Energy Excursions

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Geologic Considerations When Drilling a Well

“Take an energy excursion on where to place a well, and what to think about as a geologist prior to drilling, including the geologic risks” 


This lesson takes into account the geologic considerations prior to and while drilling a well. To be successful, a well must have all of the geologic parameters that come with a successful petroleum system: the processes and elements that lead to oil and gas formation. This includes a source rock where the oil and gas initially formed, a reservoir rock where the oil and gas is now located, and a cap rock/seal that limits further movement of these hydrocarbons. Each component is important to both ensure a successful well and mitigate risks. This lesson will also consider geologic risk and well integrity. Additional subject matter covered includes surface expressions, a geologic challenge, and their associated risks. To further describe surface expressions, this lesson includes a case study on the Cymric Heavy Crude Oil Field located in the San Joaquin Valley in California. The case study includes how the heavy oil is produced through a process known as “cyclic steam injection/stimulation,” the presence of surface expressions as a result, and the regulatory response that followed. 

Learning Outcomes 

  • Gain an understanding on where to place a well from a geologic standpoint using petroleum systems concepts
    • Source Rock 
    • Reservoir Characterization    
    • Cap Rock/Seal  
  • Learn some of the basics regarding subsurface integrity and overburden characterization  
    • What is subsurface integrity?   
    • What is overburden characterization? 
    • Why is risk mitigation important?  
  • Learn about the Cymric Heavy Crude Oil Field and the risk of surface expressions 
    • How is the heavy oil produced in the Cymric field? 
    • What is cyclic steam injection/stimulation? 
    • How did surface expressions occur in the field?   
    • What did the regulatory response entail following recognition of surface expressions? 
TEKS Standards
College Board Units and Topics