Joint Industry Project: Sustainable Hydrocarbon Recovery in Unconventional Reservoirs

Thrust Area 4: Reservoir Characterization and Simulation under Uncertainty


The University of Kansas’ (KU) Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (C&PE), Tertiary Oil Recovery Program (TORP), Department of Geology (GEOL), and Kansas Geological Survey have started a collaborative work dedicated to developing novel reservoir characterization and simulation models. Part of this investigation will focus on reuse of produced water to prepare hydraulic fracturing fluids.


Principal Investigator (PI):      Dr. Reza Barati (C&PE,, 785-312-4442)

Co-PIs:            Dr. Jyun-Syung Tsau (TORP,,

Dr. GeorgiosTsoflias (GEOL,

Dr. John Doveton (KGS,

Dr. Lynn Watney (KGS,

Dr. Tandis Bidgoli (KGS,

Dr. Hajar Aghababa (IPSR,

Mr. Yevhen Holubnyak (KGS,

Team:                                      Graduate research assistant (2)



1.       Improved reservoir characterization

Using improved correlations between seismic data and fracture properties, a more representative fracture network/property model for shale reservoirs capable of adjusting the fracture spacing based on the fracture characteristics of the reservoir is developed. Regional and local stresses-fields and reservoir structural elements and critically stressed surfaces will be applied to identify and develop comprehensive geomechanical models. A full model including all the geomechanical, geochemical, petrophysical and geophysical aspects will be prepared and a “fracability” index will be mapped.


2.       Reservoir modeling

Developing a small scale model for production from a naturally fissured shale block that captures the full physics behind the shale gas/oil production. This model will then be extended to reservoir scale models and gas injection applications using unstructured grid simulation schemes.

3.       Production optimization under uncertainty- shale oil/shale gas reservoirs

Various drilling, fracturing and injection scenarios to improve production from ultra-tight, organic rich unconventional reservoirs are investigated and optimized subsurface locations and drainage strategies under uncertainty will be recommended. Investigation of optimal completion strategies, including partial open-hole completions will be performed. Productivity indexes have been developed for shale reservoirs and will be used to optimize production.


4.       Seismic methods for production optimization

Develop seismic technology for optimizing production of unconventional reservoirs. Assess surface seismic methods, multi-component, time-lapse and borehole micro seismic monitoring. Conduct pilot characterization study of organic-rich shale plays.



5.       Characterization to shales and associated tight rocks.

Characterize the full spectrum of tight rocks that are associated with shales in the context of their depositional and post depositional history. Construct refined stratigraphic and petrophysical models to improve prediction of the spatial distribution of geomechanical properties.


Benefits to industry

·         Strong track record with industry-focused research.

·         Access to faculty and researchers who are experts in their field.

·         Opportunity to meet students actively engaged in research, trained from a solid community of faculty that have industry training and value industry sponsored projects.

·         Extensive experience working with oil producers to perform field tests.

·         Fully equipped laboratories and computational capabilities.



By bringing together C&PE and GEOL faculty members as well as TORP and KGS researchers, KU has created a cross-disciplinary team that understands both water quality issues and the needs of the oil and gas industry.

The project team includes C&PE, GEOL, TORP, and KGS researchers and faculty members with extensive experience in the areas of reservoir characterization, reservoir simulation, and seismic interpretation. Specific areas of expertise include:

·         Reservoir stimulation expertise in the areas of fracture conductivity, API static fluid loss, dynamic fluid loss, shear loop studies under wellbore and fracture conditions, HPHT rheology, foam rheology capabilities, acid fracturing and matrix acidizing.

·         Interpretation of seismic data, 3-C, AVO analysis and inversion, anisotropy analysis and fracture mapping. Prediction of reservoir properties using multi-attribute seismic analysis

·         Regional, field, and reservoir scale characterization, including petrophysics, water and rock geochemistry, reservoir properties, geomechanics, and reservoir systems

·         Characterization of reservoir structural elements, natural fractures, and geomechanical regional and local stress-field analysis 

·         Petrophysics and mathematical geoscience applications to both conventional reservoirs and resource plays.

·         Fracture cleanup and propagation software

·         Application of nanoparticles to improve conductivity of hydraulically-induced fractures

With an experienced crew in serving the needs of the oil and gas industry in Kansas and beyond, performing research in the lab with close ties to the field application is the main objective of our JIP. Our abilities in responding to the need of oil and gas industry have resulted in several successful field trials in the past.

