The Center of Excellence in Formation Evaluation was created in 1997 as a research initiative put forth by the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering of The University of Texas at Austin. Professors Ekwere J. Peters and Larry Lake conceived of the original idea and charter for the project.
A short proposal was prepared and delivered by Professor Peters to high-profile executives of Baker Atlas, Halliburton, and Schlumberger. The proposal called for the establishment of a research center to cater to the technical and employee needs of the formation evaluation and well-logging industry. Professor Peters’ efforts proved timely and successful: each of the three companies agreed to support the initiative with an unrestricted grant amounting to approximately $1,250,000.00 payable in yearly installments through a period of five years. In turn, UT Austin’s College of Engineering agreed to support the hiring of a new faculty professor to take over the charter of the initiative.
A faculty selection process was quickly put in place and, as a result, then Assistant Professor Carlos Torres-Verdín was hired in August 1999. The unrestricted grant from Baker Atlas, Halliburton, and Schlumberger was used in part to provide startup funds. However, the main usage of the funds was intended to support graduate students working on research projects directly related to formation evaluation and well logging.
Many exciting things have happened since the inception of the Center of Excellence in Formation Evaluation in August 1999. Most importantly, we have adopted a structural change by modifying the name of the Center to “Formation Evaluation Program” and by having it be an integral part of the research efforts embraced by UT Austin’s Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (CPGE). This change constructively integrates our program with other challenging research projects currently undertaken by the CPGE. It also provides an enhanced pool of expertise from other UT Austin faculty members and research staff that translates into more creative and effective ideas, methodologies, and accomplishments.
Broadly speaking, the research charter of the Formation Evaluation Program is focused to the petrophysical characterization of the near-borehole region from core samples, well-logging measurements (open hole, logging-while-drilling, and cased hole), and in-situ permanent sensors. Three-dimensional seismic data, vertical seismic profiles, cross-well data (seismic, electromagnetic, tracers, etc.), well-interference measurements, tracer arrival data, and production information, are used to the extent that they provide a way to extrapolate laterally away from wells the petrophysical parameters estimated in the near-borehole region.
The research projects undertaken so far cover aspects of the formation evaluation discipline that go from the pore scale to the large sensing dimensions of seismic data. Emphasis has been placed on designing these projects in an integrated fashion that enforces an open line of communication and technical interaction among them. Also, in designing our research projects we have tried to capitalize on the extensive resources and expertise available at UT Austin in the fields of Petrophysics, Multi-Phase Flow in Porous Media, Numerical Simulation of Reservoirs, and Reservoir Engineering.
We have also made an enormous effort to actively seek industry participation and feedback from our three funding companies. This strategy has successfully spared us from pursuing research adventures of no value to the industry. On the other hand, our work has been able to maintain a unique element of creativity that fosters non-trivial lines of thought.