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Research Institutes, Facilities, and Laboratories

The School of Geology and Geophysics has state of the art research facilities across a broad sprectrum of the geosciences.  Ranging from field instruments to experimental apparatus to computing software and hardware, SGG provides students with the tools necessary to complete cutting edge research.

See Highlighted Research on the sidebar (under Research link) for a few of the new/current projects in which our faculty and students are involved.

The List of Faculty by Research Area on the sidebar (under Research link) highlights the primary research areas of our faculty. Please contact faculty for more information about laboratory facilities or related research projects. 

Institute for Reservoir Characterization

Director of the Institute is Dr. Roger Slatt who has had a 14 year career in the oil and gas industry with Cities Service Co. and ARCO/ARCO International, focused on various aspects of reservoir characterization globally. He also has had a 17-year career in academia, including Head of the School of Geology and Geological Engineering at Colorado School of Mines (1992-2000), Director of the School of Geology and Geophysics at University of Oklahoma (2000-2005), and Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (1995-2000).  Faculty collaborators include Drs. Younane Abousleiman (OU), Paul Philp (OU), Neal O’Brien (State University of New York-Potsdam), Eric Eslinger (The College of St. Rose, New York), Yoana Walschap (OU) and Robert Davis (Schlumberger).

Institute research focus is in the areas of unconventional resource shales, reservoir characterization and deepwater petroleum geology.  More than 50 students have received their M.S. and Ph.D. degrees through Institute studies under Dr. Slatt’s direction.  Courses in Introduction to Reservoir Characterization and Advanced Reservoir Characterization are offered to OU graduate students annually.

Inter-disciplinary courses on applied reservoir characterization, as well as collaborative or consortium research programs, are available through the Institute to industry professionals globally.

Crustal Imaging Facility (CIF)

The mission of the Crustal Imaging Facility (CIF) at the University of Oklahoma is to provide computer hardware, software, data, and user-support to students and professors of the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy for both teaching and research using geophysical and geological data.  Through the generosity of software vendors, CIF provides students education using state-of-the-art petroleum exploration and development applications.  Through the generosity of exploration companies, national oil companies, and data brokers, CIF provides access to high-quality 3D seismic (including multicomponent), electric log, image log, microseismic, and production data for both interdisciplinary instruction and for testing and validating innovative processing workflows, interpretation hypotheses, and algorithm development.

The Crustal Imaging Facility is the primary high-end interpretation and computation facility for the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics. Classes using hands-on applications as learning tools are conducted in the Crustal Imaging Facility.  The facility also provides the framework for laboratory exercises in reservoir characterization, seismic modeling and migration, 3D seismic processing, exploration geophysics, 3D seismic interpretation, and quantitative seismic interpretation.   Beyond supporting instruction at both the graduate and undergraduate level, the Crustal Imaging Facility serves as the computational platform for research in seismic processing and imaging, seismic geomorphology, computer-assisted structure and fracture analysis, reservoir characterization, and integrated seismic and potential field imaging of the earth’s crust. Over the past 25 years, the well-trained and enthusiastic students engaged in this research have become key players in the energy industry.

The Crustal Imaging Facility is housed in room 1014 Sarkeys Energy Center. Hardware consists of 22 dual-monitor workstations running Windows,  a Linux-based data server, four 8-processor, and one 12-processor Linux compute servers, a tightly linked 6x8=48 processor server and over 60 Terabytes of disk space. In addition, we have six 144 processors  of dedicated processing power housed within OU’s 2772-node supercomputer center, ,where very large jobs can also be run using a batch queuing system.

Through the generosity of software vendors, the Crustal Imaging Facility hosts complete licenses to Schlumberger’s Petrel Interpretation and Reservoir Simulation software, Hampson Russell seismic inversion, geostatistics, neural networks, AVO, well-tie, and time-lapse seismic software, Tesseral’s 2D finite difference and ray-trace modeling software, Geocenter’s SeisUp seismic processing software, Landmark’s Promax seismic processing software, Techlog applications, and a full suite of Transform’s interpretation software.

