Director, Petroleum Geomechanics, Mark Tingay @CriticalStress_: A Day in the GeoLife Series

petroleum geomechanics

Dr. Mark Tingay, Petroleum Geomechanics at Lusi Vent

NAME: Dr. Mark Tingay

CURRENT TITLE: Director, Critical Stress Geomechanics and Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Adelaide

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Petroleum geomechanics, pore pressure prediction, mud volcanoes and tectonics


EDUCATION: Completed my PhD in petroleum geomechanics in 2003, University of Adelaide. I also have a Graduate Certificate of Education in Higher Education.


TWITTER: @CriticalStress_

What’s your job like?

I’m a self-employed consultant, specialising in petroleum geomechanics and pore pressure prediction. I usually work in my client’s offices, but also at home. My job mostly involves helping to plan and drill petroleum wells safely and efficiently. I also work on reservoir aspects of geomechanics, in particular understanding how CO2 injection or hydrocarbon production will affect rock stresses and fluid pressures, and the potential for fault reactivation. I also have an adjunct role at the Australia School of Petroleum in South Australia, through which I supervise PhD and Masters students as well as pursue my personal research topics.

What’s a typical day like?

Most of my days involve working on some specific project for a client. This might be interpreting data for stresses and developing geomechanical models for a CO2 sequestration project; trying to predict the pore pressures and geological conditions that a planned well may encounter, so that the well can be constructed to avoid hazards such as blowouts or hole collapse. I also do a lot of training, whether it is teaching training courses for companies or societies, or giving one-on-one in-depth training for geologists and engineers wanting to specialise in geomechanics or pore pressure.

What’s fun?

It’s pretty much all fun! I particularly enjoy trying to solve the more challenging problems, as well as the teaching side of the work. One of the things I specialise in is determining the origin of high pore fluid pressures (overpressures) in petroleum systems. I am commonly brought in after a company has had a significant and unexpected well control incident, and it’s my job to pick apart what happened and why, and then to develop methods and plans to avoid such incidents in the future. I love that type of work because it is stimulating and because I see the primary goal of my work being to help make the industry safer, both for people and the environment.

What’s challenging?

Running my own consulting business has a lot of challenges. There is always the insecurity that comes with being self-employed – and the effort you constantly need to put in to find work, build a network, accounting and such. But, at the end of the day, I am working for myself. I have really enjoyed my previous roles in academia and with a big petroleum company, both of which have their major advantages and disadvantages, but I am now enjoying the challenges of consulting.

What’s your advice to students?

It’s an old line, but you really have to try to find something you enjoy and have a passion for. If you are really fascinated by a topic, then you’ll always strive to learn more and do better at it. Ultimately, that will lead to you enjoying work and life a lot more.

The other advice I always give is to really work to learn the fundamentals of what you do. Petroleum geomechanics is a topic that has been ‘in vogue’ over the past 5-10 years, and the numbers of people doing it around the world now are probably 100 times more than when I started in the field. But, the one thing I see again and again is students or new people in the topic learning the workflows and software, but without really understanding the fundamentals and theory.

As I said earlier, one of my common jobs is to try to figure out what went wrong after a significant safety incident has occurred. The root cause often boils down to practitioners simply making assumptions that just aren’t valid for the situation or geology, or because people blindly trusted erroneous data, software workflows or interpretations without question. There is an old saying “assumption is the mother of all stuff-ups” (a different work is usually used instead of “stuff”). Sometimes such a mistake is just an embarrassing ‘oops’. However, in drilling, and many other disciplines, not recognising when an approach or data may be flawed can result in a major accident, or meaning someone doesn’t come home from work.

So, whatever you do in science, really work hard to understand and challenge the assumptions, and the potential flaws, pitfalls and failures, in the work you do. Not only does this make you a more thorough and better scientist, but it’s also a key to finding ways to improve and advance your field of interest.

Oh, and oral and written communication. Seriously, if you can learn to give a good talk, and write without things like hanging participles, you’ll do well!

Environmental Geologist, Kevin McAndrews @kevincobarno: A Day in the GeoLife Series

environmental geologist

Kevin McAndrews, Project Manager and Environmental Geologist. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

NAME:  Kevin McAndrews

CURRENT TITLE:  Project Manager and Environmental Geologist

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Environmental consulting, contaminate remediation, hydrogeology, and vapor intrusion

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:  5 years at a small environmental consulting firm

EDUCATION:  Bachelors of Science in Geological Sciences, Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts, United States



What’s your job like?

