LAW 390: Introduction to Oil and Gas Law–Foundations

Understanding legal concepts in oil and gas law is aided by basic scientific and technical knowledge of the field. The Top Energy Training Course was designed by an educational consortium from Colorado School of Mines, The Pennsylvania State University and The University of Texas at Austin. The course was designed to assist regulators and policymakers by providing a multi-module curriculum of basic petroleum technology training.

This mini-course is composed of selected topics from the Top Energy Training Course. You will note that certain of the topics refer to others which were not chosen for this sampling. However, each topic stands alone for purposes of your training and for the knowledge check question(s) which follow each topic.

This course consists of thirty-five (35) topics and includes a total of fifty (50) knowledge check questions. The questions following each topic refer to that topic, only. You must correctly answer each question to complete the course, but you may answer each question multiple times until you answer the question correctly, understanding that it may be helpful to return to the text to refresh your knowledge following an unsuccessful attempt. Unlike a typical law school exam, the questions are not intended to test your analytical skill in employing legal concepts, but rather to test your acquired knowledge and comprehension of each selected topic.

Completing the course should take between three to four hours. Each topic and its corresponding knowledge check may take from approximately three to twelve minutes to complete and you can complete the course in any number of sessions required, dividing your study as your schedule allows. Successful completion of the course will add two (2) points to your final grade.

This course is designed to provide a broad overview of the historical, economic, and scientific context of modern energy exploration and production. It looks at global economic interdependencies in the energy sector, and explains the science of petroleum geology.

We will work to answer some big questions, like these:

  • How do oil and gas influence world politics and economies?
  • In what countries and regions are various hydrocarbons being produced and used?
  • Why is energy so important to everyone?
  • Where did hydrocarbons come from and how do we know where they are now?

After addressing these questions and many others, we will conclude with a look at the development of regulations, and the processes of leasing and permitting, setting the stage for the drilling and completion operations that will be covered in Petroleum Technology.

The Goal of Drilling

The end goal of drilling operations is simple: to create a safe, stable hole in the ground. The mechanics of accomplishing this goal, which will be covered in this section, are more complex.

Drilling operations should result in:

  • A wellbore that intersects the producing formation.
  • A wellbore that is isolated from groundwater and non-producing formations.
  • A wellbore that is capable of containing formation pressures.
  • A drill site that is safe and environmentally compliant.
  • A profit for the company drilling the well.

This course introduces the technologies that make drilling and completions possible, typical operational methods for drilling and completing wells, and methods for solving problems that come up during the drilling process.

This course covers the intersection between the oil and gas industry and the wider environment. It starts with an overview of the global water cycle and the energy-water nexus before closely examining the other concerns. The course ends with an overview of sustainable development as a best practice in all industrial environments.

Images: “Flint Skyline” by Connor Coyne

Split half and half between communications and rhetorical strategies and emerging technical and industrial concerns, this is the most varied of the courses. It provides an overview of hydraulic fracturing, induced seismicity, and subsurface containment, before a deep-dive in best practice of how to talk about these complicated processes.

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