The 21st RPI for January-February 2019: Jack Dvorkin

Program Leader in Rock Physics at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

About Dr. Jack Dvorkin

Jack’s undergraduate and M.S. degrees were earned in 1974 at Moscow Lomonosov (State) University at the Department of Mechanics and Mathematics, Division of Mechanics. The topic of his M.S. thesis was the impact of a rigid wedge upon compressible fluid, the transient pressure field developing in the fluid and the resulting forces resisting the impacting body. His Ph.D. earned in 1980 at the same place was on the same topic, but this time, the penetrating object was an elastic cylindrical shell. That was an exciting project since both analytical and numerical solutions were obtained and they matched!

From 1974 until 1989 Jack worked in the petroleum industry in the USSR as a research scientist. During that time, his investigations included, among other topics, the thermal regimes of wells drilled through permafrost; pressure regimes in wells and pipelines with multiphase flow; and the optimization of generator placement on small offshore platforms.

In 1989 Jack joined the Stanford Rock Physics program (SRB) where he gradually learned rock physics, mostly by osmosis, from Amos Nur and Gary Mavko, and many other outstanding individuals, students and postdocs, who went through this program. Jack stayed with the SRB program until the end of 2017.

In the early 90’s, Jack, together with an SRB alumnus, started Petrosoft, the first rock physics software company. Petrosoft was later acquired by Rock Solid Images in Houston. Jack continued in an advisory role for Rock Solid Images which proved to be a great learning and eye-opening experience. Looking at field data, trying to understand their meaning, and generalizing the data theoretically gave rise to many publications and, eventually, a book.

In the mid-2000’s Jack, together with his Stanford colleagues, started Ingrain, one of the first computational rock physics companies. The simple founding principle “image and compute” turned out to require a major effort, both in imaging and computing. Understanding the results and bringing them into the context of reservoir scale gave rise to many exciting projects, discoveries, publications, and patents.

In 2018, Jack joined the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, as a Program Leader in Rock Physics, Mechanics, and Petrophyiscs. His current challenge is to motivate and organize his team and build the program to where it will be recognized as a world leader in this area of Geophysics.

Jack’s current interests include laboratory experimentation, computational rock physics, analysis of wireline data, theoretical understanding of the results, and upscaling the results to the seismic spatial scale for the purpose of seismic interpretation. Specific areas of application are Saudi carbonates, sandstones, sands, and shales.

Pathways or recipes for your success in becoming a well-known name in the rock physics community

Know your physics and mathematics. Know your geology. Be curious about the meaning of experimental results. Go beyond perfecting your favourite tool, be it an experimental or theoretical tool. Do not look for a problem that can be solved with such a tool. Instead, select a tool that can solve a problem at hand. Make your solution “as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Be a team player, listen to your colleagues and be patient with them. Interact with the industry. Set clear deadlines for finishing a project and do not be disappointed by “negative” results. Thorough and honest investigation never produces negative results, it merely expands your knowledge and experience. Publish, publish, publish (but only good science). Be brutally honest with yourself.

Challenges you see in taking rock physics to the next level 

Making rock physics usable and useful in geology, seismic interpretation, and even seismic processing and imaging. Making experimental and theoretical results generated at one scale relevant at all scales, especially seismic scale. Embrace rock’s spatial heterogeneity as natural porous medium is heterogeneous at all scales.

Future of rock physics. What research directions are we heading to?

Understanding the transport properties of non-conventional shales and relating them to remotely measurable properties. Upscaling permeability and, especially, relative permeability. Understanding and quantifying uncertainty inherent in experimental results. Incorporating determinism in statistic and machine learning.

Advice for early career scientists (rock physicists, geophysicists, etc.)

Read and learn from your colleagues worldwide. Exhibit healthy skepticism towards published (and your own) results. Any research topic is good as long as it is novel or you invent a novel approach to an old topic. Yet, try to find your own niche. Instead of improving other people’s results, find a problem that has not been solved and solve it. Focus on a problem selected but look beyond the problem into how the solution may tie with other directions and disciplines. Push through with persistence and patience and a continued optimism for breakthrough results.

We thank Jack for his continuous contributions to the rock physics community.