N266 Stress and Geomechanical Analyses (West Texas, USA)

Course Facts

Course Code:
5 days
Physical Demand:
4.0 Continuing Education Units
40 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This course will appraise participants of key concepts in geomechanics, and explore the importance and application of stress and geomechanical analyses to energy exploration and production. It will examine applications such as stress estimation and hydraulic fracturing and will develop the skill sets necessary for planning and evaluating a geomechanics study.  

Duration and Training Method

This five-day field course comprises two days of classroom lectures and exercises and 3 days of field trips with data collection exercises. It will be taught in and around Marathon, Texas, taking advantage of different structural styles and mechanical stratigraphy exposed in the region. Participants will be using stress analysis and tectonic modeling software to aid in the exercises. Computer-based exercises fill approximately 30% of the classroom time.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Evaluate the basics of stress analysis and geomechanics, including the interrelationship between stress and strain in the context of geomechanical rock behavior. 
  2. Characterize mechanical stratigraphy based on lithostratigraphy and other information. 
  3. Assess the role of mechanical stratigraphy and stress conditions on rock deformation behavior, including fracture prediction in unconventional and conventional reservoirs. 
  4. Estimate an in situ stress field for an area of interest. 
  5. Predict the likely effects of pore fluid pressure changes on existing fractures.
  6. Employ outcrop analogs to create geomechanical models of a reservoir.
  7. Evaluate geomechanical issues for common petroleum and unconventional resource applications such as stress estimation, and hydraulic fracturing.  
  8. Plan and evaluate a geomechanics study.

Extensional fault-related folding (e.g. Big Brushy Canyon monocline) and exposures of Cretaceous carbonate and fine-grained clastic rocks in the Marathon area will provide the opportunity to study mechanical stratigraphy and deformation behavior of both unconventional reservoirs (e.g. Eagle Ford Formation/Boquillas Formation) and conventional reservoirs (e.g. Edwards/Santa Elena Limestone and Caballos Novaculite).

Itinerary (subject to revision)

Day 0:
Travel to Midland, Texas and drive to Marathon, Texas.
Course introduction and safety briefing followed by group dinner.
Overnight in Marathon each night.

Day 1: Field, exposures in Black Gap Wildlife Management Area
Examination of field exposures and data collection for geomechanical modeling exercise.  Emphasis will be placed on defining the problem, constraining geometry, characterizing mechanical stratigraphy, assessing likely boundary and initial conditions, and evaluating appropriate data for model validation.

Day 2: Classroom, Marathon
Overview of fundamental concepts, such as stress (including pore fluid pressure), strain and deformation, mechanical stratigraphy, and rock behavior. Introduction to fundamentals of geomechanical modeling, including understanding and defining the problem, alternative approaches (e.g., numerical, physical analog, finite element, boundary element, and discrete element modeling) and key steps to success (appropriate choices of geometry, boundary and initial conditions, material properties) will be provided.Day

3: Field, exposures in Big Bend National Park
Examination of field exposures and data collection for geomechanical modeling exercise. Emphasis will be placed on defining the problem, constraining geometry, characterizing mechanical stratigraphy, assessing likely boundary and initial conditions, and evaluating appropriate data for model validation.

Day 4: Classroom, Marathon
Detailed discussion of numerical geomechanical modeling using finite element methods. Using data from Days 1 and 3 fieldwork, 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) and running the numerical simulation.

Participants will analyze and interpret model results using the fieldwork of the previous days to provide real world context. There will also be discussion and exercises to perform stress analyses based on a variety of inputs including geological maps, field data, structural interpretations from seismic reflection, and well data. Applications of stress and geomechanical analysis to conventional and unconventional reservoir exploration and production (borehole scale, reservoir scale, field scale). 

Day 5: Field, Boquillas / Eagle Ford exposures between Marathon and Del Rio, Texas
Examine outcrop deformation of reservoir analogs with emphasis on comparing and contrasting deformation behavior of different mechanical layers. Discussion on how observations affect geomechanical models and stress analyses.

Day 6:
Return to Midland, Texas, flights home

Who should attend

This course is relevant to geologists, geophysicists, petrophysicists and engineers who want to develop a fundamental understanding of geomechanics and stress and their application to energy exploration and production.

Prerequisites and linking courses

To get the most from the course, participants should have a basic understanding of structural geology and stress and strain principles, as presented in N016/N116 (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration (Nevada, USA and SW England, UK, repsectively)).

A classroom alternative to N266 is the 3-day N411 Fractures, Stress and Geomechanics. This course is from the N266 tutors and addresses many of the same topics.

Related courses which may be of direct interest include:

  • N109 Fracture-enhanced Reservoirs: Field Seminar (Wyoming, USA);
  • N231 Understanding, Evaluating and Managing Fractured Reservoirs (classroom);
  • N259 From Outcrop to Subsurface: Understanding and Evaluating Shale Resource Plays (Alberta, Canada)
  • 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); and
  • N379 Application of Geomechanics to Reservoir Characterization, Management and Hydraulic Stimulation (Wyoming, USA) 

The physical demands for this class are expected to be LOW according to the Nautilus Training Alliance field course grading system. Fieldwork is in west Texas, where the climate is warm-hot and dry. Participants will be taking short to moderate hikes (less than 3.2km / 2mi each) over flat to hilly terrain with a maximum elevation change on a hike of 200m / 660 ft. Transport is by SUVs. Most driving is on black-top roads, but some outcrops are reached via well marked dirt roads.

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Alan Morris

Kevin Smart

Great course. I really learned a lot and was able to use what I had learned immediately.