Researcher to study Earth's subsurface stress during oil and gas production

Ashley Nottingham
March 12, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State researcher Amin Mehrabian was recently awarded a $110,000 grant from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund to study subsurface stress in hydrocarbon reservoirs.

 “Oil or gas extraction from the Earth’s crust alters the mechanical equilibrium of the subsurface rock. Poromechanics theory enables us to identify the evolving states of rock stress when producing fluids from it,” said Mehrabian, assistant professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering.

This large-scale operation can be compared to water in a sponge.

"When a wet sponge is squeezed, fluid will drain out. Conversely, the sponge will tend to shrink in size if you withdraw enough water from it. My research seeks to find out how rock deforms when producing hydrocarbon form the underground energy resources. Nearly all phases of an oil or gas field development project will require accurate knowledge of the subsurface stress. It is, therefore, necessary to improve our understanding of the intimate entanglement between the rock solid and its pore fluid behaviors,” said Mehrabian.

This fundamental research, said Mehrabian, could potentially help us better plan the wells, drill less-costly wells, produce more efficiently from the wells, and maintain the overall well integrity during the production life of the wells.

“This grant will certainly help me advance my research at Penn State. The research outcomes may be used to solve applied problems of interest in various phases of a hydrocarbon field development project from drilling and completions to production and workover operations,” said Mehrabian.

Research funded by this grant will begin in September.

Last Updated March 14, 2019