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.

Let's take a brief look at what you can expect to learn in our Petroleum Geology Course.

Petroleum Geology and Engineering Course Content Overview

  • The Global Energy Marketplace
  • The History of Extraction
  • Hydrocarbons and Petroleum Geology
  • Petroleum Systems
  • Hydrocarbon Exploration
  • Leasing and Permitting

The Global Energy Marketplace lesson weaves together foundational threads on energy concepts and units, sources of energy, and the core role of energy in our everyday lives. The lesson takes the learner on a journey through various geopolitical landscapes, international energy resources, and how they intersect with society in the world today. You can explore the supply and demand side of the global energy equation through a variety of interactive graphs and charts. The final topics at the end of the lesson cover energy utilization in the United States and the importance of the shale revolution. This first lesson in the Petroleum Geology course gives you a broad overview of the current situation and future trends.

Next, The History of Extraction lesson guides you through the start of the current energy picture and leads you to where we are today. You get a glimpse of extraction, combustion, case studies of oil fields, and a general overview of oil and gas regulation.

The Hydrocarbons and Petroleum Geology lesson offers insight into basic hydrocarbons, including the essentials of geology, basic rock types, and how plate tectonics contributes to petroleum resources.

The Petroleum Systems lesson explores the fundamental elements needed for petroleum accumulation. A successful petroleum system requires the perfect timing of hydrocarbon generation, maturation, migration, and trapping. You will better understand how geologists investigate the earth to find just such a perfect ordering of events, both for conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources. 

The Hydrocarbon Exploration lesson presents the sophisticated methods used to search for petroleum resources. You can explore the data types and maps that enable geologists to find key elements such as geological structures. These technical aspects of the search for petroleum often result in subsurface models for exploration targets.

In the final lesson on Leasing and Permitting, the initial phases of operations set the stage for future drilling, evaluation and production at a site. What are the various components of the lease? What terms help protect the landowner? Who issues permits? What is the process for obtaining a permit?

The Petroleum Geology course provides you with a fundamental understanding of what typically happens ‘ahead of the bit’ - that is - before the drillbit enters the ground. A self-check at the end of each lesson provides the opportunity to refresh and cement your knowledge so that you are ready for the next lesson.

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

Let's take a brief look at what you can expect to learn in each lesson within the emerging trends and communications course.

Emerging Trends and Communications Course Content Overview

  • Underground Injection
  • Induced Seismicity                    
  • Subsurface Containment 
  • Rhetorical Strategies                    
  • Knowing Yourself and Social Networks
  • Difficult Situations

The first lesson in the emerging trends and communications course provides an introduction to different classes of underground injection wells and their primary application. The course explains primacy, class I, class II, class III, class IV, class V and class VI wells, and the importance of particular classes to oil and gas operations and geothermal energy. An in-depth segment within the underground injection lesson explains the use of of various injection techniques to enhance production. Specific lessons discuss the role of carbon dioxide injection, both for enhanced oil recovery and storage, in the move toward sustainability.

The next lesson covers induced seismicity: often low magnitude earthquakes caused by human activity such as geothermal energy access, wastewater injections, hydraulic fracturing. This lesson includes foundational information on seismic waves, the earthquake measurement process, a brief history of natural earthquakes, and the geomechanics of fluid injection. A case study references induced seismicity at the DFW Airport, and the public’s concerns over petroleum operations.

The lesson on subsurface containment discusses the critical aspects of well integrity and subsurface integrity. This lesson highlights components such as primary, secondary, and tertiary well control, well construction, and aging well infrastructure. Lesson content also includes case studies of several high profile incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon near Los Angeles.

The course concludes with three lessons designed to assist learners converse about emerging topics, many of which may be controversial. These communication lessons provide knowledge and training on rhetorical strategies, knowing yourself and social networks, and how to overcome difficult situations. Indeed, communications and proper self-assessment are critical in expressing and articulating ideas in a clean, concise, and well-constructed manner. This course helps you dive into the emerging trends present in the current energy sector and how you can engage in intelligent and trusted conversation around these topics.

Let's take a brief look at what you can expect to learn in each lesson within the emerging trends course.

Emerging Trends Course Content Overview

  • Underground Injection
  • Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage
  • Induced Seismicity                    
  • Subsurface Containment

The first lesson in the emerging trends course introduces underground injection wells (UIC) and their primary applications. The course provides a brief overview of regulatory issues, including primacy, describes the different classes of injection wells, and discusses the importance of particular classes to oil and gas operations and geothermal energy. An in-depth segment within the underground injection lesson explains the use of various injection techniques to enhance the recovery of oil and gas.

The lesson on carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) presents the role of carbon dioxide injection, both for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and storage, in the move toward sustainability. The recent rule establishing a new class (VI) of injection wells, as well as a number of policy and tax incentives in the U.S., have created renewed interest and activity around CCUS technology. This lesson covers general history and specifics of Class VI wells, the role of EOR in storage, misconceptions about carbon dioxide, protections for drinking water resources, and Class VI well considerations, such as storage capacity, injection rate and storage mechanisms.

The next lesson covers induced seismicity: often low magnitude earthquakes caused by human activity such as geothermal energy access, wastewater injections, and hydraulic fracturing. This lesson includes foundational information on seismic waves, the earthquake measurement process, a brief history of natural earthquakes, and the geomechanics of fluid injection. A case study references induced seismicity at the DFW Airport and the public’s concerns over petroleum operations.

The lesson on subsurface containment discusses the critical aspects of well integrity and subsurface integrity. This lesson highlights primary, secondary, and tertiary well control, well construction, mechanical integrity testing, aging well infrastructure and integrated subsurface containment strategies. Lesson content also includes case studies of several high-profile incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and surface expressions in the San Joaquin Valley area of California.

Let's take a brief look at what you can expect to learn in each lesson within the Effective Communications Course.

Effective Communications Course Content Overview

  • Rhetorical Strategies                    
  • Knowing Yourself and Social Networks
  • Difficult Situations

The course contains three lessons designed to assist learners when conversing about emerging topics, many of which may be controversial. These communication lessons provide knowledge and training on rhetorical strategies, knowing yourself and social networks, and how to overcome difficult situations. Indeed, communications and proper self-assessment are critical in expressing and articulating ideas in a clean, concise, and well-constructed manner. This course helps you engage in intelligent and trusted conversation around emerging trends present in the current energy sector.

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