My job consists of both managing projects from the office and conducting environmental fieldwork which typically averages a 50/50 split. The scope of work for each project varies depending upon the degree of contamination; however, a significant amount of my work consists of providing oversight, sampling, and closure report writing for sudden oil and hazardous material spill site cleanups. Other projects revolve around property transaction due diligence, where I evaluate the site history, direct test boring and groundwater monitoring well installations, observe test pit excavations, install sub-slab soil gas probes, and sample various media including soil, groundwater, sediment, soil gas, and indoor air for potential contamination. At properties where historic contamination is identified, I conduct subsurface nature and extent delineation studies, prepare hydrogeologic contaminant plume migration models, develop remedial action plans, and implement the actual cleanup which ranges from excavating and dewatering a site to injecting remedial additives for in-situ contaminant degradation. Following the cleanup, I prepare closure reports which involve data analysis and risk assessment.

tank closure

Underground Storage Tank Closure and Removal. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

What’s a typical day like?

A typical day in the office consists of arriving early and meeting with my team to go over the ongoing projects and delegate the daily tasks. Some mornings will involve a conference call with a client regarding the status of an ongoing project or with a state regulator for additional approvals at a cleanup site. Answering project inquiries and preparing cost proposals is very common. Some office days, I will see 2 or 3 cost proposals leave my desk. The remainder of my office work is tied to preparing reports of varying complexities, ranging from Limited Environmental Reviews and Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for property transactions, all the way to state-required Permanent Solution Reports for cleanups. Such cleanup reports involve drafting site plan figures, tabulating analytical data, and developing conceptual site models in order to assess the environmental risk associated with residual contamination left in place. These reports are then sent to the Licensed Site Professional (LSP) for final review before being submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection for closure.

A typical field day of drilling involves preparing a sampling plan, directing the driller to the correct location and depth, observing the soil boring cores retrieved and preparing logs based upon lithology, preparing soil core samples to be field screened via photoionization detector (PID) for total organic vapors, and submitting select samples to be laboratory analyzed for the contaminants of concern.

Photoionization Detector

Field Screening Contaminated Soil via Photoionization Detector (PID). Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

soil sample collection

Preparing Soil Samples for Laboratory Analysis. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

Following the soil boring core samples, the driller will install a groundwater monitoring well within the boring.

Direct Push Technology

Limited Access Soil Boring Advancement via Direct Push Technology. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

Hollow Stem Auger

Deep Soil Boring Advancement via Hollow Stem Auger Technology. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

The well is gauged, developed, purged, and sampled for similar contaminants of concern.

environmental sampling

Groundwater Quality Monitoring and Environmental Sampling. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

Most sites will require a potentiometric map to be developed by conducting an elevation survey of all the wellheads.

well elevation survey

Conducting a Well Elevation Survey for a Potentiometric Surface Map. Photo Credit: Kevin McAndrews

Other field work consists of directing cleanup crews during active excavation work to remove contaminated soil, most often related to a tractor trailer crash that released diesel fuel oil to the roadway shoulder soil.

soil excavation

Roadway Diesel Spill Cleanup Via Excavator. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

In some limited access locations, we will bring in a high-powered vacuum truck to remove the contaminated soil.

vacuum truck

Roadway Diesel Spill Cleanup Via Vacuum Truck. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

The dirty dirt is then brought to an approved facility for recycling. Most often, the oil-affected soil is sent for thermal desorption into a usable material such as roadway base. Lastly, I conduct vapor intrusion assessments to determine whether off-gassing from contaminated sites is affecting the breathable air of a building. For these studies, I install sub-slab soil gas probes beneath the basement concrete slab in order to test the soil gas air beneath a building as well as collect ambient indoor air samples.

What’s fun?

