How important is Geochemistry to Structural Geologist?
Question by Matt J: How important is Geochemistry to Structural Geologist?
I am currently a research geologist working for a oil recovery institute preforming reservoir characterization and static modeling. I’m thinking about going back to school for graduate studies to be a reservoir Geologist. Emphasis would be placed on structural geology and tectonics since they fascinate me so much. For me the physical earth is so exciting. I could care less what the elements are. I have even started taking some course work by using my university benefits to get free tuition. Currently I’m taking a geochemistry course that seems to be so focused a lot on isotope geochemistry. I really can’t stand it and doing horribly at it no matter how hard I work at it! So I thinking of dropping it…My question is how important is this field of study to me as a structural geologist? I don’t want to even set foot in a chemical lab or preform chemical experiments. Done that, and bored out of my mind. A lot of work for just a number. I am extremely interested in structural geology with the sub-fields/relations to structural traps, fault & fracture work and reservoir characterization. Thoughts? Suggestions?
Answer by carbonates
My suggestion as an exploration geologist: tough it out. If you really are going to fail, it is better to drop first, but it seems kind of early in the semester for that decision. Talk to your professor and see if there is some tutoring available.
The day will come when someone hands you a gas isotope analysis done in a recently drilled well and says “What does this tell us about our reservoir? What is the source of our gas? How much of it is biogenic? Why did we spend this money?” The other situation you might find yourself in is that your manager comes to you and says “Hey we are considering doing a surface geochemical survey to test the drainage of our “Giant Oil and Gas Field”, what do you think?” You might want to have something intelligent to say or at least be able to understand the vendor’s materials so you can evaluate the service. Or someday when you are working on your own and want to design a surface geochem survey on your own that will allow you to find oil and gas reservoirs without the high expense of seismic or drilling hundreds of wells, you might find it useful.
Take a look:
Mud gas analysis:
I admit that understanding isotope geochemistry is a bit far removed from structural geology and reservoir modeling (which has much more to it than structural geology), but the parts that will be most important for you to understand are how oil and gas are generated (catagenesis). Hopefully that is a part of the course but it would not surprise if it is not. My grad level class like this was actually titled Isotope Geochemistry. Organic chemistry classes that I took while still contemplating a chemical engineering major have turned out to be very useful to me as an exploration geologist. My isotope geochemistry classes were more interesting because of the quality of my professor but the inorganic isotopes are less useful for oil and gas. That doesn’t mean it is not useful to understand decay paths and rates, and how isotopes get sorted through various earth processes. They can be quite useful when doing basin modeling for instance and you are trying to determine timing of maturity and migration.
There are applications for isotope geochemistry in fracture study. Fracture occlusion often takes place in stages and understanding that can help you understand timing of migration or reservoir characterization. You may never be expected or even get the chance to see the lab work done, but that does not mean you will not have to interpret the results or specify the testing.
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