Missouri S&T is the only university in America to offer mechanical earth modeling (MEM) as part of the undergraduate petroleum engineering curriculum. Now with a $225,000 gift from Chevron through its University Partnership Program, S&T is one step closer to establishing a MEM Center of Excellence to build the program.
“One of the strengths of our program is to include mechanical earth modeling into the undergraduate environment,” says Andreas Eckert (above), an 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 assess 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— that is, inducing an earthquake on a fault by changing the subsurface pore pressure — when fluids are injected or withdrawn.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.