University of Texas at Austin


workshop on the Wilcox Group

On May 5, the STARR Group at the Bureau of Economic Geology, in conjunction with the Jackson School of Geosciences, gave an all-day workshop on the Wilcox Group at the Houston Core Research Center. The workshop, authored by Iulia Olariu, Bill Ambrose, Sigrid Clift, David Conwell, Shunli Li, Cornel Olariu, Ron Steel, Hongliu Zeng, and Jinyu Zhang, was titled “Depositional Systems and Facies Variability in the Wilcox Group in Texas”. It featured lectures on sequence stratigraphy, facies distribution, and paleogeography of the Wilcox Group from south Texas to the west margin of the Houston Embayment. The workshop culminated in a three-hour core workshop where participants were given a hands-on tour of cores representing a variety of facies in the Gulf Coast. 

workshop on the Wilcox Group


MSRL core workshop

Harry Rowe (top image) and Greg Frébourg (left) discuss new technologies and core characteristics with workshop attendees.

The Mudrock Systems Research Laboratory (MSRL) and the State of Texas Advanced Resource Recovery Project (STARR) presented a core workshop for 40 members of the Austin Geological Society on December 3. The workshop highlighted the Bureau’s extensive collection of core, including carbonates, shales, and sandstones.

After a morning of introductory lectures accompanied by lively discussion, Bureau researchers Steve Ruppel, Bob Loucks, Bill Ambrose, Harry Rowe, Greg Frébourg, and Jiemin Lu presented six cores from the Upper Cretaceous of the South Texas–Louisiana Shelf and the Western Interior Seaway. Cores included such currently productive units as the Eagle Ford Shale, the Niobrara Chalk, and the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale. Harry Rowealso demonstrated use of advanced core chemostratigraphy characterization equipment owned by the Bureau. (01-15)


geothermal energy

Stark, steamy volcanic crags buttressed by gleaming pipes leading to a power generating plant is how most of us probably think about geothermal energy. But the Bureau hosts a small team of innovative researchers who are certain that "unconventional geothermal" energy is the cheapest, cleanest way to meet Texas' electricity requirements for years to come. In an effort led by the Bureau's own geothermal energy evangelist, Bruce Cutright, Texas became the largest contributor of data to the newly-launched U.S. Department of Energy National Geothermal Data System (NGDS), an online open-source platform that facilitates the discovery and use of geothermal data, hopefully enabling future researchers to speed geothermal energy development.

Why does geothermal energy make so much sense today? For one thing, the development of binary-cycle heat exchanging systems, steam generators which use low-boiling point refrigerants instead of water to produce steam, allow us to tap into much cooler heat sources than "traditional" geothermal systems, which need to be located over geologic "hot spots". Bottom-hole temperatures of only 200 – 400 degrees are needed as the heat source for these new binary-cycle generators, and there are over 26,000 existing oil and gas wells in Texas alone which already meet that criterion.

A pair of these wells circulating hot brines through a binary-cycle heat exchanging system produces less expensive electricity than any other renewable energy source (according to a recent Department of Energy analysis ). This geothermal energy is also base load, consistent power (not intermittent), and the process produces absolutely no CO2. The economics for "unconventional geothermal" in Texas also seem to work. "Every oil producer in the state should look at this as a way to extend the economic life of mature or watered-out fields with high reservoir temperatures," says Cutright. "Look at the benefits – a continuing income stream for the operator, royalties for the landowner, and severance taxes for the state - what's not to like!" Geothermal energy is definitely hot these days! To learn more about the new NGDS, click here: 


STARR workshop

Gregory Frébourg (above) and Bob Loucks (left) discuss core samples with workshop attendees

On May 19, Bill AmbroseTucker HentzBob LoucksGregory Frébourg, and Eric Potter, members of the Bureau's STARR Group, in conjunction with the Austin Geological Society, conducted an all-day workshop on the Woodbine Group in East Texas field.

The workshop, titled "Sequence Stratigraphy, Depositional Systems, and Facies Complexity in the Woodbine Group in East Texas Field," featured lectures on the field history, sequence stratigraphic and facies framework, and diagenetic controls on reservoir quality. The workshop culminated in a three-hour core workshop where participants were given a hands-on tour of cores representing a variety of reservoir facies in the field. (06.14)


Geothermal conference

The Bureau is partnering with Southern Methodist University and corporate sponsors to present the 2011 Geothermal Energy Utilization Conference on the SMU campus in Dallas, June 13–15. The 3-day conference brings together research leaders from both business and academe to discuss specific issues relevant to expanding geothermal electrical production in oil and gas fields. Bruce Cutright of BEG’s STARR group will be presenting “Transformation of Tight Shale Gas Formations to Geothermal Energy Production,” a talk that explores the possibilities of substantially enhancing long-term energy resources by transitioning existing oil fields to geothermal energy production. The conference will explore these opportunities and discuss ready technologies that can make geothermal energy production economically competitive with wind, solar energy, and biofuels.

 Ursula Hammes and Rob Reed

Ursula Hammes and Rob Reed presented their latest STARR-sponsored research on shale-gas systems at the US Gulf Regional Mudstones as Unconventional Shale Gas/Oil Reservoirs Applied Geoscience Conference, which was organized by theHouston Geological Society and the Energy Mineral Division of AAPG in Houston. The sold-out conference was attended by 400+ geoscientists and engineers from industry and academe. Ursula presented a talk on "Sequence Stratigraphy, Depositional Environments, and Extent of the Haynesville Shale, East Texas," and Rob presented a talk with co-author Kitty Milliken titled "Particle Sources and Mudrock Properties: Contrasting Examples from Cenozoic Mudrocks of the Gulf of Mexico and Paleozoic Siliceous Mudrocks of the North American Mid-Continent." The two talks were well received, even amidst the variety of presentations on mudstones, which ranged from the history of mudstone geology to organic geochemistry and industry examples on shale-gas plays by both academe and industry.