Department of Earth SciencesWestern Science

Dr. Burns Cheadle

Petroleum Geology

Burns Cheadle

Associate Professor
Director of Corporate Relations & Student Development, Faculty of Science

P.Geo., P.Geol.
Ph.D. Western University, 1986
Office: BGS 1078
Lab: BGS 1058
Phone: 519-661-2111 x.89009
Fax: 519-661-3198
Twitter: @burnscheadle

Research Interests

Blood from a stone?

Producing crude oil is, in some respects, very much like squeezing blood from a stone. The fuel that powers most of today’s transportation systems is manufactured from a product that began as life in the sea — microscopic organisms that captured sunlight and converted it into chemical energy. That fossil sunlight is now the lifeblood of our modern economy.

How did this organic energy source become part of the geological rock record? What can it tell us about the climate, the ecology, and the tectonic upheavals of ancient Earth? How can we manage this precious resource while avoiding a precarious future? These are some of the big questions driving the study of petroleum geology.

Dr. Cheadle's primary research interest involves several interconnected themes in petroleum geology, with a particular focus on the petroleum resource potential of carbonaceous mudstone deposits — “shale gas” and “tight oil” plays. The characterization of such deposits requires integration of high-resolution sequence stratigraphy with sedimentology, organic geochemistry, submicron FIB-SEM microscopy and petrophysical reservoir characterization techniques. Addressing such questions as the relative contribution of tectonic, glacioeustatic, and palaeoclimatic driving forces on organic productivity and preservation, the research seeks to define carbonaceous mudstones in the context of petroleum systems.

Safe and sound?

Our appetite for oil and gas seems to be insatiable, but society’s expectations for environmental protection are constantly on the rise. The challenge of meeting both of these requirements drives the science behind responsible development of energy resources. At times it seems that the science is just catching up to new development technologies, leaving the public to wonder if the risk is worth the prize. The recent rush to develop shale gas and tight oil has polarized public opinion on the safety of hydraulic fracture treatments, but there is surprisingly little solid science to either support or refute these concerns.

One aspect of hydraulic fracturing that has captured the public’s attention is the phenomenon of induced or triggered seismicity (man-made earthquakes). Small earthquakes are now being felt in areas of oil and gas operations where few had been felt before. What is causing these earthquakes? What is the probability of hazard associated with them? Can they be controlled or eliminated by changing the nature of the operation?

Dr. Cheadle is part of a national multidisciplinary collaboration currently studying induced seismicity processes, with a particular focus on understanding the basic relationships between injected fluids, varying geology, and ground motion. The results of this research will lead to better tools to predict the frequency and intensity of these unexpected events, and provide the knowledge to modify operations in order to safeguard people, the environment and property.

Recent Publications

Recent Presentations

Courses Taught

ES 3372A/B Introduction to Petroleum Systems
ES 4472A/B Applied Petroleum Assessment
GL 9566A/B: Applied Concepts in Petroleum Geology
GL 9567B: Regional Petroleum Systems Seminar


Omar Al-Mufti (Ph.D. candidate) (co-supervised with A.G. Plint): Stratigraphy and sedimentology of the Late Cretaceous (Santonian) Puskwaskau Formation, north-central Alberta.

Mailyng Aviles (Ph.D. candidate): Burial and thermal history modeling of the Upper Cretaceous Colorado Group, Western Canada Sedimentary Basin foredeep depozone.

Jessica Flynn (Ph.D. candidate): Regional allostratigraphic organization of the Upper Cretaceous Colorado Group, Western Canada Sedimentary Basin foredeep through back-bulge transect.

Negar Nazari (Ph.D. program) (co-supervised with R. Shcherbakov): Modeling of seismic wave propagation in an upscaled poroelastic model of the Late Cretaceous Cardium Formation, Pembina field, Alberta.

Karen Grey (M.Sc. program): Stratigraphic control of poroelastic property distribution, Late Cretaceous Cardium Formation, Pembina field, Alberta.

Kienan Marion (M.Sc. program): Petrophysical characterization of the Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian-Turonian) Belle Fourche and Second White Specks alloformations, west-central Alberta.

Katharin Pavan (MSc program) (co-supervised with A.G. Plint): Mudstone microstructure of the Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian) Dunvegan Formation, central Alberta.