Reservoir Geomechanics Research Group Quarterly Newsletter

Reservoir Geomechanics Research Group Quarterly Newsletter

January 15, 2021


Welcome to the double edition of the [RG]2 Quarterly Newsletter, covering July through December 2020. This month’s cover image is courtesy of Edmonton photographer Leroy Schulz, who has been taking drone images of Edmonton and highlighting interesting bits of local history for the past year or so. You can clearly make out the distinctive roof of NREF at the top right edge of this photo of the University of Alberta campus.


Although classes continue being held primarily online and Campus was closed to all non-essential research, with modifications to accommodate pandemic measures and conscientious management of our resources we have been able to make significant progress on a number of projects and research objectives.

We are nearing the end of the first (NSERC) year of the program and would like to hold (virtually) our 1st Annual Research Symposium in February. The program will consist of two half-day forums where the full breadth of the research program and the outcomes from the first phase of the research program (2014 – 2019) can be reported on along with our progress during this current phase of the research program (2019 – 2026).


Despite the extraordinary challenges we’ve experienced, we have had an extraordinary year. The students have been unable to carry out work on Campus for several months and as a result have focussed on data analysis, literature review, and thesis writing. The pandemic has delayed graduation for a handful of our students, causing no shortage of frustration, but we hope to see these students successfully complete their final oral examinations in the first half of 2021. You will be able to hear about their work in depth at the Virtual Symposium planned for February.

In the Lab

Senior Research Engineer Gilbert Wong has been at the forefront of keeping our GIEs clean, safe, responsibly scheduled, and stocked with everything from hand sanitizer to the nuts and bolts needed for projects. In addition to carrying out his own work on data analysis and research, he has been diligently working on updating our Standard Operating Procedures and Safe Work Practices. Thank you, Gilbert, for your diligence and dedication!

In GeoREF, Dr. Noga Vaisblat as been focussing on our Aquistore project. All samples have been cut, trimmed, and cleaned and the average grain density and effective porosity of plugs were measured using Helium pycnometry technique. Gas (Nitrogen) permeability was measured using a Pressure Decay Profile Permeameter (PDPK-400) along the entire core (18 m). A petrophysical model is being built, and mineralogical analysis and geomechanical testing are ongoing.

In GeoPrint, we have upgraded the MFlex to include a new roller that increases the density of 3D-printed rock.

The GeoPrint Team is currently working with past [RG]2 Academic Visitor Matt Tsang in Australia, where he is using our 3D-printed rock to validate his new PFC model that will disrupt traditional thinking of rock mechanics. Work is also in progress on a paper covering 3D-printed rock projectiles.

Dr. Sergey Ishutov is currently working on creating an optimal model from CT data of a porous sandstone to print at the Nanoscribe printer at 1:1 scale. The model dimensions are small (1 cm in size), but the resolution is at nano-scale. This will allow us to print rock analogues for micro-flow experiments.

[RG]2 won a 2-year research award offered through the Heavy Oil Research Network (HORNET) program, Petroleum Technology Research Centre, and Mitacs Alberta. In this collaborative work between University of Alberta and University of Saskatchewan, [RG]2 will take advantage of the research capacities our GIEs to investigate “Scaled Physical Modeling of Geomechanical Implications of Wormholes During CO2-Based CSI in CHOPS Reservoirs” to explore enhanced oil recovery using CO2 injection.

By employing a geotechnical centrifuge and additive manufacturing (3D printing rock) technology, this research provides a better understanding of the dominant driving forces during cyclic injection of CO2 for sustainable, responsible, and transformative heavy oil production from CHOPS reservoirs in Canada and elsewhere. The investigators are Dr. Chalaturnyk, Dr. Shokri, Dr. Zambrano (from UAlberta) and Dr. Hawkes (from USaskatchewan) assisted with our [RG]2 centrifuge and design experts Mr. Yazhao Wang and Mr. Dmytro Pantov.

In the Field

Despite heroic efforts on the part of the away team to prepare for our trip to Nagra’s borehole site and deploy the second generation of the RGP2N tool (Reservoir Geomechanical Pressuremeter), we ran into a multitude of issues. Between pandemic travel restrictions and interrupted work schedules as we managed the shutdown on campus, we were forced to postpone until our timing matched up with the drilling of a second borehole 2021.

Nagra (National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste) is the Swiss technical competence centre in the field of deep geological disposal of radioactive waste. The deep borehole is being drilled as part of the geoscience siting program for a nuclear waste repository in Switzerland. As disappointing and frustrating as this has been for the Reservoir Geomechanics Research Group team who has poured countless hours into preparation, we are very excited that we have a second opportunity and will be arranging for the tool to arrive in Switzerland soon.

