As I head off to the SPE/SEG Workshop: Injection Induced Seismicity - The Next Chapter in Dallas tomorrow, I'm reflecting on the overall trajectory of geomechanics as witnessed by yours truly (that is, probably not reflective of everyone's experience) along the course of my career. And I can't help but wonder what is next. Although I have some ideas, which I will keep to myself for now.
Us to Operators: You need geomechanics.
Operators: What the heck is geomechanics?
Us: Let us explain...
Operators: That's too complicated. We don't understand it. It can't be important.
[Note 10 year gap, as the field slooooowly grew]
Us: Hmmm, we better keep an eye on this "unconventionals" thing and all this hydraulic fracturing everyone's talking about.
Operators: "Geomechanics" (although we're still not really sure what it is) sounds like it's really important. So, big service companies, you need to provide it.
Big service companies: Quick, find a consultancy (or two, or three) and buy them! But keep them isolated from the rest of the company, because they're kind of weird and we're not sure where they fit in.
Us (now part of big service companies): Sure, we can help you with geomechanics. Hydraulic fracture modeling? Uh, sorry, different department, and we're not allowed to talk to them. DFIT interpretation? What’s a DFIT?
Us: Holy cow. There seems to be a lot of people doing what they're calling geomechanics, but they don't really know what they're doing. How are we going to fix this? There aren't enough of us to spread the word. This can't turn out well...
2010 - 2015
Engineers: We got this. You geomechanics people go away. Geology isn't important.
Investors: Easy money! Here's some more cash.
2016 - 2018
Public: Um, why are we having so many earthquakes in Oklahoma?
Us: Let us explain...
Operators (now almost exclusively made up of engineers and bean counters): Yeah, ok, injecting wastewater into the subsurface does seem to be causing some earthquakes, but hydraulic fracturing? Don't be ridiculous. That's impossible. And, besides, look at how much oil and gas we're going to produce! Take that, Middle East!
Us: OK, but speaking of hydraulic fracturing, are you sure that just fracking the snot out of everything without regard to the rock is the way to go?
Operators: Yes, we are. By the way, the price of oil is horrible. You're fired. I mean, sorry, we don't need you anymore. We're calling it a layoff. Sounds better that way.
Public, regulators, academics: Sorry, operators, but your hydraulic fracturing IS causing earthquakes, and you need to do something about it.
Us: Those of us that are left are trying as hard as we can to figure it out, honest.
Whispers from various directions: We need to talk about casing shear...and frac hits.... and...
Us: Yes, well, let us explain... Oh, why bother. Nobody's listening.... again.
Investors to Operators: What is happening?! Where's the oil you promised? We want our money back.