Engineering & Modeling Research

Fracture Modeling Research at The University of Texas

Energy is a key component to people’s everyday lives; and a secure energy future requires a balance between environmental impact and affordable supply. In petroleum engineering, students learn to evaluate potential oil and gas reservoirs, oversee drilling activities, select and implement recovery schemes, and design surface collection and treatment facilities. Geosystems engineers and hydrogeologists are concerned with the development and use of engineering approaches in the management of water resources in addition to oil and gas, as well as environmental restoration of contamination sites and other processes related to the subsurface. Petroleum and geosystems engineers are able to address and solve important issues that will lead to energy security and thus are in high demand.

2007 Field expedition

Olson and DGS grad student Hargrove

Dr. Jon E. Olson leads the reservoir geomechanics and fractured reservoir research program within the Department  of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering.

Olson is also a co-PI and founder of the Fracture Research and Application Consortium and the Structural Diagenesis Initiative.

Olson’s research focuses on rock mechanics issues in the petroleum industry, most recently including hydraulic fracturing from horizontal wells and in natural fractured reservoirs (e.g., shale, tight gas sandstones), shear-enhanced permeability due to deformation in heavy oil reservoirs stimulated by steam injection, modeling production from unconventional gas and oil reservoirs, wellbore stability and reservoir compaction and subsidence.

Olson is also a leader in quantitative structural geology and modelling the growth on natural fracture arrays, and the creator of the innovative fracture modeling program JOINTS. Current research includes development of a fully integrated structural diagenetic 3D code for fracture growth in chemically reactive environments.

Olson leads the Geomechanics Testing Laboratory which has capabilities for a wide range of rock property tests and experiments. The lab houses several load frames, which provide for the deformation of specimens over a range in size, geometry and load. The laboratory also conducts analog model experiments.

Loadframe in GTL

Olson also enjoys field work and has recently led field expeditions in Wyoming and Scotland.

Selected Awards and Honors:

  • SPE Distinguished Lecturer, 2014-2015.
  • AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, 2007-2008.
  • George H. Fancher Professorship in Petroleum Engineering
  • Michel T. Halbouty ’30 Visiting Chair in Geology and Geophysics, Texas A&M University, Fall 2005.
  • Anadarko Fellowship #2 in Petroleum Engineering.

The following papers reflect some of Olson’s current research interests:

  • Olson, J.E., and Laubach, S.E., 2014, Special Section editors, Hydrofracturing–modern and novel methods, The Leading Edge, v. 33, no. 10, p. 1088, doi:10.1190/tle33101088.1
  • Wu, K., Olson, J.E., 2013, Investigation of the impact of fracture spacing and fluid properties for interfering simultaneously or sequentially generated hydraulic fractures. SPE Production & Operations, v. 28, no. 4, p. 427-436.
  • Bahorich, B., Olson, J.E., Holder, J., 2012. Examining the effect of cemented natural fractures on hydraulic fracture propagation in hydrostone block experiments. SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, 8-10 October 2012, San Antonio, Texas, USA, 160197-MS
  • Dahi-Taleghani A. and Olson Jon E., 2011, Numerical modeling of multistranded-hydraulic-fracture propagation: Accounting for the interaction between induced and natural fractures, SPE Journal, v. 16, Issue 3, p. 575-581. doi: 10.2118/124884-PA.
  • Olson, J. E, Laubach, S. E., and Lander, R. H., 2009, Natural fracture characterization in tight gas sandstones: Integrating mechanics and diagenesis. AAPG Bulletin, v. 93, no. 11, p. 1535-1549. | AAPG Notable Paper | As of July, 2014, Web of Science #1 most cited paper in AAPG Bulletin of papers published since 2009

Jon Olson to Chair Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering

On Jan. 1, 2015, Jon Olson, who currently holds the George H. Fancher Professorship in Petroleum Engineering and has spent 20 years as a faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin, will take the helm of a department that is considered one of the most prestigious petroleum engineering programs in the world, with 22 faculty members and more than 730 students. The department’s petroleum engineering graduate and undergraduate programs are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report national rankings, and entry-level salaries for its graduates are the highest among any engineering major.

Olson has been appointed chair of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (PGE) in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Read more on Olson’s appointment on  the PGE web site.

Structural Diagenesis Initiative Main Page

Fracture Research and Application Consortium