6 UW Projects to Meet Mowry Shale Challenge in Powder River Basin


GILLETTE, Wyo. — University of Wyoming professors from multiple disciplines are working to address the factors that make it difficult to extract the Mowry Shale, which lies beneath most of Wyoming.

Currently, oil and gas companies in the Powder River Basin are accessing the Niobrara and Turner formations, which pose less economic risk compared to the Mowry shale, said Scott Quillinan, senior director of the University’s School of Energy Resources. of Wyoming.

The largest source of hydrocarbons for the Lower Cretaceous Petroleum System in the Powder River Basin is the Mowry Shale. Still, it has two types of layers that cause problems: bentonite, which looks almost like peanut butter, and one with lots of silica, which is brittle, he said. Bentonite is “essentially spongy,” he said. It swells with exposure to water, making it very difficult to hold fractures open for hydraulic fracturing.

The Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute and the SER have found new areas of production potential in Mowry, so the SER is launching a targeted effort on the Mowry Total Petroleum System to improve understanding and increase production, a blog post said. from UW.

“It could be the next big game, and probably will be,” Quillinan told County 17. “I’m confident that at some point it will be understood. … There’s a lot of work to be done.

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In the meantime, UW students involved in research projects will be able to become more involved in industry, he said. Any successes in the Powder River Basin could apply to work in other parts of Wyoming, he said.

Aiming to expand research output, faculty expertise, and student fieldwork, the SER asked UW faculty to submit proposals for fundamental shale studies, or modeling and experimentation to advance the geomechanical and geochemical understanding of shale in relation to production or performance, and Machine learning and artificial intelligence, or data analytics that will aid in real-time decision making to improve Mowry’s Well. SER has selected projects that can increase understanding of the petroleum system, and thereby improve reserve base and in-reservoir recovery, Quillinan said in the blog post.

The following proposals will receive between $50,000 and $150,000 in funding from the Wyoming Energy Authority:

  • Kam Ng, Associate Professor of Civil and Architectural Engineering, is leading the project titled “Basic Study through Experimental Investigation to Advance Geomechanical Understanding of the Mowry Shale,” with Vladamir Alvarado, Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and SER Research Scientist Grant Copeland.
  • Alvarado and Saman Aryana, associate professor of chemical engineering and holder of the Western Chair in Energy and Environmental Technologies, and Fred McLaughlin, director of the Center for Economic Geology Research (CEGR) at SER, titled: “Shale stimulation improves Does it impede or hinder the productivity of the reservoirs? ”
  • Soheil Saraji, an associate professor of petroleum engineering, is leading the proposal, titled “Sweet Spot Identification in the Mowry Formation: A Synergistic Laboratory Characterization and Machine Learning Framework.”
  • Vamegh Rasouli, Professor and Head of Department and LeNorman Endowed Leadership Chair in Petroleum Engineering and Morteza Dejam, Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering, are leading the proposals titled “Design and fabrication of a cylindrical true triaxial (CTT) experimental device for Geomechanical Characterization of Mowry Shale in Wyoming.
  • Xiang Zhang, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is leading the proposal titled “Interaction Between Bentonite Layers and Hydraulic Fractures: Towards the Modeling and Design of Multistage Hydraulic Fractures for Reduced Uncertainty and Increased Productivity in the Petroleum System of Mowry”.
  • The SER team of researchers Matt Johnson, Grant Copeland and Yuri Ganshin will lead the project titled “Defining Mowry Shale Potential in Wyoming’s Laramide Basins”. CEGR Director Fred McLaughlin will also contribute to the project. The SER team will also serve as the data repository and central data collection point for all projects.

Research teams must file final reports and spend funding by June 2023.

To learn more about the Mowry Shale project, contact the SER at 307-766-6897.

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