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Book Review of: Petrophysics

Theory and practice of measuring reservoir rock and fluid transport properties

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Review of Petrophysics, by Djebbar Tiab and Erle C. Donaldson (Hardcover, 2011)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


The price is a giveaway that this is a university text. Start reading, and you realize it's not a first year text. It's probably most suitable for a graduate course. Compared to my own undergraduate and graduate degree coursework (but not in petro chem), that's my best estimation. And I say that because the text relies heavily on what I deem graduate level mathematics.

Currently, I live in an oil state (the oil industry-bashing Kennedy clan has significant oil well holdings here) that is adjacent to a major oil state (Dr. Tiab and Dr. Donaldson are professors in that state). People come to this part of the country to get degrees related to careers in the petroleum industry. So this subject was of interest to me, though I have to say I wasn't willing to work through the book as a text for the kind of understanding one would seek if becoming, say, a petroleum geologist.

If you don't have a quantitative undergraduate degree, you probably won't be able to grasp this text. However, if you have the mathematics background, you will find its explanations clear and quite informative. I repeatedly found the authors provided a way to grasp difficult concepts by stepping through the math. Being able to visualize quantitative relationships is the only way, in my field, for example, to truly understand how reactance affects power distribution systems. In this field of oil exploration (petroleum geology), this approach sheds light on the effects of, for example, porosity and permeability.

But as I say, the math is complicated. Following along is fine for me, but I didn't try to solve the end of chapter problems (typically about 10 per chapter). So I can't comment on whether those problems relate well to the preceding text. I can say the problems aren't "back of envelope" problems. A student of average mathematical ability will probably spend an hour working the problems at the end of each chapter.

A student with a particular yen for truly digging into the subject can then study the 19 experiments in the Appendix. These are what MBAs would refer to as case studies, with the exception being some of these require working through an extensive set of mathematical problems. Following this part of the appendix is what I assume to be a new (as of this edition) section called Utilities. It explains a few useful laboratory procedures that weren't developed into full-blown experiments.

This book is loaded with references, even in the appendix. So, very thoroughly researched. Keep in mind that the sources are very technical in nature, most of them being professional journals.

Each chapter is full of illustrations, tables, and equations to go with the text (the explanations). At the end of each chapter, there's a set of problems (most of them difficult). Then there's a section called Nomenclature, followed by a list of the Greek Symbols used in that chapter followed by a list of Subscripts used in that chapter. And then you get to the references, which are exhaustive to say the least. Chapter 6, for example, lists 120 sources.

This book is beautifully hard bound. An extensive Table of Contents and a Units reference precede the main body. The main body consists of 828 pages divided into 12 Chapters. The Appendix is 83 pages long, and the index is 37 pages long.

In my own formal education, I came across a wide range of textbooks. They varied from the extremely good to the atrocious. The extremely good ones make useful tools for a professor to imbue students with a deep understanding of the subject. While the particular subject of this text is out of my area of expertise, I see this text shares many characteristics with the textbooks that I have seen professors heartily recommend or that I personally found helpful in my own pursuit of subject matter expertise. Some improvement could have been made by adding a bit more explanatory text. But then I suppose that would have pushed up both the page count and the price, else reduced the scope to make it fit.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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