Tight Oil Resource Assessment


The Tight Oil Resource Assessment (TORA) program is an industry consortium created in 2016 to fund a multidisciplinary study of tight-oil producing horizons in the Midland and Delaware Basins. In 2018, other tight, resource-reservoir evaluations and studies completed by the Bureau of Economic Geology were combined into the TORA consortium. TORA has built on a century of the Bureau’s Permian research and the recently completed national shale-play resource and production rate studies to analyze the complex gas- and oil-rich source-rock system.

Permian Basin Tight Oil Plays
Research Challenges

TORA narrows the range of recoverable resource estimates, building integrated, market-independent basin outlooks. TORA researchers employ a newly developed workflow utilizing 3D geocellular models. That workflow will predict ultimate hydrocarbon recoveries, economic viability, and playwide production rates. TORA studies tight oil and gas formations in order to produce unbiased, comprehensive, and publicly available results. The program brings together an integrated, multidisciplinary team who will create production outlooks and investigate the following topics:

  • Optimal well spacing and fracture design
  • Impacts of formation characteristics on fracture extent and effectiveness
  • Optimization of recovery in thick stratigraphic sections
  • Detailed facies description and analysis
  • Assessment of alternatives in areas having low recovery efficiency


Original oil in place: Midland Basin

Original oil-in-place estimates across the Midland Basin.

Well trajectories: Midland Basin

Midland Basin well trajectories color coded by landing formation (e.g., WCB = blue)









Midland Basin EUR distribution for each landing zone

Midland Basin EUR distribution for each landing zone

Research Thrusts

The TORA multidisciplinary team employs a bottom-up, highly iterative resource-evaluation process. The TORA research model allows team members from different disciplines to share information and inform study results. Team members are experts in their respective fields, which include:

  • Geology and petrophysics
  • Engineering
  • Economics
  • Water management



TORA Workflow

TORA workflow

The key questions of the study are:

  • What is the original resource in place (original gas and oil in place)?
  • What portion of the resource is technically recoverable utilizing current and likely future technologies?
  • What portion of the resource is economically recoverable given specific technology and economic assumptions?    
  • What are the short-term and long-term production outlooks under various energy prices, costs, technology, regulations?

The study is conducted by our integrated team of geoscientists, petro-physicists, hydrologists, geomodelers, engineers, statisticians, and economists utilizing a 3D geocellular model to help understand and predict ultimate hydrocarbon recovery, economic viability, and play-wide production.

Project Leaders

  • Bill Fairhurst, Project Manager
  • Svetlana Ikonnikova, Energy Modeler (co-PI)
  • Scott Tinker, Director BEG
  • Mark Shuster, Program Director Energy Research


  • Scott Hamlin, Geologist
  • David Carr, Petroleum Geologist
  • Bridget Scanlon, Hydrogeologist
  • Bob Reedy, Hydrogeologist
  • Robin Dommisse, 3D modeler
  • Katie Smye, Geologist/Petrophysicist
  • Ray Eastwood, Petrophysicist
  • Amin Gherabati, Petroleum Engineer
  • Gurcan Gulen, Energy Economist
  • Casee Lemons, Database specialist
  • Guin McDaid, ARC GIS specialist
  • Harold Rogers, Geotech

TORA studies tight oil formations including the Spraberry, Wolfcamp, Bone Spring, and Avalon relying on comprehensive stratigraphic, petrophysical, fluid, and core description. The initial steps of this multiyear project is to build a detailed interpretive framework. In subsequent years, the framework will be incorporated in multiple research projects targeting different technical issues.

TORA workflow

Midland Basin 5-facies well logs and distribution with fault interpretation.

TORA employs a multidisciplinary and highly iterative resource-evaluation process. This bottom-up approach has been developed and refined in a series of Sloan- and DOE-funded studies on several major shale-resource plays. The Permian Basin process will include the following:

  • Geology and petrophysics: We interpret the stratigraphic framework using digital well-log correlation and core descriptions, resulting in a basinwide 3D facies architecture used to guide petrophysical-attribute distribution. This framework is also used to calculate resource-in-place using both deterministic and stochastic scenario analysis.
  • Engineering: We model and match each well-production history before projecting future production. We perform decline analysis using innovative, physics-based in-house software. We use volumetric and machine learning approaches, integrated with geology, to determine the drainage volume and optimized spacing for wells.

    Well History and EUR
  • Statistical data analysis: We develop statistical algorithms combining various machine learning techniques to reveal relationships in the comprehensive database resulting from the previous steps of the analysis.
    Statistical Model
  • Economics: We subject a production outlook developed for each formation to sensitivity/scenario analysis for the full range of expected production outcomes per well, technological and cost improvements, commodity prices, basis differentials (logistics), pace of drilling, well attrition, and lease accessibility, among others.

    Economic Analysis
  • Water management: We investigate the full-cycle cost of water from drilling, completion, flowback, production, and disposal.
Joining TORA

Membership in TORA is $50,000 annually. Benefits to industry partners include the following:

  • Detailed insights from our geologic, petrophysical, engineering, statistical, economic methodologies in the form of semiannual update meetings and annual reports
  • Access to the multidisciplinary TORA research team
  • Leveraged funding through State of Texas support and other operator contributions
  • Consortium-supported data-sharing between companies and the Bureau
Interested in joining?

Please let us know if you would like for us to call or email you with further information. To learn more, please contact:

Bill Fairhurst, Project Manager

Find out more at www.beg.utexas.edu/tora  and  www.beg.utexas.edu/research/programs/shale.