Mechanical earth modeling (MEM) is the latest wave in petroleum engineering, and Missouri University of Science and Technology is at the forefront of offering this multidisciplinary approach to its students.
And with a $225,000 gift from Chevron through its University Partnership Program, Missouri S&T is one step closer to establishing an MEM Center of Excellence to ensure its place among educational leaders. Mechanical earth modeling uses geologic assessment tools to create 3-D and numerical models to describe the mechanical state of a region of the earth, which, for example, helps to direct drilling and mining operations.
Currently, Missouri S&T is the only university in America to offer MEM as part of the undergraduate petroleum engineering curriculum. Besides taking multiple geology classes, students take structural geology, finite element analysis with petroleum engineering applications, and a mechanical earth modeling class. The Chevron gift will be used to help expand MEM education throughout the nation, and Missouri S&T is partnering with Pennsylvania State University and Louisiana State University to grow programs of their own.
“One of the strengths of our program is to include mechanical earth modeling into the undergraduate environment,” says Dr. Andreas Eckert, assistant professor of geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering at Missouri S&T. Eckert teaches undergraduate courses in Finite Element Analysis and MEM.
The petroleum industry has extensively used mechanical earth modeling in the last 15 years, but there’s a gap between the industry and academia, Eckert says.
Eckert also teaches the graduate course Advanced Mechanical Earth Modeling 1, in which students compile and analyze numerical MEM data, using a variety of approaches to reach the same goal. They use seismic (fault) analysis; geological maps; well logging; and lab rock mechanics to test rock strength. When all the data is gathered, they analyze it and produce 3-D earth models and numerical models that quantify subsurface stress environments of geologic structures. This knowledge can help predict where a well can be drilled safely or to asses risk of fracturing reactivation — that is, inducing an earthquake on a fault by changing the subsurface pore pressure — when fluids are injected or withdrawn.
“As a result, our students are well prepared for tasks such as hydrologic fracturing,” Eckert says.
The Chevron gift is also used to fund a Ph.D. student through the Chevron Doctoral Scholar of Mechanical Earth Modeling that covers tuition and a 50 percent full time equivalent of about $26,000 a year. It also covers faculty travel, software licenses, computer equipment and faculty support.
“Chevron recognizes Missouri S&T as an academic leader in MEM education, which is a critical skill set for our industry,” says Bill Hunter, Chevron’s manager of university affairs. “We are pleased to be able to partner with Missouri S&T to help develop their MEM Center of Excellence and facilitate partnerships with other universities to further advance education in the MEM space.”
To learn more about the doctoral scholar position or to apply, contact Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org.