Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

The Analysis of Fractured Reservoirs (Wyoming, USA)

Course Code: N435
Instructors:  Hutch JobePaul MacKay
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
5 days


The course uses outcrop analysis, lectures, and exercises to develop the skills required to analyze and interpret fractured reservoirs. An integrated and practical approach to data-gathering, reservoir characterization, and reservoir modelling is developed by demonstrating a range of field techniques for fracture measurement. Discussion of rock / fluid interactions is included. A multi-disciplinary approach addresses interpretation of fracture data from seismic, geological, and engineering perspectives.

Duration and Training Method

This five-day field course is based in Lander, Wyoming, and visits outcrops in the Wind River and Big Horn basins. Fieldwork (50% of time) is supported by lectures, team exercises and discussion (50% of time). The course is structured so that the week is an ongoing group discussion on fractured reservoirs. Participants are encouraged to share their own experiences with fractured reservoirs and to bring examples and presentations for discussion.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Characterize fractured reservoirs (tight sandstones, carbonates and shales).
  2. Analyze how fractures form.
  3. Evaluate the behaviors of fracture patterns across differing rock types and structural styles.
  4. Assess the role of fractures in fluid transfer.
  5. Create a development strategy for a fractured reservoir.
  6. Implement subsurface techniques for recognizing fractures.
  7. Measure outcrops in the field.
  8. Gauge the role of bed thickness.
  9. Assess outcrop imagery acquired by drones for fractures.

In many petroleum systems, the challenge is not to find the hydrocarbon accumulation but rather how to produce it at economically viable production rates. Natural fracture systems that create permeability pathways can enhance well bore drainage and yield higher production rates. Fracture concerns have traditionally been associated with structurally complex reservoirs; however, the recent emphasis on resource plays has shown that fractures are naturally occurring phenomena in most petroleum reservoirs and their evaluation has become an integral component of economic risk analysis.

Fracture systems are complex. Fracture analysis is difficult and at times appears to be unpredictable. Collection of fracture data can be expensive and is often overlooked in the effort to complete a well in a cost-efficient manner. However, wells that grossly overproduce their predicted rates and volumes are generally assumed to be enhanced by fracture systems and many corporations now design their well location strategy to maximize the potential to intersect natural fracture systems.

The study of fractures in outcrops can provide a clear picture of natural fracture systems. Data collected at the surface can be integrated into a subsurface data base to aid in tasks such as well trajectory placement, reservoir management, reservoir simulation models, resource development plans and exploration design.

Despite the advantages of studying fractures in outcrop, few groups do so. One of the reasons is that the task is initially daunting and it is difficult to develop a sound strategy that will allow the study of the fracture systems in a time-effective manner. Another is uncertainty in how to integrate the data, once acquired, into subsurface geological, geophysical, and engineering interpretations.

In terms of understanding how fluid moves through a reservoir, the recognition of the role that fractures play has been revolutionary: seismic techniques have been developed to help identify fracture systems, reservoir simulation models routinely incorporate fracture anisotropy into their design, well logging programs are built around acquiring good well bore images, and design of well completions programs begins with knowledge of the natural fracture system. In all of these new advances, much of the analysis is based on an assumption that fracture patterns are regular and predictable. Where does this assumption come from? Is this reliable and if so what inherent risks lie within this assumption? To answer this question and to truly understand fracture systems the modern geoscientist must return to their roots, the outcrop.

This course is designed to address these issues. The course is field-based, but there will be a strong emphasis on integrating field observations with subsurface data to create a three dimensional view of the reservoir in the subsurface. The course is designed with the practitioner in mind. Although there is a certain degree of theoretical material to review, the emphasis will be directed to a discussion on how the information can help the geoscientist develop a more thorough model of a hydrocarbon reservoir and how can this knowledge be applied to improve the ultimate economic results of the project.

There will be some discussion of the regional geology so that the outcrops can be put into tectonic context. The Wind River and Big Horn areas have several excellent outcrop exposures of fractured carbonate and clastic strata that produce hydrocarbons nearby. Participants will be shown how to collect and analyze field data; field exercises will allow participants to work through some of the issues associated with fracture analysis. There will be morning lectures to provide background information and to present case studies that will be useful templates for integration of surface and subsurface data.

Itinerary (subject to change)

Day 0

  • Travel to Riverton, WY, and transfer to Lander, WY.
  • Class:          Introductory lecture, safety brief and what to expect; dinner.
  • Overnight:   Lander.