Devon Powder X-ray Diffraction and Clay Mineralogy Laboratory

The Devon lab includes equipment for the preparation and analysis of rock and mineral samples by powder X-ray diffraction, including clay mineral separations.   A Rigaku Ultima-IV X-ray diffractometer features cross-beam optics, allowing rapid switching between Bragg-Brentano and parallel-beam optical configurations.  Scintillation and Si-strip detectors are mounted with a Y-arm system that facilitates either extremely rapid or extremely precise data collection.  The Ultima IV can also be configured for grazing incidence measurements of thin films on diffracting surfaces.  Additionally, the lab is equipped for preparation of bulk rock samples, with tools such as a McCrone Micronizing mill, and for the treatment of rock samples for clay analysis, requiring a sequence of extraction steps involving a number of chemical and physical treatments.  To accomplish the clay separations, the lab contains a centrifuge, a dialysis bath, desiccators, a drying oven, a furnace, a heating water bath, and a microbalance.  For data analysis, updated software tools such as MDI Jade, MDI ClaySim, and Rigaku PDXL are interfaced with databases from the International Centre for Diffraction Data.

Electron Microprobe Laboratory

Electron Microprobe Laboratory

The electron microprobe laboratory is built around a fully automated CAMECA SX100 microanalyzer. The five wavelength-dispersive spectrometers, Thermo Ultra-Dry SDD energy-dispersive detector, and GATAN PanaCL/F cathodoluminescence detector are fully integrated for all analytical and imaging functions (secondary electron, backscattered electron, absorbed current, and CL signals). The system provides quantitative elemental microanalysis of boron to uranium; digital acquisition of electron, x-ray intensity, and cathodoluminescence images; image analysis and other data processing routines. A full description of the laboratory and its functions is available at:

Experimental Petrology Laboratory

The experimental petrology laboratory has facilities for mineral synthesis, calibration of phase equilibrium reactions, and petrologic analogue or simulation experiments. In addition to sample preparation facilities, the experimental laboratory contains 18 externally heated cold-seal reaction vessels for routine operation to 850° C, 200 MPa, and two vessels capable of operation to 700° C, 400 MPa. 

Field Geophysics Lab

The Field Geophysics Lab at the University of Oklahoma includes a wide range of equipment for near-surface and basin- to crustal-scale geophysical imaging. Seismic sensors and recording equipment include 9 Nanometrics Trillium Compact broadband seismometers and 9 Taurus digitizers, 3 Geode seismic recording boxes with 72 channels on cables with 10 m, 4.5 m, or 0.5 m take-outs, and 10-Hz and 28-Hz geophones. Seismic sources include an ATV with a PEG-40 seismic 'thumper' source, a betsy gun, and sledgehammers. Potential field equipment includes a CG-5 gravimeter, a G-858 magnetometer, and 3 G-856 magnetometers. The lab owns a Sensors and Software GPR system with 100 MHz and 50 MHz antennas, and a GEM-2 for electromagnetic studies. Multiple Unix and Linux servers and a full suite of software (ProMAX, Petrel, Oasis Montaj, etc.) are available for data processing and interpretation.

Fluid Inclusion Microthermometry Laboratory

This facility is used to assess the compositions and physical properties of fluid inclusions through microthermometric techniques. In addition to specialized sample preparation equipment, the laboratory includes a new Linkam TH600 programmable heating/freezing stage on a Zeiss
Research Photomicroscope.

Gas Hydrates Lab

Gas Hydrates Laboratory

The Gas Hydrates Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma is fully equipped to conduct, monitor, and analyze gas hydrate thermodynamic and kinetic experiments. Two Parr® pressure vessels are used as hydrate reactors with external heating/cooling systems which can achieve experimental temperatures from -50 to 400 degrees Celsius.  The reactors are instrumented with digital thermocouples and pressure transducers which are monitored and recorded with a custom designed Labview® system.  High Pressure Liquid Chromotography (HPLC) pumps are available for fluid injection.  Hoods are used for ventilation and methane and carbon dioxide sensors monitor explosion and suffocation hazards in the laboratory.  Liquid nitrogen dewars are also available for sample storage and transport.

Geophysical Data Analysis and Modeling Laboratory

The Geophysical Data Analysis and Modeling Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma is a major teaching and research facility and is well equipped with software to analyze and model a variety of geophysical data. It is strongly linked to the Crustal Imaging Facility but contains six Windows X64 dual-monitor, dual-core workstations with 4GB of RAM and large dual screens. These computers contain a variety of state-of-the-art software including ENVI for the analysis of remote sensing data, OASIS Montage for analysis of gravity and magnetic data, GMSYS for modeling gravity and magnetic data in 2-D and 3-D, and ArcGIS for spatial integration of multiple types of data.

Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis Laboratory

The INAA laboratory contains gamma-ray spectrometers for the determination of rare-earth element and other trace element abundances in neutron-activated geological materials.

