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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? 
Nevada Academic Content Standards for Science
Oklahoma Academic Standards
TEKS Standards
College Board Units and Topics
Next Generation Science Standards