Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cain Department of Chemical Engineering

Document Type



Over the past years, shale gas has turned into one of the most significant sources of energy in the United States. Technological advancements have provided the energy industry with the necessary tools to allow the economic exploitation of an enormous volume of natural gas trapped in shale formations. This has boosted the domestic gas production and generated a boom in other sectors of the economy in the country. However, major challenges are involved in the development of shale gas resources. A drastic decline of wells’ productivity, the costs involved in the gas production and distribution facets, and the volatile behavior of the energy market represent some of the complexities faced by a gas operator. In this context, the utilization of a comprehensive frameworks to analyze and develop long-term strategies can represent a meaningful supporting tool for shale gas operators. The main objective of this research work is the development and implementation a novel techno-economic framework for the optimal exploitation and delivery of shale gas in the United States.

The proposed framework is based on an interdisciplinary approach that combines data driven techniques, petroleum engineering practices, reservoir simulations and mathematical programming methods. Data analysis algorithms are implemented to guide the decision-making processes involved in the unconventional reservoir and define the predominant trends of certain exogenous parameters of the system. Petroleum engineering practices and reservoir simulation models are required for a realistic description of the formations and the proper definition of strategies to extract the gas from the shale rock. Finally, the mathematical programming is required for describing the surface facilities design and operations to ensure the allocation of the shale gas in the different commercialization points. The output of this framework will provide the optimal operations and infrastructure by maximizing the net present value (NPV).

To demonstrate the efficacy of the proposed decision-making structure, a case study based on the liquid-rich region of the Marcellus play is considered in this work. The application of the proposed framework depicts the influence of reservoir complexities and external factors in establishing optimal strategic decisions for the exploitation, processing and allocation of shale gas. The coordination of the different facets including the drilling and completion activities and the design and operation of the surface facilities has a key role in maintaining the economy of a shale gas venture above its economic threshold.

Committee Chair

Romagnoli Jose