Research theme: Petroleum Geoscience
Theme lead: Prof. Dorrik Stow
Exploration is the upstream end of the oil and gas spectrum, represented by the large, active and rapidly expanding research theme of Petroleum Geoscience within IPE. It includes several main sub-themes: Reservoir Analogues and Description, Geomechanics and Rock Physics, and Seismic Interpretation. Each of these groups works closely with multiple industry sponsors, as well as receiving funding from research councils and charitable trusts. They also provide a wide array of consultancy work and short courses for industry. Through the Edinburgh Collaborative for Subsurface Science and Engineering (ECOSSE), we are closely allied with Edinburgh University geoscience, the British Geological Survey (Edinburgh) and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.
Reservoir Analogues and Description
This group specialises in the integration of geology and engineering for improved, quantitative, characterisation of oil and gas reservoir performance. Our central theme is geological outcrop and subsurface characterisation and its application in reservoir fluid flow simulation for better-informed reservoir management. Our outcrop analogue work is further informed by study of modern sedimentary systems, especially those of the deep sea.
Research and expertise cover the full range of sedimentary environments, with particular focus now on deep-water sedimentary systems, including contourites, deepwater massive sands, and thin-bedded turbidites. Our work on determining effective properties from amalgamated turbidite systems, and on the nature of sand body terminations, is fundamental to the hydrocarbon trapping, compartmentalisation and recovery in these systems. A specific remit has been established to look at regional effects of fluid flow across/along unconformities and their role in trapping hydrocarbons.
Research is also carried out in numerical well simulation for forward modelling of well test responses in heterogeneous reservoirs, creating a key element in the integration of static and dynamic data for reservoir description and subsequent geomodel building.
There are important links between this research and the Uncertainty Quantification theme with regard to rock property up-scaling. Complex-systems simulation methods have been added to the Group’s activities targeted at realistic flow modelling in very heterogeneous (fractured) media. These complex system simulations also underpin a broadening of topics to coastal salt-water intrusion, volcanic-related hydrothermal power, CO2 disposal, and complex hydrocarbon recovery processes. Further close links exist with our Carbonate Reservoirs and Unconventional Reservoirs themes.
Geomechanics and Petrophysics
This group studies the fundamental geomechanical processes of rock deformation and their effects on reservoir properties such as permeability, and applies that understanding to practical problems. The group develops and uses a wide range of apparatus (including the unique true-triaxial Smart Cell, the micro-permeameter invented and patented here, and innovative magnetic measurement equipment), along with complex numerical simulation methods. Our key focus is multiphysics modelling to link geomechanics with reservoir engineering topics.
Pioneering research into the application of Underground Coal Gasification to access coal reserves while also disposing of CO2 is underway. This work has been recognised as strategically important by the DTI. Further work in progress examines of how rock properties determine the observable near-wellbore effects in well testing and water injection.
We have well-recognised petrophysics research, originally set up with industry funding. Current research is focussed on magnetic petrophysics, using non-destructive magnetic methods for petrophysical parameter prediction.
We are part of two multi-institution partnerships that have generated new approaches to fault breaching and sealing analysis, and to combining geomechanics and seismics to create a subsurface open fracture identification method. Work on pore-scale models, with the Hydrocarbon Recovery Mechanisms theme, permits material property changes to be associated with deformation processes for the first time. These European University collaborations, Joseph Fourier and Institut Nationale Polytechnique, Grenoble, at the geomechanics-soil mechanics interface produced an invitation to join the European ALERT-Geomaterials Group of top universities.
Key contact: Prof. Dorrik Stow
We have a very new, industry-funded, seismic interpretation lab, fully equipped with work stations and appropriate software. Our basic aim is to solve complex 2D and 3D structural and stratigraphic seismic interpretation problems.
Research on the structural side will include: fault positioning, unravelling complex structures, identifying fracture sweet spots, and reducing uncertainties in our subsurface interpretation.
With regard to research in sedimentological interpretation of seismic data, we are interested in an improved characterisation of seismic facies, a novel approach to quantitative seismic geomorphometry, the recognition and distinction of along slope (contourite) from downslope seismic architecture and facies, and the incorporation of this into new sequence stratigraphic models.
The seismic interpretation lab will become an important training facility for PhD students and industry (CPD) courses.