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Reservoir Geomechanics

Please Note: This is an archived course. You are no longer able to submit assignments for a grade or receive a Statement of Accomplishment for this version of the Reservoir Geomechanics course.

A current offering of this course can be found here.

About This Course

This interdisciplinary course encompasses the fields of rock mechanics, structural geology, earthquake seismology and petroleum engineering to address a wide range of geomechanical problems that arise during the exploitation of oil and gas reservoirs.

The course considers key practical issues such as prediction of pore pressure, estimation of hydrocarbon column heights and fault seal potential, determination of optimally stable well trajectories, casing set points and mud weights, changes in reservoir performance during depletion, and production-induced faulting and subsidence. The first part of the course establishes the basic principles involved in a way that allows readers from different disciplinary backgrounds to understand the key concepts.

The course is intended for geoscientists and engineers in the petroleum and geothermal industries, and for research scientists interested in stress measurements and their application to problems of faulting and fluid flow in the crust.

Recommended Background:

Introductory Geology and Geophysics
Familiarity with principles of drilling and petroleum production

Course Format:

  • 20, 90 minute lectures (in ~20 minute segments). 2 lectures will be made available each week, starting March 31, 2015.
  • Lecture 1 is a course overview to introduce students to the topics covered in the course. Lectures 2-17 follow 12 chapters of Dr. Zoback’s textbook, Reservoir Geomechanics (Cambridge University Press, 2007) with updated examples and applications. Lectures 18 and 19 are on topics related to geomechanical issues affecting shale gas and tight oil recovery. Lecture 20 is on the topic of managing the risk of triggered and induced seismicity.
  • 8 Homework assignments (and associated video modules) are intended to give students hands-on experience with a number of the topics addressed in the course.
  • The course grade will be based solely on homework assignments. There will be no quizzes or exams.
  • Homework assignments will be graded electronically and will consist of multiple choice and numerical entry responses.
  • There will be an online discussion forum where students can discuss the content of the course and ask questions of each other and the instructors.

Course Staff

Picture of Mark Zoback

Dr. Mark D. Zoback

Dr. Mark D. Zoback is the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University. Dr. Zoback conducts research on in situ stress, fault mechanics, and reservoir geomechanics with an emphasis on shale gas, tight gas and tight oil production. He was one of the principal investigators of the SAFOD project in which a scientific research well was successfully drilled through the San Andreas Fault at seismogenic depth. He is the author of a textbook entitled Reservoir Geomechanics published in 2007 by Cambridge University Press. He is the author/co-author of over 300 technical papers and holds five patents. He was the co-founder of GeoMechanics International in 1996, where he was Chairman of the Board until 2008. Dr. Zoback currently serves as a Senior Executive Adviser to Baker Hughes. Dr. Zoback has received a number of awards and honors, including the 2006 Emil Wiechert Medal of the German Geophysical Society and the 2008 Walter H. Bucher Medal of the American Geophysical Union. In 2011, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and in 2012 elected to Honorary Membership in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. He is the 2013 recipient of the Louis Néel Medal, European Geosciences Union and named an Einstein Chair Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He recently served on the National Academy of Engineering committee investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident and the Secretary of Energy’s committee on shale gas development and environmental protection. He currently serves on a Canadian Council of Academies panel investigating the same topic. Dr. Zoback is currently serving on the National Academy of Sciences Advisory Board on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Picture of Rall Walsh

Rall Walsh, Graduate Teaching Assistant

Rall Walsh is a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Geomechanics research group of the Stanford Department of Geophysics. He is currently researching potentially triggered earthquakes in the mid continental US, and how to prevent them, as well as how to use geomechanics to optimize natural gas production in tight gas sands. Rall is also using ambient seismic noise to image the New Madrid Fault zone in western Tennessee. He completed a B.A. in Geology-Physics/Math at Brown university with honors in 2010. He has taught on Swiss Semester, and is a Teaching Assistant for Tectonophysics and Reservoir Geomechanics, two Stanford courses for both graduate and undergraduate students. Rall has interned in Geomechanical technology research units at two major energy companies, and collaborates with many others through the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity, and the Stanford Rock and Borehole Geophysics consortium.

Frequently Asked Questions

I'm just joining the course now, and see that the course has ended. Can I still receive the statement of accomplishment?

No. At this point, the course is over. All homeworks are due, and the answers have been published, so you can not submit them to receive the statement of accomplishment. You are still welcome to register, watch the lectures, and download material.

Can I at least access the course materials, even if I can't take the course?

Yes. All course material is archived and available for download for non-commercial purposes. To do so, register for the course.

Would I receive a Statement of Accomplishment in this course?

Yes. A Statement of Accomplishment was given to over 2,000 students who obtained more than 70% of the maximum points on the 8 homework assignments. Now that the course is over, no more points are awarded because the answers have been posted.

Will you offer the course again?

Yes, There is a 2016 version of the course being offered starting March 2015. Click here to access the new Course Information Page.

Do I need to purchase a textbook for the course?

While it is not required to purchase the Reservoir Geomechanics textbook for this course, it is recommended. Lectures 2-17 follow the 12 chapters of the book. The book provides significant additional detail and explanation of the course concepts. It is available through:
Cambridge University Press:
Amazon and Kindle:

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  2. Classes Start

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  4. Estimated Effort

    ~4-5 hours/week
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