Currently visiting: Richard A. Schultz


During May 2023, Richard A. Schultz is visiting professor at Bernhard Grasemann’s research group (Department of Geology). He will work with a top program in rock mechanics while his course on “Fracture Mechanics for Geologists” will stimulate awareness, understanding, and a thirst to learn more about how geomechanics can address nationally important priorities like energy security.

  • What is so fascinating about your research area?

Geomechanics - how rocks of all kinds deform under stress and fluid-charged conditions- is of critical importance to any country’s national security and economic prosperity. It gives us the capability to understand and predict anything from the nanoscale through continent-wide tectonics, whether past, present, or future. It connects geology to engineering, thereby enabling engineers to better design any project that deals with rocks, such as secure reserves of energy needed to run their economies. Various regions of the world are shifting to an increased use of renewables that will also involve storing massive amounts of hydrogen in geologic formations underground; these regions are moving at different rates and are motivated by different drivers, such as market forces, national energy security, and governmental priorities. As a result, knowledge sharing of research and engineering advances among research groups and operating companies often remains scattered and siloed. My colleagues and I work to bridge these siloes by facilitating interaction between broad sets of stakeholders including companies, academia, non-profits, and government.

  • Which central message should your students remember?

The key to understanding geologic processes is to reason physically. Rocks that store or sequester commodities underground, or that moved in great sheets over thousands of km obey the same rules that are used to design your car, fly you to a destination, or power this building. A quote that is apropos is that “mechanics is to geology as chemistry is to petrology.” Even the most basic physical concepts can go a long way toward understanding how various geologic phenomena work, giving us the basis for interpreting past geologic structures as well as being able to predict future changes due to natural or human-induced activities.

  • Why did you decide to do research and teach at our Faculty?

The Department of Geology is well regarded internationally, especially its work in structural geology, geomechanics, and tectonics. I am excited to join the faculty for the month and to work with its faculty, students, and postdocs.

  • Which three publications characterise your work?

- My book, Geologic Fracture Mechanics (2019), Cambridge University Press, 592 p., encapsulates much of what I’ve learned and taught as a professor and later as a company geomechanicist. It bridges the gap between undergraduate texts and research papers that require considerable background to understand. I also wanted to make this book lively and readable, rather than a dense, boring academic tome. I’m proud that it is being adopted by universities and companies worldwide as an accessible resource. Its Chinese edition should be published later this year.

- Schultz, R.A., N. Heinemann, B. Horváth, J. Wickens, J.M. Miocic, O.O. Babarinde, W. Cao, P. Capuano, T.A. Dewers, M. Dusseault, K. Edlmann, R.A. Goswick, A. Hassanpouryouzband, T. Husain, W. Jin, J. Meng, S. Kim, F. Molaei, T. Odunlami, U. Prasad, Q. Lei, B.A. Schwartz, J.M. Segura, H. Soroush, S. Voegeli, S. Williams-Stroud, H. Yu, and Q. Zhao (2023), An overview of underground energy-related product storage and sequestration, in Enabling Secure Subsurface Storage in Future Energy Systems, edited by J. Miocic, N. Heinemann, K. Edlmann, J. Alcalde, and R.A. Schultz, Geological Society of London Special Publication, 528, (published online October 27, 2022).

- Schultz, R.A., S. Williams-Stroud, B. Horváth, J.M. Wickens, H. Bernhardt, W. Cao, P. Capuano, T.A. Dewers, R.A. Goswick, Q. Lei, M. McClure, U. Prasad, B.A. Schwartz, H. Yu, S. Voegeli, and Q. Zhao (2023), Underground energy-related product storage and sequestration: Site characterisation, risk analysis, and monitoring, in Enabling Secure Subsurface Storage in Future Energy Systems, edited by J. Miocic, N. Heinemann, K. Edlmann, J. Alcalde, and R.A. Schultz, Geological Society of London Special Publication, 528, (published online September 28, 2022). Both this and the other paper are chapters in the wonderful Geological Society of London volume that should become available in hardcopy sometime this summer.

Thank you & welcome to our Faculty!

  • Dr. Richard A. Schultz is a geologist specializing in the geomechanics of faulted rocks and underground energy storage. The owner of Orion Geomechanics LLC of Cypress, Texas (USA) previously was Senior Research Scientist at The University of Texas at Austin, Principal Geomechanicist with Conoco Phillips, and Foundation Professor of Geological Engineering and Geomechanics (now Emeritus) with the University of Nevada, Reno. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and a participant in two major projects on underground hydrogen storage - one funded by the US Department of Energy and the other sponsored by the International Energy Agency.

  • Working group / host professor: Department of Geology, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Grasemann

  • Course in the summer term: 280100 VU Fracture Mechanics for Geologists
© Richard A. Schultz

Spending a month at the University of Vienna provides an unparalleled opportunity to work with some of the best in the world while enhancing international understanding and knowledge exchange. Photo: © Richard A. Schultz

Arm wrestling Photo: © Richard A. Schultz

Many aspects of fault growth in sedimentary basins remain controversial despite improving understanding of the key physical processes. Photo: © Richard A. Schultz