Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

Natural Fractures and Production in Different Reservoir Lithologies, Examples and Analogs from the San Juan Basin (New Mexico and Colorado, USA)

Course Code: N371
Instructors:  Scott CooperBruce HartJohn Lorenz
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
6 days


This field seminar explores a wide range of fracture characteristics and their potential effects on shale, sandstone, carbonate and granite reservoirs. Participants will learn how different fracture types form, what kinds of fracture distributions are likely and how to determine whether fractures will enhance or degrade reservoir production.

Duration and Training Method

A six-day traveling field seminar starting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and ending in Durango, Colorado. The proportion of field time to classroom time is about 8:1. This course is conducted primarily in the field, with discussions and exercises on the outcrop. Lectures and core viewing will be based on each tutor’s extensive field and industry experience.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Assess the difference between shear and extension fractures and their significantly different effects on permeability anisotropy.
  2. Assess the significantly different permeability effects of different shear fracture types.
  3. Design and manage workflows for acquiring fracture data from cores and outcrops in order to better understand fractured reservoirs.
  4. Assess and characterize some of the relationships between faults and fractures.
  5. Evaluate the interaction between natural and hydraulic stimulation induced fractures.
  6. Evaluate the interaction of mechanical properties, confining stresses, pore pressure and temperature in the generation of natural fractures in different rock types including shales, sandstones, carbonates and granites.
  7. Assess and differentiate natural and induced fractures in cores and outcrops, and determine their relationship to the in situ stresses.
  8. Estimate the effects on a reservoir of natural fractures based on outcrop data.
  9. Evaluate faults and associated fractures seen in the outcrop and what their signature may be in seismic data.
  10. Develop an appreciation and understanding of the wide range of structures and fracture types that are commonly lumped into the category of “fractured reservoir”.
  11. Develop an understanding of the regional tectonic setting, stratigraphy and geologic history of the San Juan basin and surrounding mountains.

The field course includes study of numerous outcrops, field exercises, and short lecture illustrating fractures and their variations in shale resource plays, in conventional sandstone and carbonate reservoirs, and in granitic facies. A hands-on teaching collection of over 50 fractured core samples will be utilized to let students assess various types of fractures and differentiate drilling-induced fractures from natural fractures. On the outcrop, discussions will include production in the unconventional reservoirs of the San Juan Basin. Students will leave the course with a working knowledge of applied fracture studies, and how to optimize the acquisition of fracture data in order to best understand fractured reservoirs.

Topics included in outcrop and lecture discussions:

      1. Fracture types and variability in various lithologies and structural settings
      2. Fractures and faults
      3. Fracture surface ornamentation (fractography) and mineralization
      4. Distinguishing natural fractures from induced fractures
      5. Extrapolating outcrop fractures into the subsurface
      6. Optimizing fracture data collection in core and outcrop
      7. Mechanical stratigraphy
      8. Fractures in shales vs. fractures in sandstones vs. fractures in carbonates
      9. Effects of lithology and structure on fracture distribution
      10. Effects of different fracture types on reservoirs
      11. Changes in fracture permeability during production
      12. The interaction between natural fractures and hydraulic stimulation fracture
      13. Fractures and seismic data



    Day 0

    • Arrive in Albuquerque, New Mexico
    • Classroom: field trip overview presentations, logistics and safety, overview of regional stratigraphy, introduction to natural fractures in outcrop, characteristics, and identification of fracture types and their importance to hydrocarbon production
    • Overnight in Albuquerque

    Day 1

    • Drive from Albuquerque to Bernalillo, New Mexico
    • Classroom: petroleum geology and seismic, interaction between hydraulic stimulation fractures and natural fractures, differences of fracturing in carbonates vs sandstones and shales
    • Field: outcrops of fractures, folds and faults in Pre-Cambrian granite, Paleozoic carbonates, Paleozoic shales, and Cretaceous sandstones
    • Overnight in Bernalillo, New Mexico

    Day 2

    • Drive from Bernalillo to Santa Fe, New Mexico
    • Field: outcrops of Cretaceous sandstones and shales in the vicinity of the normal fault and fracture zone complex near San Ysidro. Structures to be viewed include: conjugate deformation bands in the Morrison Formation, amalgamated deformation bands in the Dakota Sandstone, superimposed fracture systems, Mancos shale, fracture halos on faults, and fractures in folded strata
    • Overnight in Santa Fe, New Mexico

    Day 3

    • Drive from Santa Fe to Chama, New Mexico
    • Field: sheared extension fractures in Triassic sandstone at Abiquiu dam; fractures in the Mancos shale around El Vado and Heron lakes; fractures associated with faults and vertical extension fractures and conjugate thrust shears in the Dakota Sandstone at Heron Lake
    • Overnight in Chama, New Mexico

    Day 4

    • Drive from Chama, New Mexico to Durango, Colorado
    • Field: the Archuleta igneous dike swarm (analog to hydraulic fractures); the Gasbuggy Nuclear Stimulation site; fractures in the Tertiary sandstones at Navajo Dam, San Juan River; outcrop discussion of San Juan Basin production additional discussion of surface vs subsurface fractures in outcrop; Hogback Monocline (fold-related vs. pre-fold fractures and shear vs. extension); fractures in the siltstones of the Lewis Shale.
    • Discussion of production in "shales"
    • Overnight in Durango, Colorado

    Day 5

    • Drive from Durango to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
    • Field: Mesa Verde National Park visitor center; Point Lookout Sandstone overlook with review of fracture types and variability we have seen by lithology and structural setting and an overview of Mesa Verde Park geologic setting; stratigraphy and cleats/fractures in coal beds within the Menefee Formation; discussion of coal bed methane production. Cultural visits to Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde National Park
    • Overnight in Durango, Colorado

