Introduction 
          - What is a Shale Reservoir?
  • Log Evaluation - Petrophysics
          - Log Responses for Organic Shales
          - Mineralogy Determination
          - Quantifying Kerogen / TOC
          - Porosity
          - Saturation
          - Permeability
  • Log Evaluation – Geomechanics
  • Lateral Evaluation

Day 4, morning: Shale Completions (Neal Nagel)
This section presents explanations of and practical understanding of completion methods for shale reservoirs.

  • Basic shale candidate selection using petrophysical, geochemical and petroleum engineering information
  • Well planning, construction, and stimulation
  • Production forecasting
  • Environmental conservation
  • It is illustrated with examples from five commercial North American shale plays: Barnett, Eagle Ford, Gothic, Horn River and Marcellus.

Day 4, afternoon: Seismic Interpretation Workflows for Unconventional Reservoirs (John Randolph)

This section will present an overview of current seismic interpretation workflows designed to characterize unconventional reservoirs and also to extract geomechanical properties useful in wellbore/completion designs.  Topics will include:

  • Overview of reservoir responses to seismic waves.
  • Seismic inversion tools.
  • Seismic-well calibration using petrophysical cross plots.
  • Case studies.

Day 5: Geochemistry for Shale Reservoirs (Andrew Pepper)

  • Conventional vs Unconventional Petroleum Systems
  • Basic Definitions in Source Rock Evaluation
  • Analytical Screening Methods
  • Organic Matter Type and Maturity
  • Origin and Correlation of Natural Gas
  • Shale Resource Data Collection and Integration

All subsurface professionals who are involved in the evaluation of shale resources. Geologists, geophysicists and petrophysicists will learn about recent developments in their own areas of expertise, while drilling, completion, and reservoir engineers, will benefit by increasing their awareness of the geologic attributes that affect targeting and volumetrics.

Jeff May

Jeff has worked in the oil and gas industry for over 30 years: as a research geologist with Marathon Oil Company (1981-1994); as a geological and geophysical consultant with Enron Oil & Gas (1994-1996) and GeoQuest Reservoir Technologies (1996-1998); as an exploration geoscientist with DDD Energy (1998-2001); and with EOG Resources (2001-2011), first as Chief Stratigrapher and most recently as Chief Geologist.

Jeff’s work has entailed sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy from outcrops, cores, and well logs, plus seismic stratigraphic studies of basins and fields worldwide. Areas of expertise include onshore and offshore Gulf of Mexico; onshore and offshore California; Uinta, Green River, Washakie, Denver, Powder River, and Williston Basins; northern and eastern Egypt; and Natuna Sea, Indonesia. At EOG, he provided regional to prospect-scale stratigraphic interpretation and evaluation plus training in support of all divisions. Jeff also conducts a variety of classroom and field seminars on clastic facies, deep-water sandstones, mudrock deposition and stratigraphy, and sequence stratigraphy, most notably for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Nautilus, and many universities. In addition, he has published numerous papers and abstracts on deep-water sandstones, sequence stratigraphy, and geophysical interpretation.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Rice University - Geology
MSc Duke University- Geology
BA Earlham College - Geology

Courses Taught
N046: Submarine Canyon, Channel and Slope Systems (California, USA)
N251: Well Log Sequence Stratigraphy: Applications to Exploration and Production
N241: Depositional Processes, Fabrics and Stratigraphic Framework of Mudrocks:  Applications to Shale Reservoirs (Colorado and Wyoming, USA)
N250: Evaluation Methods for Shale Reservoirs

Dick Merkel

Dick Merkel is President of Denver Petrophysics LLC, which is a consulting firm dedicated to developing logging analytical techniques for petrophysical models tied to core, completion, and production data in complex reservoirs. For the past thirty years, the emphasis of his work has been on the rock physics of NMR and dielectric log combined with core measurements.

Previously, Dick worked at Encana and Newfield where he worked on teams that developed reservoir models for conventional and unconventional oil and gas reservoirs in the Rocky Mountains. Prior to its closing in 2000, Dick was a Senior Technical Consultant at Marathon Oil Company’s Petroleum Technology Center in Littleton, CO where he worked on evaluating new logging tools and technology and developing techniques for their application in Marathon’s reservoirs worldwide.

Dick Merkel has been on the faculty at The Pennsylvania State University and the Colorado School of Mines where he has taught courses in petrophysics, signal processing, and earth physics. He is a past president of SPWLA, the SPWLA Foundation, and DWLS.

Affiliations & Accreditation
PhD Penn State - Geophysics
MS Penn State - Geophysics
BS St. Lawrence University - Physics
SPWLA - Member
SPE - Member
SCA - Member

Courses Taught
N250: Evaluation Methods for Shale Reservoirs
N528: Petrophysics of Tight and Unconventional Oil Reservoirs

Neal Nagel

Dr. Neal Nagel, Chief Engineer at OilField Geomechanics LLC based in Houston, has 30+ years of industry experience, having started as a college professor in 1987 and then joining Phillips Petroleum in the 1989. He has taught extensively since the mid-1980s via open and in-house training courses as well as through SPE and AAPG courses. Nagel worked with ConocoPhillips for nearly 20 years and has been an industry consultant and testifying expert witness in geomechanics and completions since 2009. Nagel, an SPE Distinguished Lecturer in 2004 and again in 2017, is also currently chairman of the Geomechanics Technical Section of SPE, a member of the SPE RDD committee, was chief editor of the 2010 SPE Monograph on Solids Injection, has served on the SPE Drilling and Completions Committee, and is a past local SPE section officer. He is a well-known expert in the geomechanics of Unconventionals and has given many invited SPE, AAPG, HGS, SEG, and SPWLA presentations. Nagel has also authored or coauthored more than 50 technical papers, with 20+ related to Unconventionals, including a keynote presentation at the 2014 SPE HFTC.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Missouri-Rolla - Mining Engineering
MSc University of Missouri-Rolla - Mining Engineering
BSc University of Missouri-Rolla - Mining Engineering