Day 1

  • Class:          Introduction to fracture systems, regional geology.
  • Field:           Dubois, Wilderness, Sinks Canyon.
  • Overnight:   Lander.

Day 2:

  • Class:          Unconventional plays and the role of permeability; case studies.
  • Field:           Muddy Gap, Sheep Mountain.
  • Overnight:   Lander.

Day 3

  • Class:          Analytical techniques to describe fracture and investigate their impact on fluid flow; case studies.
  • Field:           Red Grade, Deep Creek (for fractures)
  • Overnight:   Lander.

Day 4

  • Field:           Wind River Canyon, Waugh, Hamilton Dome; case studies.
  • Overnight:   Lander.

Day 5

  • Class:          Deep basin gas, fluid flow through sedimentary basins; case studies.
  • Field:           Frontier outcrop.
  • Class:          Course wrap-up and feedback.
  • Overnight:   Lander.

Day 6

  • Travel home from Riverton, WY.

The course integrates geoscience and engineering topics and is designed to appeal to geologists, geophysicists, reservoir engineers, completion engineers and drilling engineers. When geoscientists and engineers working on the same asset have attended in the past, they have remarked that the course is a powerful tool to help them develop an integrated approach to fractured reservoirs.

Hutch Jobe

Hutch is in his 4th year of employment with SMLE.  Hutch worked as a geologic advisor in various exploitation and exploration roles between 1986 and 1997 for Union Oil of California (UNOCAL).  His primary areas of concern during this time period were the Illinois, Michigan and Mississippian Salt Basins.  In 1997 Hutch joined Burlington Resources (BR) as a geologic advisor focusing on exploration and exploitation projects in the Michigan Basin and the Rocky Mountain regions.  Conoco-Phillips (CoP) bought Burlington Resources in early 2006.  Hutch spent one year with CoP before leaving to join SMLE.  The Nautilus course M109 resulted from 4 years of proprietary geologic field work conducted during Hutch’s tenure with BR.  The analogs and case studies illustrated here in will hopefully be applicable to course participant’s areas of interest.

Affiliations and Accreditation
MSc Oklahoma State University - Geology
BSc Oklahoma State University - Geology

Courses Taught
N109: Fracture-Enhanced Reservoirs: Field Seminar (Wyoming, USA)
N435: The Analysis of Fractured Reservoirs (Wyoming, USA)
N436: Big Data, Complexity and Analytics Applied to Fractured Reservoirs – What We Can Learn From Diverse Data Sets

Paul MacKay

Dr. Paul A. MacKay, P. Geol., P. Geoph., has +25 years of experience in the petroleum industry as a geologist and geophysicist. He began his career at Amoco Canada in 1980 and was involved with conventional operations, development and exploration in central Alberta and was on a one-year temporary assignment to Amoco International working on Australia, Papua New Guinea.

Following an educational leave to obtain his doctorate, Paul served as the structural geology expert at Amoco Canada before joining Morrison Petroleums Ltd. in 1993 to establish their southern Foothills position, including acquisition of gas processing facilities, gas gathering systems and production and evaluation of exploration potential. He introduced advanced geophysical techniques including the use of 3-D seismic data in mountainous terrains, offset VSP, integrated ?eld geology and seismic mapping, and aided in technical evaluation of international opportunities. At Northstar Energy from 1997 to 1999, Paul was Exploration manager (Foothills), responsible for all areas of Northstar’s business within the Foothills area of western Canada.  In 1999, Paul started his own consulting ?rm working on a variety of structural styles in Canada, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, North Sea, on-shore England, Central Africa, the Zagros Mountain, and portions of South America and the Caribbean. 

He is currently one of the principals of Shale Petroleum, a private E&P resource company focused on unconventional oil prospects in western Canada and the United States.  He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and current president of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Calgary- Geology and Geophysics- Structural Geology

Courses Taught
N053: Compressional Structural Styles: Models for Exploration & Production (Alberta, Canada)
N109: Fracture-Enhanced Reservoirs: Field Seminar (Wyoming, USA)
N259: From Outcrop to Subsurface: Understanding and Evaluating Shale Resource Plays (Alberta, Canada)
N291: Geological Reservoir Characteristics of Siliciclastic Unconventional Light Oil Plays, Western Canada Sedimentary
Basin (Alberta, Canada)
N435: The Analysis of Fractured Reservoirs (Wyoming, USA)
N436: Big Data, Complexity and Analytics Applied to Fractured Reservoirs – What We Can Learn From Diverse Data Sets



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