While it isn’t necessarily “field” work, teaching short courses certainly extends beyond the walls of our GIEs. Sergey Ishutov has spearheaded development and delivery of several 3D Printing Short Courses. While these were originally taught in person, he has adapted them to be delivered online. He taught two 3D printing short courses for European Association of Geologists and Engineering in July and August.

On December 16, 2020, alongside Dr. Rick and Gonzalo Zambrano, Sergey Ishutov taught a 6-hour short course at the American Geophysical Union Meeting. This course had 28 industry participants from the US and Canada. This follows on the heels of a very successful 3D Printing short course at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting from the 25-28 October, 2020. The course was instructed by Sergey Ishutov, Kevin Hodder, Rick Chalaturnyk and Gonzalo Zambrano and had 23 online participants from the US and Canada.

In addition to preparing this short course for the GSA, Gonzalo Zambrano and Sergey Ishutov served as chairs for 3D printing sessions at the Geological Society of America’s GSA: T253. (GSA, 514. 3D Printing for Geoscience and Engineering: Emerging Technology in Education, Research, and Communication).

While we do not have any upcoming 3D Printing Workshops or Short Courses, we are confident 2021 will bring more.


A. Khani, A. Rangriz-Shokri, R. Chalaturnyk, “The Investigation of Fluid Flow in the Fissured Clearwater Shale Using 3D Numerical Approach – Case Study of Joslyn Creek SAGD Project”, Geoconvention 2020 Calgary, September 21-23.

Our collaboration with visiting scholar from Yao Wang (China), has resulted in a paper published September 8th, 2020. A Comprehensive Experimental Study on the Behaviour, Microstructure, and Transport Properties of 3D Printed Rock Analogues. You can access this paper online here. Yao was fortunate enough to arrive before the pandemic and remain until the end of his Academic Visit.

3D printing of rock analogs in sand: a tool for design and repeatable testing of geomechanical and transport properties was presented at the 2020 Geoconvention Virtual Event.

Dr. Amir Haghi won the N.R. Morgenstern Award 2020 from Geotechnical Society of Edmonton. On December 3, the Geotechnical Society of Edmonton (GSE) presented Amir H. Haghi, PhD, winner of the 2020 N.R. Morgenstern Award (previously the GSE Graduate Student Award). His talk, “Geomechanical Controls on Multiphase Fluid Flow in Naturally Fractured Carbonate Reservoir”, is now available. Congratulations, Amir!


REFLECTING ON 2020: living the pandemic life

From adapting to work-at-home orders and going through extensive Safety Protocol revisions and training for Students and Personnel continuing to work in the Laboratory, to the stress of delayed visa processing times and deadlines repeatedly being pushed back, to the mental and emotional strain of being cut off from family and friends both near and far, to members of our team who contracted, fought, and won the battle with CoVID19, continuing research during the CoVID19 pandemic presented [RG]2 with a great many challenges.

Along with these challenges, however, came some unexpected opportunities. Adapting to our new (albeit temporary) work conditions, we were all forced to become very creative with how we stay in touch. Along that curve one of the most interesting adaptations has been extensive use of online communication platforms. In addition to email and text and messages across countless platforms we became hyper-proficient at managing online filing cabinets and shared documents. We mastered lighting and sound for running and attending online classes, conferences, and meetings. Some even hosted or attended online Parties in virtual houses! The greatest aspect of knowing that we can and do continue to communicate virtually until it is safe to return to a new normal, dystopian sci-fi got it wrong – we didn’t turn into technology-dependent automatons. Rather, being forced to work remotely and stay isolated from loved ones for prolonged periods of time has proved to us all how much we all miss, crave, and need human interaction.

As we look forward to the lockdowns coming to an end and borders opening up, it is important now more than ever to shine a light on the positives. Despite having “nothing to do” we managed to do a lot! The pandemic allowed most of us to rediscover our own communities. Some of us were able to focus on things like planting vegetable gardens and completing projects around our homes that we may otherwise have been too busy to do. Many people found joy in having the time to try new recipes and cooking techniques while others took up hobbies such as biking, hiking, handiwork, photography, painting, furniture building, and so forth. And of course, most of us found time to take it easy and binge our (old and new) favourite TV shows and movies.

The tragedy of living a “cancelled” life was far outshone by the unflappable human need to not just survive but thrive. For [RG]2, convocation was cancelled, but people still graduated, weddings were cancelled, but marriages still happened, and baby showers were cancelled, but children were still born. We hope that everyone takes this moment to reflect and be grateful for the unexpected gifts 2020 brought, and join us as we enter 2021 with the promise of being able to return to our classrooms and offices and labs, hug our loved ones at home and abroad, and celebrate overdue milestones with cake and champagne.

Copyright 2021 [RG]2. Every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy of the information published herein and any errors or omissions are entirely unintentional. Please report discrepancies or corrections to

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