Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

Influence of Tectonics and Mechanical Stratigraphy on Natural Deformation in the Permian Basin (Texas, USA)

Course Code: N381
Instructors:  David FerrillKevin Smart
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration
5 days


This field seminar will explore natural deformation in Permian strata in and around the Permian Basin in west Texas. Participants will investigate mechanical stratigraphy and the regional tectonic setting provides the context for understanding deformation features such as joints, shear fractures, folds, faults, and stylolites. Outcrop observations will be tied to the deformation conditions under which they developed, and will be related to the subsurface ( logs and stress data) to illustrate the critical importance of understanding deformation in the subsurface, including both pre-existing natural deformation and as analogs for deformation produced by induced hydraulic fracturing. 

Duration and Training Method

A Five-day field seminar starting and ending in Midland, Texas. The proportion of field time to classroom time will be 9:1.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Characterize mechanical stratigraphy based on lithostratigraphy and rock strength information.
  2. Assess stress conditions from small-scale deformation features.
  3. Relate deformation style to tectonic setting of the Permian Basin, including influences of Ancestral Rockies, Ouachita, Laramide, and Basin and Range orogenic events.
  4. Assess the role of mechanical stratigraphy, stress conditions, and pre-existing deformation features on rock behavior, including fracture prediction in unconventional and conventional reservoirs.
  5. Evaluate the behavior of lithological units under different well completion strategies.
  6. Evaluate geomechanical issues for common petroleum and unconventional resource applications such as well design, borehole stability, and hydraulic fracturing.

The course will be primarily field-based with some classroom and core facility exercises. The course will explore outcrops around the margins of the Permian Basin including the Eastern Shelf (eastern edge of Permian Basin), Glass Mountains (southern edge of Permian Basin), and the southeastern Guadalupe Mountains (western edge of Permian Basin). The variety of rock types and the locations at the western, southwestern, and eastern edges of the basin provide examples of the major tectonic influences important in the subsurface of the Permian Basin hydrocarbon plays. Itinerary

Day 0 

  • Arrive in Midland and travel to San Angelo, TX
  • Overnight in San Angelo, TX

Day 1

  • Introductory lectures on regional geology and basic concepts of faulting, fracturing and mechanical stratigraphy
  • Field trip to outcrops of Permian strata in the Eastern Shelf in the general vicinity of San Angelo, TX 
  • Overnight in San Angelo, TX

Day 2

  • Field trip to outcrops of Pennsylvanian/Permian strata in the southern Permian Basin (Val Verde Basin) in the area of Marathon, Texas
  • Overnight in Marathon, TX

Day 3

  • Field trip to outcrops of Paleozoic strata in the Marathon fold-thrust belt in the Marathon Uplift
  • Drive to Van Horn, TX
  • Evening lecture on induced hydraulic fracturing in mechanically layered unconventional reservoir strata
  • Overnight in Van Horn, TX

Day 4

  • Field trip to outcrops of Permian strata in the western Delaware Basin in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains
  • Overnight in Van Horn, TX

Day 5

  • Field trip to outcrops of Permian strata in the western Delaware Basin in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains
  • Drive across the Delaware Basin, Central Basin Platform, and Midland Basin to Midland, TX 
  • Return home or overnight in Midland, TX.

The course is aimed at geoscientists, petrophysicists, reservoir engineers and production engineers working in mechanically layered, deformed rocks in the Permian Basin or other relatively gently deformed sedimentary basins. It will be of particular interest to individuals working in unconventional reservoirs within the Permian Basin.

David Ferrill

Dr. Ferrill is a structural geologist with international research experience in contractional, extensional, and strike-slip tectonic regimes, and oil and gas exploration and production experience. He has conducted research on geometric and kinematic analysis of folding and faulting processes, curvature of mountain belts, regional tectonics, hydrocarbon trap integrity, reservoir characterization, aquifer characterization, and interpretation of tectonic stress fields and rock deformation mechanisms with emphasis on mechanical stratigraphy and fault and fracture characterization. Study areas have included the Appalachians; the Basin and Range Province and Colorado Plateau of the western United States; the Permian Basin; the Gulf of Mexico Basin; offshore Newfoundland; the Northern Range of Trinidad;  the French Alps; offshore Vietnam; offshore Turkey; the Arabian Gulf; and the Zagros Belt.

As an Institute Scientist, Dr. Ferrill develops and executes projects with emphasis on oil and gas exploration and production. Dr.  Ferrill performs contract consulting and structural geology and geomechanics training for the oil industry. He is a licensed professional geoscientist (geology) in the state of Texas.  Previously at Shell Offshore Inc., Dr. Ferrill executed regional to prospect scale structural and stratigraphic analyses that led 3D seismic acquisition, multiple offshore lease purchases, and two commercial hydrocarbon discoveries in traps controlled by complex extensional and salt-related structures.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Alabama
MSc West Virginia University
BSc Georgia State University

Courses Taught
N114: Extensional Tectonics and Normal Faulting (Nevada & California, USA)
N134: Carbonate and Shale Faulting and Fracturing Field Seminar (Texas, USA)
N180: Fault Mapping: Class and Field Seminar (Texas, USA)
N207: Fault Mapping: Class and Field Seminar (Haute Savoie, France)
N381: Influence of Tectonics and Mechanical Stratigraphy on Natural Deformation in the Permian Basin (Texas, USA)

Kevin Smart

Dr. Smart is a structural geologist with cross training in computational solid mechanics. His expertise is in the areas of structural geology and tectonophysics, nonlinear finite element analysis, field mapping, strain and microstructural analyses, and geologic fracture analysis. Dr. Smart’s research has ranged from outcrop and microscale analyses of carbonate and clastic rocks of the Appalachian, Ouachita, and Alpine contractional orogenic and the Basin and Range and Balcones Fault Zone extensional systems to field and laboratory studies of igneous and metamorphic rocks in the Wichita Mountains, Colorado Front Range, and southeastern Alaska.

Geomechanics efforts have included diverse applications in reservoir characterization (e.g., natural fracture prediction and production-related deformation, borehole stability, induced hydraulic fracturing), analyzing thermal effects on stress state evolution, and finite element analyses of ground response to seismic events. He has also conducted NASA-sponsored research to better understand the development of pit crater chains, landslides, and wrinkle ridges on Mars.

Dr. Smart is currently part of an integrated team that performs structural geology and geomechanics technical assistance and research projects for the oil and gas industry. His work in this area includes using geomechanical models to predict fracture distributions in conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon reservoirs as well as analyze the effect of complex stress fields on subsurface deformation for problems ranging from large-scale folding and faulting down to borehole stability.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of  Tennessee, Knoxville - Geology
MS University of New Orleans - Geology
BS Allegheny College - Geology, Honors

Courses Taught
N114:  Extensional Tectonics and Normal Faulting (Nevada and California, USA)
N266:  Stress and Geomechanical Analyses (Texas, USA)
N381:  Influence of Tectonics and Mechanical Stratigraphy on Natural Deformation in the Permian Basin (Texas, USA)
N411:  Fractures, Stress and Geomechanics

CEU: 4.0 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 40 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
RPS is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU. We comply with the ANSI/IACET Standard, which is recognised internationally as a standard of excellence in instructional practices.
We issue a Certificate of Attendance which verifies the number of training hours attended. Our courses are generally accepted by most professional licensing boards/associations towards continuing education credits. Please check with your licensing board to determine if the courses and certificate of attendance meet their specific criteria.