Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Consortium

Interview with Mehdi Mokhtari — University of Louisiana, Lafayette

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale has been a tantalizing target for many years. It's an important source rock, but it has been difficult to successfully complete and produce. Now there is new hope as researchers and their work is receiving support. Welcome to an interview with Mehdi Mokhtari at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. His Tuscaloosa Marine Shale consortium has recently received support from the United States Department of Energy to explore new technologies for economically drilling and completing the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

What is your name and experience in geology?

Mehdi Mokhtari. I am Assistant Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. At UL Lafayette, I teach petrophysics and formation evaluation, and shale engineering courses. Early in my PhD program at Colorado School of Mines, I recognized the importance of integrating geology, geophysics and petroleum engineering to solve complex problems in earth science and engineering.

Where do you work? What are you involved in?

I am Assistant Professor of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Lafayette is a hub of petroleum industry, especially with service companies involved in Louisiana oil and gas and the Gulf of Mexico activities. Louisiana has also two major unconventional resources: Haynesville shale in the North and Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) in the central Louisiana and all the way in Mississippi. TMS has some estimation of 7 billion barrels of oil, yet very little is known about this resource play and the current production from TMS is negligible. Department of Energy recently supported a team of scientists from five institutions and several industry partners to establish a consortium to better understand unique challenges in the development of TMS. This project is led by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Describe the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) in Louisiana and Mississippi is an Upper Cretaceous source rock formation sandwiched between the sands of the upper and lower Tuscaloosa sections. The TMS is believed to be the source rock for underlying prolific Tuscaloosa sand formation.

What are the pros and cons of the TMS?

Compared to several other shale plays producing natural gas such as Marcellus or Haynesville, the TMS produces light sweet oil. This is important because the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts the need for substantially more tight oil production by 2040 to meet the energy demands of U.S. and its energy security. In addition, the development of the TMS in Eastern Louisiana and Southwest Mississippi has the potential for significant economic impact on these local communities.

What kinds of research are you doing? What kind of support have you received?

Currently, I am working on the establishment of TMSL (Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Laboratory) consortium. I believe that TMSL consortium will have a high impact on better understanding of TMS and disseminating knowledge for better economic decisions.

What are your objectives?

We have recognized several critical gaps in the understanding of TMS. Our goal is to address these critical gaps in the formation evaluation, drilling, impact of clay content, hydraulic fracturing, enhanced recovery mechanisms and socio-economical impact on local communities in Louisiana and Mississippi.

What are your next activities?

We have three-year detailed plan for TMSL consortium. With almost $4 M support from DOE, a strong team of scientists from five institutions and strong industry support, this is a unique moment for TMS. We welcome new companies to join TMSL consortium.

Don't miss a presentation on the TMS at the AAPG Haynesville and Re-Emerging Shale Plays Playmaker Forum, April 26 in Houston!

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