Postdoctoral Fellow Position: Experimental & Numerical Investigation of Primary Expulsion of Hydrocarbons from Carbonate Source Rocks: Fundamental Scaling Relationships
The successful candidate for this position will join a unique multidisciplinary team with world-class expertise in each of the major areas of the project (see Project Synopsis below), and proven record of being able to integrate the components of this highly interdisciplinary project. The project will be run in collaboration with RWTH Aachen (Structural Geology, Tectonics and Geomechanics) and UT Austin (Physics).
Project Synopsis: Long horizontal wells with complex, propped hydrofractures have opened mudrock ("shale") systems to oil and gas production. "Shales" are thermally mature source rocks that have expelled part of the generated hydrocarbons (in what is called primary migration), but can produce the remaining oil and gas. Despite its enormous economic importance, the process of partial expulsion of hydrocarbons is poorly understood. It is commonly thought that it involves the generation of natural hydrofractures at multiple scales. These fractures tessellate the mudrock volume and create planes of weakness along which the rock will fail during stimulation. Better understanding of this process and of the corresponding changes in the rock structure is essential to successful shale gas wells in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
We propose to formulate multiscale and multiphysics models of hydrocarbon generation and primary expulsion from ancient, organic-rich shales.
First, we will focus on the organic-rich muds deposited from the nearly clay-free interior basins of carbonate platforms that became the source rocks of giant oil and gas reservoirs in the Middle East, and remain rich reservoirs of gas, condensate and oil. Second, we will focus on the geological and physico-chemical processes that led to the generation and expulsion of hydrocarbons from these mudrocks. The new understanding developed in this project will provide invaluable insight into how these mudrocks can be produced today.
Our models, at the macro- and mesoscale, will be based on outcrop-scale measurements of heterogeneity and structure. At microscale, we will study the relevant phenomena in experiments under in-situ stress, image the hydrocarbons migrating in microfractures, as well as the distribution of remaining organic solids and liquids. Based on these experiments, we will develop different expulsion/sediment microfracturing models. Mudrock layering, lateral continuity, and macro fracturing will be integrated into our multiscale rock fracturing software. This software will be fully parallelized and connected to existing basin modeling programs, with detail and accuracy that exceeds current state-of-the-art.
The ideal candidate for the postdoc shall have expertise in sediment and rock mechanics, as well as fracture mechanics. Knowledge of numerical methods and fluency in programming are highly desirable. Applications are sought for a 1-to-2-year postdoc position. The position will include a competitive salary based on the candidate's qualifications; benefits include medical and dental insurance, free furnished housing on the KAUST campus, annual paid vacation, and other generous benefits.
The successful applicant will be part of the Energy Geosystems Group; Prof. Tad Patzek is the PI of this group. It is affiliated to the Ali I. Al-Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center (ANPERC) at KAUST.