Key Personnel

Dr. Reza Barati, the Principal Investigator, is a Petroleum Engineering Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (C&PE) at the University of Kansas (KU). Reza is experienced in managing successful research projects that have been conducted in conjunction with industry and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). He managed two industry projects in the area of core characterization and chemical flooding of the Minnelusa formation while working at the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute (EORI) in Wyoming as a member of the Minnelusa Consortium. He has been the PI of two projects funded by SPE and Kansas Interdisciplinary Consortium (KICC) since he started his new position at KU.


Dr. Jyun-Syung Tsau, a Co-Principal Investigator, is an Associate Scientist and Director of CO2 Flooding & Sequestration/Reservoir Management & Simulation for the Tertiary Oil Recovery Program at the University of Kansas (KU). He has twenty-plus years of experience in conducting research on oil recovery techniques and has worked on projects related to CO2 miscible/near miscible injection, CO2 foam for mobility control, and reservoir simulation.  He has a record of successfully conducting research projects for the Department of Energy and other agencies. His research interests are in carbon dioxide application for IOR in conventional and unconventional plays, phase behavior, foam mobility control/stimulation and numerical simulation.


Dr. GeorgiosTsoflias, a Co-Principal Investigator, is an Associate Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Geology at KU. George has ten years of industry and government experience in seismic interpretation for development of hydrocarbon resources in offshore Gulf of Mexico, Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma. His research at KU over the last eleven years has focused on high-resolution geophysical methods for imaging flow in fractured rocks, and exploration seismic methods for the study of unconventional resources in the midcontinent.


Dr. Lynn Watney, a Co-Principal Investigator, is a Senior Scientific Fellow with the Kansas Geological Survey and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas.  He has over 38 years of experience in regional and field-scale petroleum geology. He has conducted collaborative research since the late 80’s funded by Department of Energy and the petroleum industry including recent efforts in the utilization of CO2 for EOR.


Dr. John Doveton a Co-Principal Investigator, is a Senior Scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey and Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Geology and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (C&PE) at the University of Kansas (KU). He has over forty years of experience in petrophysics and mathematical geoscience applications to reservoir characterization. He has published four books on petrophysics including the recent (2014) “Principles of Mathematical Petrophysics”.


Dr. Tandis Bidgoli, a Co-Principal Investigator, has contributed to a number of industry projects as a structural geologist for ExxonMobil.  She has also participated in a several externally funded research projects focused on faults in Nevada. She recently joined the KGS (January 2014), but brings significant petroleum geology and structural analysis expertise to the project. Tandis serves as a Co-Investigator for several DOE sponsored projects at KGS.


Dr. Hajar Aghababa, a Co-Principal Investigator, is an economist and a research associate in Institute for Policy and Social Research (IPSR) at the University of Kansas. Her primary research focus is energy market. She has also taught courses in the area of uncertainty and decision analysis in the unconventional reservoirs for well-known service companies. Hajar has a strong statistics background and worked on collaborative projects in the area of optimization of oil and gas production from unconventional reservoirs under uncertainty.


Mr. Yevhen Holubnyak, the Co-Investigator, is a Petroleum Engineer at Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) at the University of Kansas (KU). Yevhen managed and worked on numerous projects which were performed in conjunction with Department of Energy (DOE) and industry partners, for instance, he managed Souring of Bakken Reservoirs study and performed reservoir modeling and characterization on several CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery projects while working at Energy and Environmental Research Center in North Dakota. Currently, Yevhen is a Co-Investigator for several DOE sponsored projects at KGS.



Our labs  are equipped with high performance computers equipped with 8 cores 512 GB RAM , 12 cores 48 GB of RAM and high performance graphics card for large scale reservoir simulations. Commercial softwares available in the lab include Ocean, PetroMod, PipeSim, Techlog, Eclipse and Petrel from Schlumberger, Winprop, IMEX, GEM, STAR, CMOST from Computer Modeling Group, Inc. Seismic data interpretation and analysis software includes IHS Kingdom, CGG Hampson-Russell, ikon Science, and VISTA for in-house seismic data processing. Moreover, in-house modeling capabilities will be used for this thrust area.