Allied Geophysical Lab
Dr. E. Charlotte Sullivan and AGL students studying karsted carbonate reservoirs in central Texas
Newsletter Archive
by Noelle Heinze
As gasoline prices soar and current reserves decline, two-thirds of recoverable North American oil sits waiting to be discovered.
Welcome to the UH Allied Geophysical Laboratories (AGL), where students and researchers study images of the earth’s interior to map hidden geology and potential oil reservoirs miles beneath its surface.
“It’s important for America to become less dependent on hydrocarbon imports,”explains Research Assistant Professor of Geology and UH alumna Dr. E. Charlotte Sullivan. “Because previously developed North American petroleum basins still contain oil, AGL uses computer technology to further explore these areas.”
“AGL has access to data from independent oil companies in Texas and surrounding states," says Dr. Kurt J. Marfurt, professor of geophysics and director of AGL. “We analyze this information with new technology, and with our expertise, can help oil companies make decisions that can minimize drilling costs.”
AGL faculty have the experience and instruments to generate and evaluate seismic images that cannot be viewed with standard technology. Examples include images of rocks with microscopic fractures and very small faults.
They also use physical modeling and computing tools to find karst, which are irregular limestone regions with underground caves and sink holes that can form good reservoirs for petroleum.
Two current AGL research projects include the Vinton Salt Dome in Louisiana, which was discovered in 1901 and contains tiny 10-acre reservoirs that contain up to one million barrels of oil, and the Fort Worth Basin in Texas, which is an important new reservoir to image.
“The goal of AGL is to train young geoscientists in fundamental, non-applied science, such as the evolution of basins,” says Sullivan. “In the process, AGL is helping to better utilize our nation’s hydrocarbon resources.”
For more information about AGL, please visit
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