Unconventional Reservoir Geomechanics @ Stanford University

Online Course (self-paced)
Energy Production Environmental Earth Science

Price: Free

Length: 10 weeks
Effort: 6–8 hours per week
Level: Introductory

This course covers the geophysical and engineering concepts needed to understand the recovery of hydrocarbons from extremely low permeability unconventional oil and gas reservoirs.

The production of hydrocarbons from extremely low permeability unconventional reservoirs through horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing has transformed the global energy landscape.

Although hundreds of thousands of wells have been drilled and completed, recovery factors remain low in both tight oil (2-10%) and shale gas (15-25%) reservoirs. This course, designed for both geoscientists and engineers, covers topics ranging from the physical properties of reservoir rocks at the nanometer- to centimeter-scale to the state of stress on fractures and faults at the basin-scale.

The course follows the textbook Unconventional Reservoir Geomechanics by Mark Zoback and Arjun Kohli, available in print or electronic versions. Unconventional Reservoir Geomechanics, Cambridge University Press 2019 https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/unconventional-reservoir-geomechanics/39665444034A2EF143D749DF48A5E5DC

The first part of the course covers topics that become progressively broader in scale, starting with laboratory studies of the microstructural, mechanical, and flow properties of reservoir rocks and concluding with field observations of fractures, faults, and the state of stress in unconventional basins.

The second part of the course focuses on the process of stimulating production using horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing.

Important engineering concepts will be reviewed, including microseismic monitoring, production and depletion, well-to-well interactions, and hydraulic fracture propagation. The final part of the course addresses the environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas development, in particular the occurrence and management of induced seismicity.

What you'll learn

  • Definition, formation, and extent of unconventional reservoirs
  • Physical properties of unconventional reservoir rocks
  • State of stress in unconventional reservoirs
  • Horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing
  • Reservoir seismology and microseismic monitoring
  • Environmental impacts of unconventional reservoir development
  • Managing risk of induced seismicity

Two units will be released each week on edX. Each unit will be comprised of 3-5 video modules 10-20 minutes in length. Videos can be accessed at any time before the end of the course. Grading will be based entirely on 6 homework assignments.

Homeworks are due on edX at the start of each week at 07:00 UTC (00:00 PST). Students who select the verified enrollment option and earn at least 70% on the homeworks will receive a certificate from edX.


General knowledge of geophysics, petroleum geology, and/or reservoir engineering is recommended. Reservoir Geomechanics, offered by Stanford Online through edX, provides the necessary background. Use of a scientific computing program such MATLAB, Python, or Microsoft Excel is necessary for manipulating and visualizing data.

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edX (Global)

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