The best part about being an environmental consultant is that I’m literally a contamination detective. I have to research the history of a property and the surrounding area which usually turns up some interesting historical facts. This research ranges from visiting local libraries and local government offices, to reviewing historic Sanborn fire insurance maps, aerial photographs, city directories, and conducting interviews with anyone who will talk to me. Once all that information is compiled, I conduct a site visit in order to confirm the findings and observe for any further areas of likely contamination. The clues from potential contamination can range from something as innocuous as an old floor drain in a former dry cleaner to a large oil stain on soil beneath an old tractor. If the presence or likely presence of contamination is identified, the next step is to collect analytical data in order to confirm or dismiss the contamination. More often than not, I run into sites with historic contamination in-place where further assessment is necessary and eventually remediated. The investigation portion of my job collides with my love for geology where going into the ground to collect samples reveals the glacial and post-glacial history of the New England region where I work. A majority of the soil boring cores I collect consist primarily of glaciofluvial deposits, marine clays, and anthropogenic fill. The remnants left in the ground following the industrial revolution and subsequent developments provide an intriguing look into how businesses such as manufactured gas plants, textile mills, auto service stations, and dry cleaners operated prior to the hazardous waste regulations put in place during the mid-1980s.

soil boring cores

Soil Boring Cores with Visible Staining From Former Auto Service Station. Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

What’s challenging?

The most challenging aspect of my job is the client interface when presenting unfavorable findings and recommendations. As a scientist, presenting data in an easy-to-understand way is important for helping the client make informed decisions regarding the environmental conditions of a property.  Also, as an environmental advocate, it is difficult to stand by as the decision to leave contamination in place is made. I have dealt with several properties where the current owner had inherited the property, we identified a high level of contamination, and they decided to leave the property vacant instead of cleaning it up during a redevelopment.

What’s your advice for students?

field geologist

Fieldwork Fun! Photo credit: Kevin McAndrews

My advice to students is to network as much as possible. You never know who might have a job opening or know someone who is looking for an immediate hire. A significant amount of my colleagues have been in the right place at the right time to land a job due to an immediate opening after someone had left the company. No matter what position you start out with, stay with it for at least 1 year in order to build up your experience and try to learn everything you can. Have a positive attitude and take every opportunity to build your skill set. Learning what you don’t like about a job or industry will help guide you in a better direction in the future.

Researcher, Sedimentology, Zain Rahman @IamZainRahman: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Zain Rahman, Post Graduate Researcher in Sedimentology and Micro Paleontology

NAME:  Zain Rahman

CURRENT TITLE:  Post Graduate Researcher

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Sedimentology, Micro paleontology, Petroleum Geology, Petrophysics

EDUCATION:  Bachelor of Science (Geology) in 2013 from Bahria University Islamabad, Pakistan; Master of Science (Geology) in 2015 from Bahria University Islamabad, Pakistan. Research interests included basin analysis, carbonate sedimentology (diagenetic changes during deposition, and reservoir characteristics) and micro paleontology (foraminifera).

What’s your job like?

I am a post graduate researcher. My previous research topics were:

  1. Sedimentology and Microfacies Analysis of Lower Eocene Sakesar Limestone, Nammal Gorge, Western Salt Range, Upper Indus Basin, Pakistan.

  2. Petrophysical Analysis and Reservoir Potential of Chanda Oil Field, Upper Indus Basin, Pakistan.

My current research is on diagenetic pyrite in carbonates and its microbial origin.

What’s your typical day like?

A typical day includes reading geoscience blogs, being aware of current affairs, reading history books and visiting friends.

What’s fun?

Life is full of fun and joy — live it up to the maximum. Watching movies and hanging with old friends is fun.

What’s challenging?

Everything in life is challenging. If you want to succeed, take on these challenges and you will be there.

What’s your advice for students?

Always remain firm and upright with your resolve whatever the outcome is. Never give up during research pursuits — just like the famous saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”  Keep searching, remain motivated and you will make a way forward.

UPDATED! Associate Hydrogeologist, Gareth Digges La Touche @GarethDLaT: A Day in the GeoLife Series


Associate/Senior Hydrogeologist, Gareth Digges La Touche

NAME:  Gareth Digges La Touche

CURRENT TITLE:  Principal Hydrogeologist and Associate

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Hydrogeology, well test analysis, fractured aquifers, mine water management


EDUCATION:  BSc Geology & Geography; MSc Computing in Earth Science; MSc Hydrogeology


Golder Associates article by Gareth on Working with Water dated 7/15/15.

