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Unconventional Reservoir Geomechanics


This is an archived course. This course is provided as a resource which you are welcome to access as you see fit, but it is not possible to earn a Statement of Accomplishment at this time. If you would like to earn a Statement of Accomplishment, a newer offering may be provided in the future on the Stanford Lagunita course listing page.

About This Course

In this course we address a range of topics that affect the recovery of hydrocarbons from extremely low-permeability unconventional oil and gas reservoirs. While there are multiple definitions of unconventional reservoirs, we consider in this course oil and gas-bearing formations with permeabilities so low that economically meaningful production can only be realized through horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing. Despite this extraordinarily low permeability, the scale and impact of the production from unconventional oil and reservoirs over the past decade in the U.S. and Canada has been remarkable.

In the first part of the course we consider topics that become progressively broader in scale, starting with laboratory studies on core samples that investigate the composition, microstructure and pore systems at the nanometer scale (the rocks matter) and conclude by discussing basin-scale stress fields, fracture and fault systems (which matter as well because they control hydraulic fracture propagation and the effectiveness of reservoir stimulation). In the second part of the course we address the process of stimulating production using horizontal drilling and multistage hydraulic fracturing. We briefly review several important engineering aspects of horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, the basics of microseismic monitoring, the importance of interactions among the state of stress, pre-existing fractures and faults and hydraulic fracturing which are critical to the production process and a unified overview of flow from nano-scale pores to hydraulic fractures via the fracture network stimulated during hydraulic fracturing. In the final part of the course we consider environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas development, especially induced seismicity.

Two lectures are released each week. Participants are free to watch the lectures at any convenient time as long as the homework assignments are completed on time. Those who correctly complete 70% of the 6 homework assignments will receive a Statement of Accomplishment. The 6 homework assignments are due on the day indicated at 08:00 AM UTC time, which is 12:00 AM PST time. There is a grace period allowing assignments to be handed in 24 hours after the due date.


General knowledge of petroleum geology, geophysics and/or petroleum engineering is required. Professor Zoback’s online course in Reservoir Geomechanics is strongly recommended (open for concurrent enrollment). Use of programs such as Excel or Matlab for manipulation of data and graphical display is required.

Course Staff

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. 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, the author/co-author of 300 technical papers and holder of five patents. In 1996 he co-founded GeoMechanics International, where he was Chairman of the Board until 2008. He 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. He recently served on the National Academy of Energy committee investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident and the Secretary of Energy’s committee on shale gas development and environmental protection.

Arjun Kohli

Dr. Arjun H. Kohli

Dr. Arjun H. Kohli is a Research Scientist and Lecturer in the Department of Geophysics at Stanford University. He conducts research on earthquake physics with an emphasis on plate boundary faults and induced seismicity in geologic reservoirs. He co-developed two massive open online courses on reservoir geomechanics, which feature interactive exercises designed for students ranging from high school to industry professionals.

Talal Al Shafloot

Talal Al Shafloot, Graduate Teaching Assistant

Talal is a 2nd year Ph.D. student at Stanford University Department of Energy Recourses Engineering. Talal works with Professor Anthony Kovscek to study waterless fracturing in shale reservoirs. His research focuses on investigating the feasibility of utilizing different fluids as fracturing agents to shale reservoirs, to avoid the water associated negative impact when injected to such reservoirs. Talal has a Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University, where he worked with Professor Ding Zhu on predicting fracture geometry in acid fracturing jobs by utilizing pressure data. Talal previously worked for Saudi Aramco as a reservoir engineer in Gas Reservoir Management Department. He has a Bachelor of Science from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, where he majored in Petroleum Engineering.

Frequently Asked Questions

What web browser should I use?

The Open edX platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, or with Internet Explorer version 9 and above.

See our list of supported browsers for the most up-to-date information.

Does this course offer the Statement of Accomplishment?

Those who earn 70% or more on the 6 homework assignments will receive a Statement of Accomplishment.

When will my Statement of Accomplishment arrive?

The Statement of Accomplishment will be generated a few days after the course end date.

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