N411 Fractures, Stress and Geomechanics

Course Facts

Course Code:
3 days
2.4 Continuing Education Units
24 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This course will apprise course participants of key concepts in fracture characterization and analysis, stress, and geomechanics. We will explore the importance and application of stress and geomechanical analyses to energy exploration and production in both conventional and unconventional reservoirs, with emphasis on well design, borehole stability, and hydraulic fracturing. Participants will develop the skill sets necessary for planning and evaluating a fracture and geomechanics study.

This is a classroom version of Nautilus field course N266. As the two courses use similar material and software, individuals should consider attending one or the other, but not both.

Duration and Training Method

This three day course consists of a mixture of lectures and computer-based exercises.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Characterize fracture types and fracture networks, conduct surveys of fault and fracture networks in order to evaluate fracture scaling and fracture connectivity, and design potential landing zones and trends for horizontal laterals in fractured reservoirs.
  2. Assess the difference between shear and extension fractures and their different effects on permeability anisotropy.
  3. Evaluate the basics of stress analysis and geomechanics, including the interrelationship between stress and strain in the context of geomechanical rock behavior. 
  4. Characterize mechanical stratigraphy based on lithostratigraphy and other information. 
  5. Assess the role of mechanical stratigraphy and stress conditions on rock deformation behavior  including fracture prediction in unconventional and conventional reservoirs. 
  6. Estimate an in situ stress field for an area of interest. 
  7. Evaluate geomechanical issues for common petroleum and unconventional resource applications such as well design, borehole stability, and hydraulic fracturing.  
  8. Plan and evaluate a geomechanics study.

Day 1

  • Overview of fundamental concepts of fractures including failure modes, fracture characteristics, fracture set and network characteristics, the influence of mechanical stratigraphy, and importance for permeability and strength anisotropy in rock. 
  • Included in this segment will be exercises to address practical methods for fracture characterization and understanding the importance and limitations of sampling method and related sampling bias.

Day 2 

  • Overview of stress (including pore pressure). 
  • Discussion and exercises to perform stress analyses based on a variety of inputs including geological maps, field data, structural interpretations from seismic reflection, microseismic and well data.
  • Applications of stress and geomechanical analysis to conventional and unconventional reservoir exploration and production (borehole scale, reservoir scale, field scale).

Day 3

  • An introduction to fundamentals of geomechanical modeling including understanding and defining the problem and alternative approaches (e.g., numerical, physical analog, finite element, boundary element, and discrete element modeling). 
  • Detailed discussion of numerical geomechanical modeling using finite element methods.  Participants will conduct a hands-on modeling exercise that includes building the model (define geometry, assign material models and properties, apply loading conditions, specify outputs), running the numerical simulation, and analyzing/interpreting the results.

Who should attend

The course is intended for exploration, development and production geoscientists and reservoir and production engineers whose focus is on unconventional resources and/or conventional fractured reservoirs.

Prerequisites and linking courses

Participants should have a familiarity with basic structural geologic principles prior to taking this class, such as is offered in N138 (Structural Interpretation in Petroleum Exploration and Development).  

Related courses include:

  • N381 (Influence of Tectonics and Mechanical Stratigraphy on Natural Deformation in the Permian Basin)
  • N364 (Fracture Architecture, Sedimentology and Diagenesis of Organic-rich Mudstones of Ancient Upwelling Zones with Application to Naturally Fractured Reservoirs (California, USA))
  • N371 (Natural Fractures and Production in Different Reservoir Lithologies, Examples and Analogs from the San Juan Basin (New Mexico and Colorado, USA))
  • N379 (Application of Geomechanics to Reservoir Characterization, Management and Hydraulic Stimulation (Wyoming, USA))

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Alan Morris

Kevin Smart

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