What’s your job like?

I provide technical leadership and direction as a Principal Hydrogeologist within Golder Associates’ mining services business. We work across the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa and the rest of the world in a diverse range of areas including for example: groundwater studies for new mines and quarries, both for Environmental & Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs), groundwater management and dewatering system design; and water supply studies and hydraulic fracturing studies for shale gas development. My hydrogeological colleagues in other parts of the business focus on groundwater studies for infrastructure projects, landfill risk assessments and contaminated land studies for industrial sites and nuclear power plant decommissioning.

We typically work as part of a multidisciplinary team so will often be working with geologists, mining engineers, ecologists, civil engineers and other professionals to deliver a study that meets the needs of the client. Often we will be working directly with the client and may be supporting them in negotiations with regulators, such as the Environment Agency in England or government authorities in other parts of the world.

Being part of a global consulting organization of around 6,500 people with 165 offices across the world means there is always someone somewhere who can help answer the question. Having that global resource behind us is fantastic both for our team and our clients.

What’s a typical day like?

I’m not so sure there is such a thing as a typical day in consultancy. It could vary from reviewing a report written by one of the team prior to issuing to the client, to meetings with one of our clients, to visiting a mine site in Kyrgyzstan, Armenia or Greenland, to understanding their operations, to getting an insight into the hydrogeological/hydrological setting, to planning a groundwater investigation as part of an ESIA or Feasibility Study (FS). Lately I’ve been on a number of underground visits to understand water ingress issues into operating mines, which is always interesting.

Hydrogeologic investigation

Hydrogeologic investigation overseen by Gareth Digges La Touche in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains of Armenia. Photo copyright: Gareth Digges La Touche

What’s fun?

What is not fun? I’m lucky in that I’ve steered a career path through that has allowed me to work on some interesting projects both at home, in the UK and overseas. For me, setting aside the fact that the novelty of airports soon wears off, visiting new and interesting places with different people, cultures and geologies is the fun. Favourites to date are Greenland, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.


Associate/Senior Hydrogeologist, Gareth Digges La Touche, at a mine site in western Greenland. Photo copyright: Gareth Digges La Touche

What’s challenging?

Fitting everything in. We work toward deadlines that are outside of our control and sometimes you can find a project timeline dramatically compressed. Having to juggle timescales, budgets and producing high quality work that meets the needs of the client are some of the skills a consultant needs.

What’s your advice to students?

It is never too late to learn. I started my career as a geophysicist for an oilfield service company before doing an MSc in Hydrogeology. Being adaptable will never do you any harm. If you want to do something take, or make, the opportunity when it presents itself even if it requires you to go out of your way to deliver. Never stop learning: science is continually evolving and there is always more to learn. Do what you enjoy so that your career is enjoyable!

Mud Logger, Mohsen Alshaghdari @mhsenhm: A Day in the GeoLife Series

mud logger

Mohsen Alshaghdari, mud logger

NAME:  Mohsen Alshaghdari

CURRENT TITLE:  Mud logging geologist

AREA OF EXPERTISE:  Formation evaluation and sample description

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE:  3 years experience in the oil field

EDUCATION:  Bachelor’s in Geochemistry and Economic Geology in 2010, Sanaa University, Yemen. I made a project study regarding a geochemistry environment of ore deposit, especially titanomagnetite. I write papers regarding groundwater and the contact between saltwater and freshwater due to a stationary plume in Damt City, northwest of Yemen. Right now, I am a mud logging geologist at a geoservices company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Unfortunately, I did not finish my higher education due to the war and problems in Yemen.  I am trying to get an invitation from any university to finish my study.

TWITTER: @mhsenhm

What’s your job like?

I am currently a mud logging geologist.  My job includes formation evaluation and sample description, as well as detecting hydrocarbon gases and oil shows.

What’s a typical day like?

Geological trips at vocations, collecting samples, reading, listening to music, and watching geology films.

What’s fun?

Playing football, reading novels, and walking.

What’s challenging?

My first challenge is to promote myself in the wide areas of geology and continue my study at any foreign country.

What’s your advice to students?

You should like what you study and are interested in. Always watch geology films. It helps to figure out many geological issues. Try to go frequently to the library to get geology reference books to increase your knowledge.