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Energy Applied Geomechanics Laboratory


The University of Texas at Austin
Energy Geomechanics at UT Austin
D. Nicolas Espinoza

August 2017


The Energy Geomechanics Laboratory explores the mechanics and physics of natural porous solids for applications in the energy industry. Our objective is to develop new techniques for hydraulic fracturing, improve methods for wellbore and reservoir geophysical monitoring, and advance knowledge to safely dispose energy waste in the subsurface. Specific fields of application include multistage hydraulic fracturing, coal bed methane, methane hydrate-bearing sediments, and geological carbon sequestration. 


The methodology combines experimental geomechanics, advanced geophysical imaging tools, and numerical simulation in order to understand and model diverse geomaterials for cutting-edge engineering applications. Our laboratory accounts with a high-pressure-high-temperature triaxial frame with real-time geophysical monitoring, an industrial X-ray microtomograph, a micro-scratcher, and other equipment developed for specific purposes.


  • Injection of reactive fluids in the subsurface can lead to changes in fracture pressure gradient;
  • Extensive mineral dissolution in a target geological formation may promote induced seismicity in adjacent formations;
  • Micro-scratch testing and signal analysis permits quantifying rock brittleness;
  • Ostwald ripening can change the pore-habit of clathrate hydrate;


The impact of our research is directed to better understanding, prediction, and manipulation of coupled processes in the subsurface. We target specific applications relevant to the energy industry including oil & gas, geothermal, and nuclear. The research seeks to enable engineering solutions for safe and sustainable use of natural resources.

Selected Publications

  • Espinoza D. N. and Santamarina J. C., "P-wave monitoring of hydrate-bearing sand during CH4-CO2 replacement", (2011), International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control , 5, p. 1031-1038, doi:10.1016/j.ijggc.2011.02.006.
  • Espinoza D. N., Pereira J.-M., Vandamme M., Dangla P., Vidal-Gilbert S., "Desorption-induced shear failure of coal bed seams during gas depletion", (2015), International Journal of Coal Geology , 137, 142-151.
  • Sun Y., Aman M., and Espinoza D. N., "Assessment of mechanical rock alteration caused by CO2-water mixtures using indentation and scratch experiments", (2016), International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control , 45, 9-17.
  • Espinoza D. N., Shovkun I., Makni O., Lenoir N., "Natural and induced fractures in coal cores imaged through X-ray computed microtomography - Impact on desorption time", (2016), International Journal of Coal Geology , 154, 165-175.
  • Shovkun I. and Espinoza D. N., "Coupled fluid flow-geomechanics simulation in stress-sensitive coal and shale reservoirs: impact of desorption-induced stresses, shear failure, and fines migration", (2017), Fuel , 195, 260-272.
  • Hernandez-Uribe L. A., Aman M. D., Espinoza D. N., "Assessment of Mudrock Brittleness with Micro Scratch Testing", (2017), Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering , doi: 10.1007/s00603-017-1279-y.

Core Competencies

  • Coupled processes in reservoir geomechanics
  • Reservoir coupled numerical simulation
  • Combined geomechanical and geophysical laboratory testing
  • Digital petrophysics and geophysics

EMI RGP Aug 2017
High pressure-high temperature triaxial cell for poromechanical and failure properties of geomaterials

Current Members

  • D. Nicolas Espinoza (PI)
  • Xiongyu Chen (Postdoc)
  • Igor Shovkun (PhD Student)
  • Matt Ramos (PhD Student)
  • Hojung Jung (PhD Student)
  • Zhuang Sun (PhD Student)
  • Eric Guiltinan (PhD Student)
  • Jeffery Luo (MS Student)
  • Luis A. Hernandez-Uribe (Intern Student)