    Day 6

    • Field: a hike up Animas Mountain, to view the geologic setting of the Durango area, stratigraphy, and fractures in the Dakota Sandstone, and the terminal moraine of the latest glacier. Discuss compression to the south related to the San Juan uplift; stratigraphy and fractures in the Pictured Cliffs Sandstone and the Mancos Shale on the Hogback Monocline
    • Classroom: morning lecture on natural and induced fractures in core with core workshop
    • Overnight in Durango, Colorado

    Day 7

    • Depart from Durango, Colorado

    Geoscientists and engineers who need to characterize, assess and manage naturally fractured hydrocarbon reservoirs within a variety of lithologies will benefit from this class. Managers and geoscientists who need a basic understanding of the parameters and important features of fractured reservoirs, and/or who need to optimize data-collection and formulate work flows for both exploration and production from fractured reservoirs, should consider this class.

    Scott Cooper

    He worked with graduate research and academic advisors Dr. Laurel Goodwin and Dr. John Lorenz; the thesis topic was fracture characterization and modeling of Teapot Dome a basement-cored anticline in central Wyoming. 

    He was a Senior Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories, a Department of Energy Research Laboratory, working on projects related to outcrop and subsurface fracture studies with applications to reservoir characterization, production and CO2 sequestration. Mr. Cooper has been working in partnership with Dr. John Lorenz since 2008 at FractureStudies LLC on naturally fractured reservoir characterization projects around the world.

    He has published papers highlighting outcrop and subsurface fractures studies from Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and beyond. He has also led numerous field trips and taught short courses for the oil and gas industry throughout his career.  Detailed descriptions of projects, published papers, and links to open-file reports and papers are available at www. fracturestudies.com.

    Affiliations and Accreditation
    MSc New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology - Geology
    BSc South Dakota School of Mines
    Member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists
    Division of Professional Affairs Certified Petroleum Geologist (#6123)
    AAPG (Member)

    Courses Taught
    N231:  Understanding, Evaluating and Managing Fractured Reservoirs (includes Core Workshop)
    N371:  Natural Fractures and Production in Different Reservoir Lithologies, Examples and Analogs from the San Juan Basin (New Mexico and Colorado, USA)

    Bruce Hart

    Bruce has been employed as a Leading Researcher in Statoil’s Shale Oil and Gas research group (Houston) since 2013.  He previously held positions in ConocoPhillips’ Global New Ventures and Technology groups.  Prior to that he was a professor at McGill University and held other teaching and research positions at New Mexico Tech, Penn State and the Geological Survey of Canada.  His work has focused on shales, fractured reservoirs, integrated reservoir characterization, seismic attributes, clastic sedimentology, hydrothermal dolomites and other topics. 

    Bruce was the 2009-2010 AAPG/SEG Distinguished Lecturer, giving talks about seismic stratigraphy and unconventional reservoirs, and was Guest Lecturer for the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists in 2006, giving talks about fractured reservoirs. 

    He has authored or co-authored 58 peer-reviewed publications Three of those papers have won “Best Paper” awards, including his 2013 paper on seismic stratigraphy.  He authored a digital textbook on seismic interpretation for AAPG, and used to give short courses on that topic through AAPG, SEPM, CSPG, Nautilus and other sponsors since 1995 in places such as Houston, London, Copenhagen, Vienna, Cairo, Calgary, and Kuala Lumpur.

    His career goal is to continue to have fun (“If you love what you’re doing, it’s never work...”), integrate diverse datasets to address real problems, and share his knowledge and passion for the science in a variety of formal and informal settings.

    Affiliations and Accreditation
    PhD The University of Western Ontario - Geology
    MSc Université du Québec à Rimouski - Océanographie
    BA  McMaster University - Geography and Geology (Honors)

    Courses Taught
    N371:  Natural Fractures and Production in Different Reservoir Lithologies, Examples and Analogs from the San Juan Basin (New Mexico and Colorado, USA.)

    John Lorenz

    Lorenz has worked for the US Geological Survey in Louisiana and New Mexico, and for Sandia National Laboratories where he was the geologist for the tight-gas Multiwell Experiment in the Piceance basin.  Lorenz has been a consultant, specializing  in fractured reservoir characterization and effects, since 2007.

    As president, he supported the advancement of the geosciences and their applications to hydrocarbon-related problems. He has published papers on natural and induced fractures in reservoirs that range geographically from the Lisburne Limestone in Alaska to the Spraberry Formation in Texas. These papers and presentations have been awarded the AAPG Levorsen and Jules Braunstein awards.  He has worked closely with the oil and gas industry on problems involving reservoir dimensions and in situ permeability, gaining extensive hands-on experience with core analysis and fieldwork.  He has led field trips, presented core workshops, and taught short courses for the industry-oriented geological community.

    Affiliations and Accreditation
    PhD Princeton University - Cretaceous strata in Libya and Montana
    MSc University of South Carolina - Moroccan Triassic
    BA Oberlin College - Double Major in Geology and Anthropology
    Member of AAPG -Editor (2001-2004) and President (2009-2010)

    Courses Taught
    N231: Understanding, Evaluating and Managing Fractured Reservoirs (includes Core Workshop)
    N371: Natural Fractures and Production in Different Reservoir Lithologies, Examples and Analogs from the San Juan Basin (New Mexico and Colorado, USA)

    CEU: 4.8 Continuing Education Units
    PDH: 48 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.