CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

News

Senior Researcher, Ph.D. Student Recognized for Shale Research

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

By: 

Toby Weber
Dan Coleff

Dan Coleff, a senior researcher with the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering Petroleum Engineering Program and Geology Ph.D. candidate at UH, has been recognized for his work to develop artificial mudrocks that match the properties of shale.

Coleff won the award for the best poster presentation at a recent meeting of the Society of Sedimentary Geology’s Gulf Coast Section. His poster outlined research he is conducting with Michael Myers, a professor of petroleum engineering at UH.

While shale oil and gas have sparked an energy boom in the United States and beyond, actual shale rocks aren’t well understood. According to Myers, the petroleum industry’s knowledge of shale is decades behind its understanding of more traditional reservoir rocks. This lack of knowledge makes it more difficult and expensive for petroleum companies to safely retrieve resources from shale formations.

One of the challenges to better knowing shale is that there just isn’t much actual shale rock available for study. Most rock core samples are taken from traditional reservoirs, which don’t offer much shale. Since taking a core sample is extremely expensive, few pure shale cores are available.

Coleff and Myers are working to create artificial mudrocks that match the properties of shale. In doing so, they hope to provide researchers in industry and academia with an easy and affordable shale alternative to use in their own experiments.

To create these rocks Coleff combines clay, silt and other rock components in a brine. He then uses a device called an oedometer cell to apply roughly 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to the brine, dewatering the mixture to form solid rock.

Coleff compares the artificial mudrock with naturally occurring shale that has been crushed and reconstituted using the same method. If the two show similar properties in areas such as acoustical and petrophysical measurements, the artificial mudrocks can serve as a good substitute for shale in the lab.

This, Coleff said, should help researchers learn the important properties of shale more quickly. “If we can create our own shales and make the petrophysical models from these mudrocks, than we’re one step ahead of the game.”

While it’s a bit unusual for a graduate student in one college to conduct research under a professor from another, Coleff noted that UH’s Petroleum Engineering Program and its Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences complement each other in many areas; he hopes to see more such collaborations in the future. “This has been an excellent arrangement for me personally,” said Coleff. “Dr. Myers is always willing to go above and beyond for his students, plus there’s a natural fit between fields like geology and petroleum engineering. This sort of partnership really helps researchers from both disciplines.”

Faculty: 

Department: 

Related News Stories

UH Engineers, Chevron Introduce Houston-area Girls to STEM Fun

Science experiments dazzled and inspired participants at the 2018 Girls Engineering the Future! sponsored by Chevron.

The Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston was a happening place this weekend — rockets launched into the sky with great puffs of smoke, robots performed amazing feats, and propeller-powered cars raced down corridors as happy shrieks filled the air.

About a thousand Houston-area girls, from grades 4-8, flooded the Cullen College and its surroundings on Saturday, March 24 for the third annual “Girls Engineering the Future Day: A STEM Event,” sponsored by Chevron.

UH Engineering Rises in U.S. News Rankings

Professor Jose Contreras-Vidal, known for his work with prosthetics and brain-computer interfaces, with students.

The UH Cullen College of Engineering is several steps closer to landing a spot among the Top 50 engineering colleges in America.

The 2019 U.S. News and World Report rankings place the Cullen College on the list of the Best Engineering Schools of 2019. It moved up from #73 in the year before to #69. The ranking is shared by Clemson University, Colorado State University, Tufts University and the University of Iowa.