Laurence S. Youngblood Energy Library

The current collection contains over 170,000 map sheets and approximately 92,000 catalogued volumes on the subjects of geochemistry, geology, geomorphology, geophysics, hydrology, mineralogy, paleontology, petrology, stratigraphy, structure and tectonics. The interdisciplinary nature of the earth sciences is supported by Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Engineering branch Libraries. Bizzell Memorial Library contains the biological sciences and the internationally recognized History of Science Collections.

Organic Geochemistry/Stable Isotope Laboratory

The organic geochemistry /stable isotope laboratories have state of the art wet chemistry facilities and instrumentation for the isolation and analysis of organic compounds from geologic materials. 

Dr. Engel has two HPLC systems and a HP GC/MSD instrument used for the analysis of amino acids and peptides.  He has a conventional stable isotope laboratory equipped with vacuum lines and a Delta E isotope ratio mass spectrometer for high precision stable carbon isotope analyses of organic matter and carbonates and stable oxygen isotope analyses of carbonates and water.

Dr. Engel also has a state of the art Thermo Delta V Plus isotope ratio mass spectrometer that is equipped for continuous flow as well as with a dual inlet for conventional off-line analyses.  For continuous flow, the instrument is interfaced to a Costech Elemental Analyzer for stable carbon, nitrogen and sulfur isotope analyses and a Thermo TC/EA system for stable hydrogen isotope analyses. The instrument is also interfaced to a Thermo gas bench system for automated analyses of carbonates (carbon, oxygen) and water samples (oxygen).

Petroleum Geochemistry and Environmental Forensics Laboratory

The Petroleum Geochemistry and Environmental Forensics Laboratories undertakes research in a wide variety of areas related to both petroleum exploration and production and environmental issue. In order to do this a wide range of analytical equipment is required in both areas.

These laboratories are again equipped with all the equipment necessary for extraction and isolation of a variety of compounds from many different matrices-soil, air, water, source rocks, oils etc.

The initial characterization involves gas chromatography and we have 10 gas chromatographs with a variety of detectors that enable hydrocarbons, S, N, and Cl containing compounds to be determined.  In addition we have a high temperature gas chromatograph that enables hydrocarbons up to C120 to be determined.

We have 3 gas chromatograph–isotope ratio mass spectrometers which again are used for a wide variety of samples both environmental and petroleum related. In addition we have a dedicated Agilent GCMS system used for determining Cl isotope compositions of groundwater contaminants. These systems also have purge and trap systems associated with them to permit characterization of contaminants in water samples.

We also have an Agilent GCMS system that is used for characterization of crude oils and rock extracts to determine biomarker distributions that unravel the origin and history of the source rock and oil.  A dedicated microscale sealed vessel pyrolysis system is available to undertake laboratory maturation studies of source rocks.

The 2G cryogenic magnetometer (with DC squids) and AF demagnetizer in the shield Paleomagnetic Laboratory.

Paleomagnetics Laboratory

The shielded Paleomagnetics laboratory is used for paleomagnetic and rock-magnetic studies. Equipment includes a 2G cryogenic magnetometer with DC squids, AF and thermal demagnetizers, impulse magnetizer, field equipment, and several magnetic susceptibility systems including a AGICO MFK-FA1 Multifunction Kappabridge.

Paleontology Laboratories, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Paleontological research is concentrated at the Sam Noble Museum, which includes fully equipped labs for invertebrate paleontology, vertebrate paleontology and paleobotany.  Large collection areas house more than half-a-million specimens.  In addition to various specimen preparation equipment, there are facilities for scanning electron microscopy and digital macrophotography.  Exhibits in the Ancient Life Gallery are fully integrated into undergraduate classes (GEOL 1024; GEOL 3513; GEOL 4413), and allow detailed study of fossils ranging from trilobites to dinosaurs.

Physical and Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory

The Physical and Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory is equipped for a wide range of low to moderate temperature geochemical experiments and field sample processing.  Geochemical reactors of various types including polyacrylate columns, pressure vessels, and custom-designed batch reactors, as well as stir plates, water baths, and shakers, are used to synthesize analyze the reactivity and rates of natural and laboratory materials.  The solution chemistry of field water samples and laboratory experiments are characterized with various electrodes and meters.  calorimetric methods using a Thermo Scientific Genesys 6 scanning UV-visible spectrophotometer, and elemental analysis with a PerkinElmer AAnalyst 800 combined flame / graphite furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer.  Graphite-furnace capability allows determination of elements in the ppb range.  Trace element work is facilitated by a Barnstead Nanopure Diamond ultrapure water system. Physical separation of clays, colloids, and nanoparticles is achieved through ultracentrifugation.  A Coy Labs anaerobic chamber allows experiments to be conducted at low oxygen fugacity, mimicking many subsurface/deep water environments.  A Quantachrome gas adsorption analyzer determines BET surface area and pore size distribution.  Atomic force microscopy (PNI Nano-R2) is used to quantitatively determine the topography of nanoscale mineral grains and measure spatially-resolved friction forces.

