Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

Mechanical Stratigraphy, Stress, and Geomechanics (West Texas, USA)

Course Code: N266
Instructors:  Adam CawoodKevin Smart
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
5 days

Next Event

Location: West Texas, USA
Date:  23 - 27 Sep. 2024
Start Time: 09:00 CDT
Event Code: N266a24F
Fee From: USD $12,350 (exc. Tax)


This course will appraise participants of key concepts in geomechanics, and explore the importance and application of stress and geomechanical analyses to energy exploration and production. It will examine applications such as stress estimation and hydraulic fracturing and will develop the skill sets necessary for planning and evaluating a geomechanics study.  The area around Marathon, Texas provides examples of different structural styles and mechanical stratigraphy exposed in the region.

Business Impact: We will explore the importance and application of stress and geomechanical analyses to energy exploration and production in both conventional and unconventional reservoirs, with emphasis on the importance of mechanical stratigraphy and stress states on processes such as natural deformation and hydraulic fracturing.


Great course. I really learned a lot and was able to use what I had learned immediately.


Event Code: N266a24F
Duration: 5 days
Instructors: Kevin Smart, Adam Cawood
Dates: 23 - 27 Sep. 2024
Start Time: 09:00 CDT
Location: West Texas, USA
Fee From
USD $12,350 (exc. Tax)
Good Availability
Please login to book.

Duration and Training Method

This field course combines two days of classroom lectures and exercises with 3 days in the field.  Participants will be using stress analysis and tectonic modeling software to aid in the exercises.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Evaluate the basics of stress analysis and geomechanics, including the interrelationship between stress and strain in the context of geomechanical rock behavior. 
  2. Characterize mechanical stratigraphy based on lithostratigraphy and other information. 
  3. Assess the role of mechanical stratigraphy and stress conditions on rock deformation behavior, including fracture prediction in unconventional and conventional reservoirs. 
  4. Estimate an in situ stress field for an area of interest. 
  5. Predict the likely effects of pore fluid pressure changes on existing fractures.
  6. Employ outcrop analogs to create geomechanical models of a reservoir.
  7. Evaluate geomechanical issues for common petroleum and unconventional resource applications such as stress estimation, and hydraulic fracturing.  
  8. Plan and evaluate a geomechanics study.

Extensional fault-related folding (e.g. Big Brushy Canyon monocline) and exposures of Cretaceous carbonate and fine-grained clastic rocks in the Marathon area will provide the opportunity to study mechanical stratigraphy and deformation behavior of both unconventional reservoirs (e.g. Eagle Ford Formation/Boquillas Formation) and conventional reservoirs (e.g. Edwards/Santa Elena Limestone and Caballos Novaculite).

Itinerary (subject to revision)

Day 0:
Travel to Midland, Texas and drive to Marathon, Texas.
Course introduction and safety briefing followed by group dinner.
Overnight in Marathon each night.

Day 1: Field, exposures in Black Gap Wildlife Management Area
Examination of field exposures and data collection for geomechanical modeling exercise.  Emphasis will be placed on defining the problem, constraining geometry, characterizing mechanical stratigraphy, assessing likely boundary and initial conditions, and evaluating appropriate data for model validation.

Day 2: Classroom, Marathon
Overview of fundamental concepts, such as stress (including pore fluid pressure), strain and deformation, mechanical stratigraphy, and rock behavior. Introduction to fundamentals of geomechanical modeling, including understanding and defining the problem, alternative approaches (e.g., numerical, physical analog, finite element, boundary element, and discrete element modeling) and key steps to success (appropriate choices of geometry, boundary and initial conditions, material properties) will be provided.Day

Day 3: Field, exposures in Big Bend National Park
Examination of field exposures and data collection for geomechanical modeling exercise. Emphasis will be placed on defining the problem, constraining geometry, characterizing mechanical stratigraphy, assessing likely boundary and initial conditions, and evaluating appropriate data for model validation.

Day 4: Classroom, Marathon
Detailed discussion of numerical geomechanical modeling using finite element methods. Using data from Days 1 and 3 fieldwork, participants will conduct a hands-on modeling exercise that includes building the model (define geometry, assign material models and properties, apply loading conditions, specify outputs) and running the numerical simulation.

Participants will analyze and interpret model results using the fieldwork of the previous days to provide real world context. There will also be discussion and exercises to perform stress analyses based on a variety of inputs including geological maps, field data, structural interpretations from seismic reflection, and well data. Applications of stress and geomechanical analysis to conventional and unconventional reservoir exploration and production (borehole scale, reservoir scale, field scale). 

Day 5: Field, Boquillas / Eagle Ford exposures between Marathon and Del Rio, Texas
Examine outcrop deformation of reservoir analogs with emphasis on comparing and contrasting deformation behavior of different mechanical layers. Discussion on how observations affect geomechanical models and stress analyses.

Day 6:
Return to Midland, Texas, flights home

This course is relevant to geologists, geophysicists, petrophysicists, and engineers who want to develop a fundamental understanding of geomechanics and stress and their application to energy exploration and production.

Adam Cawood

Dr. Cawood is a structural geologist with research experience in extensional, strike-slip, and contractional tectonic regimes at a range of scales, and in various geological settings. He has expertise in field mapping, close-range remote sensing (LiDAR and digital photogrammetry), outcrop-based deformation analysis, core characterization, seismic interpretation, and basin-scale tectonostratigraphic analysis. Study areas have included sites across the U.S. (e.g., west Texas, the Permian Basin, the Rocky Mountains, Utah), offshore Newfoundland (Canada), Pembrokeshire (UK), the Zagros Mountains, and the French Alps.

Dr. Cawood has expertise in acquisition, processing and analysis of digital photogrammetry and LiDAR data. He has developed workflows to integrate remotely acquired datasets with field and laboratory data, established digital approaches to geological analysis, assessed the errors and uncertainties associated with remotely acquired data, and developed novel approaches to data extraction, handling and analysis. His research focuses on natural deformation processes, with an emphasis on leveraging structural data for improved understanding of the subsurface. Applications of his work include hydrocarbon exploration and production, geothermal energy extraction, subsurface storage and waste disposal, and groundwater management.

Affiliations & Accreditation
Ph.D. University of Aberdeen and the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training in Oil and Gas - Geology
B.Sc. University of Aberdeen - Geology

Courses Taught
N114: Extensional Tectonics and Normal Faulting (Nevada and California, USA)
N134: Carbonate and Shale Faulting and Fracturing Field Seminar (Texas, USA)
N266: Mechanical Stratigraphy, Stress, and Geomechanics (West Texas, USA)
N411: Mechanical Stratigraphy, Stress and Geomechanics

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 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.