Courses Taught
N250: Evaluation Methods for Shale Reservoirs
N437: Geomechanics for Unconventional and Tight Reservoirs

Andy Pepper


Andy Pepper began his career as a geologist at BP in 1981. In 1985 he was assigned to the Geochemistry Branch at BP’s research center, where he helped BP’s exploration teams perform geochemistry and basin modeling assessments, and went on to research, among other subjects, kinetic models of petroleum formation. These models remain industry standard today - becoming a core component of the Trinity software (for example) offered by Zetaware in 2000. Transitioning back to the exploration business in the North Sea, he co-authored BP’s Petroleum Geoscience Handbook and was then posted to Jakarta to support BP’s exploration team in geochemistry and basin modeling in the East Java Sea. In 1994, he was posted to Houston where he supported the BP team that opened the deep water Gulf of Mexico sub-salt play including application of early 2-D sectional modeling of pressure, temperature, petroleum charge and column capacity. While in Houston, Andy became the leader of the Global Geochemistry Network which at the time of the Amoco/Arco merger was expanded to integrate basin modeling into the new Petroleum Systems Network - regarded as one of the four "pillars" of geoscience in the company, with requirement for all geoscientists to attend a purpose-designed in-house class. Andy’s served on the ‘Exploration Excellence’ prospect assurance team and his prospect evaluation risk matrix was adopted as a global standard in the early 2000’s.

Andy joined Hess in 2003 as Chief Geologist on the Exploration Leadership Team; was seconded to the head office as Advisor to the head of E&P in 2006 and returned to Houston to New Ventures in 2008 culminating in a role as Director of New Ventures (conventional and unconventional). From 2007 onwards, he gained increasing experience in unconventionals beginning in Hess’ Bakken play and culminating in a screening of unconventional opportunities globally, including play analysis in China and Australia.

in 2012, Andy joined BHP Billiton as VP of Geoscience on the Exploration Leadership Team: a functional role including provision of expert skills with a team of ~80 staff in all geologic, petrophysical and geological disciplines. He established BHP’s Volume, Risk and Value prospect evaluation methodology. BHP had just bought PetroHawk and this provided a rare opportunity to design BHP’s integrated unconventional geoscience workflows from scratch. From 2014 onward, he served as VP Unconventional Exploration, with emphasis on the Permian Basin which was in the early stages at that time. Andy led this team to perform a Global Endowment study for unconventionals that informed BHP’s corporate view of future global potential.

In 2015 Andy left BHP to set up This is Petroleum Systems LLC (aka TIPS), dedicated to ‘unfinished business’ in advancing the role of petroleum systems in E&P. TIPS delivers training, research, tool development and studies in both unconventional and conventional E&P. Current emphasis in unconventionals is in developing tools to better understand true (potentially producible) fluid saturations.

Andy has co-authored numerous written papers in Marine & Petroleum Geology, and presented oral papers at AAPG and other conventions, all in the field of petroleum systems analysis.

Affiliations & Accreditation
BSc University of Leeds - Geologic Sciences 1st Class Honors
AAPG, GCSEPM and Geol. Soc. London - Member
AAPG/EMD Unconventional Research Group - Co-Chair
School of Earth & Environment, Faculty of Environment at Leeds University - Visiting Academi

Courses Taught
N250:  Evaluation Methods for Shale Reservoirs
N471:  The Petroleum System in Unconventional Exploration & Production: Geology, Geochemistry and Basin Modeling
N559:  Petroleum Geology of Unconventional Plays – What Makes Them “Work”?
RM03: Introduction to Fluid Saturations and Properties in Unconventional ‘Shale’ Reservoir

John Randolph

John has over 50 years experience in the Oil and Gas Industry. In 2014-15, John provided consulting services in Villahermosa, Mexico assisting Pemex to improve technical oversight for their exploration programs. During his lengthy career, John managed seismic data acquisition and processing activities, worked as a seismic interpreter, served as a geophysical project manager in Venezuela, performed the duties of Chief Geophysicist, and later General Manager of Exploration for a large independent petroleum company where he was responsible for the company’s exploration activities in the US, Latin America, the UK, Algeria, and China. While working as Chief Geophysicist, John was also responsible for training and career development activities.

In addition to John’s interests in training and carreer development, he also enjoys travel, biking, and hiking, and is an active supporter of the arts. John also taught scuba diving classes for oil and gas professionals for many years.

Affiliations and Accreditation
MS Business Administration
BS Physics and Mathematics
SEG -Member
AAPG - Member
RMAG - Member

Courses Taught
N080:  Geophysics for Subsurface Professionals
N085:  Introduction to Seismic Interpretation
N165:  Fundamental Concepts of Seismic Techniques
N250:  Evaluation Methods for Shale Reservoirs
N281:  Introduction to Seismic Interpretation for Exploration and Production
N394:  3D Seismic Interpretation Workflow
N408:  Seismic Imaging for Coal
N420:  Introduction to Seismic Interpretation for Coal Mining
N443:  Essentials of Geophysics
N560:  Petrophysical and Geophysical Evaluation of Unconventional Plays – Identifying the Prospective Reservoirs
RM05: Geophysical imaging for Reservoir Characterization

John is a contributer to the following courses:
N092:  Reservoir Geophysics
N286:  Seismic Acquisition Principles and Practice

CEU: 3.5 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 35 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
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