The 2013 Louis Néel Medal is awarded to Mark Zoback for his outstanding and seminal contributions to rock physics and geomechanics, in particular for applying geomechanics to solve a wide range of problems of scientific, engineering and economic importance.
Mark Zoback has made outstanding and seminal contributions to rock physics and geomechanics over many years. The impact of his work has been phenomenal, testified to by 6500 citations to his extensive publication record and by the award of several prestigious honours and elected fellowships. In his early career, he carried out the first experimental studies of relationships between permeability and the evolution of fracture arrays in deforming rocks. Over three decades he has carried out experimental and theoretical studies of wellbore stability and has been at the forefront of seeing these ideas applied in the fields of petroleum exploration, development, and production.
His successful textbook on Reservoir Geomechanics brings together theory supported by a wealth of practical examples and is indispensable to the new generation of geomechanical engineers.
Zoback has been one of the few who has successfully shown how practical geomechanics and rock physics can be applied to the solution of engineering problems that are of direct societal relevance. He played a key role in the development of methods for the determination of in situ stresses in the crust, and in this way was a principal contributor to the success of the world stress map project, which has shed new light on the dynamics of contemporary plate motions, and which continues to be developed and refined to this day. He was a key contributor to the programme for the measurements of in situ stresses in the German Continental Deep Drilling Program (KTB), and in the application of in situ stress measurements to the development of understanding of the role of stress-state in faulting and seismogenesis.
During recent years, Zoback has used his expertise in rock physics, geomechanics and reservoir simulation to investigate CO2 injection into deep saline aquifers, depleted oil and gas formations, and unmineable coal seams. His analysis of the geomechanical implications of carbon sequestration laid important groundwork for assessing both the environmental benefits and seismic risks of CO2 injection.
Zoback was the principal driver for the development of a new San Andreas fault drilling project (SAFOD) aimed at discovering whether lithosphere-transecting faults such as the San Andreas are qualitatively different from smaller, intraplate faults. Bringing this incredible project to fruition involved not only raising enormous amounts of funding, but also directing the efforts of a very large number of people.
Zoback’s achievements in rock mechanics and rock physics and their applications to geomechanical engineering represent an outstanding personal scientific legacy. Zoback is internationally renowned and recognised as an outstanding scientific innovator and leader, and he is without doubt a worthy recipient of the Louis Néel Medal and the high honour that it represents.