Rock Deformation Facilities

Three laboratories in the school are dedicated to the characterization of deformation and measurement of rock properties of interest in structural geology: the rock deformation laboratory, the stress analysis laboratory and the models laboratory.

High Pressure Rock Deformation Laboratory - In this laboratory, experiments can be run on rock samples under confining pressures up to 3kb, pore pressures up to 3kb, and variable strain rates. In addition, fluid-flow through the specimen can be measured while the rock is under load. The pressure vessel can handle both standard axial loading and transverse piston loading for the study of layered rock folding experiments.

integrated PoroMechanics Institute (iPMI)- Formerly known as the PoroMechanics Institute (PMI) offers an integrated platform to researchers of various disciplines including petroleum engineering, geology, geophysics, civil engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering to conduct general and applied research on the mechanics of porous media, in particular geomechanics applied to exploration and production of hydrocarbons. For a listing of current labs please click here.

Structural Geology Laboratory

The digital workroom includes two dual monitor Dell PC workstations, a Sun Blade workstation, and a SGI Octane workstation. The PCs are primarily used for GIS applications, Cross section construction and 3-D modeling. The Sun Blade and SGI workstations are primarily used for seismic interpretation (Landmark and Geoquest) and 3-D visualization.

The physical modeling laboratory is equipped with controlled hydraulic and electric displacement equipment. These are employed to exert a variety of displacement boundary conditions on models made of sand, clay or plaster. Most of the experiments done in this laboratory are directed toward studies of upper crustal deformation, primarily faulting and fracturing.

Thin Section Petrography Laboratory

This laboratory contains research quality microscopes for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty and researchers, to conduct petrographic research. It contains two Zeiss microscopes, including a Zeiss Imager Z1 which is capable of taking thin section photomicrographs. The lab also includes a Nikon reflecting light microscope and a Nikon binocular microscope.

Attribute Assisted Processing & Interpretation (AASPI)

During the past two decades, seismic attributes have become a key component not only in mapping structure and stratigraphy but also in a quantitative reservoir characterization. In addition to enhancing individual faults and discontinuities, geometric attributes help interpreters map axial planes for structural analysis, relate curvature to intensity and orientation of fractures, and map lateral changes in reflectivity to detect channels below seismic resolution. During the 2013 AASPI Consortium research program, we will continue our focus on poststack and prestack data conditioning, calibration of attributes to geological and engineering control, and the use of LMR and AVAz analysis of unconventional reservoirs. Our research is driven by the data provided by our sponsors, such that our primary efforts will be on the application of these attributes over resource plays and mature fields of North America (US, Canada, and Mexico) that have a combination of proprietary 3D surveys, production data, well logs, microseismic data, image logs, production logs, and core, within a well-understood geologic framework. We believe that a better understanding of the impact of acquisition, processing and imaging on seismic attributes is key to quantifying the errors in reservoir characterization and hydrocarbon estimation provided by modern attribute-driven geostatistics, neural networks, and clustering technology. In addition to research reports, we provide algorithm source code to all sponsors and attribute volumes to those sponsors who wish to provide us with 3D seismic data. More information can be found on the AASPI website.


Reservoir Characterization and Modeling Laboratory (RCML)

The RCML is directed by Professor Matt Pranter - Dr. Pranter and his students investigate the controls that stratigraphy, sedimentology, and structure play in regard to reservoir architecture, lithological and petrophysical-property heterogeneity, and reservoir performance. A fundamental goal is to assess the dominant controls on reservoir quality (both matrix and fracture) to more accurately map and model the spatial distribution of reservoir properties.

integrated PoroMechanics Institute (iPMI)

Established in 1992, the integrated PoroMechanics Institute (iPMI) offers an integrated platform to researchers of various disciplines including petroleum engineering, geology, geophysics, civil engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering to conduct general and applied research on the mechanics of porous media, in particular geomechanics applied to exploration and production of hydrocarbons.