N373 A Technical Introduction to Petroleum Geoscience

Course Facts

Course Code:
4 days
3.2 Continuing Education Units
32 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This course delivers a wide-ranging introduction to the technical aspects of exploring for and developing oil and gas discoveries. Through lectures and exercises the participants will gain a working knowledge of petroleum geology, petroleum systems and an overview of the upstream hydrocarbon industry. They will also learn about drilling, unconventional reservoirs and examine classic oil discoveries around the world and gain a global perspective on the industry. A summary session will consider global trends in petroleum exploration and economics.

Duration and Training Method

A four-day classroom course comprising lectures and worked exercises to introduce geological concepts including exploration geology and play elements, clastic deposystems and structural geology. Students will work on a series of classroom exercises revolving around the Canada Hill field in Miri, Malaysia. The field will provide a "red thread" that we will relate back to many exercises during the course. Within a relatively short timeframe a wide variety of relevant topics are covered and the course provides a framework within which students will develop a working knowledge of the technical aspects of oil exploration and development, one which they can then apply in the workplace.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Describe and understand the functions of subsurface staff including geologists, geophysicists, petrophysicists, reservoir engineers and production engineers.
  2. Express the principles and concepts underlying petroleum geology from gross Earth structure to describing the principles underlying an effective petroleum system – source, migration reservoir, seal and trap.
  3. Understand sedimentology, stratigraphy and structural geology in the context of hydrocarbon exploration and production.
  4. Discuss the acquisition and uses of remotely sensed data, in particular seismic data.
  5. Perform simple seismic interpretation.
  6. Discuss the acquisition and application of downhole data, principally well logs.
  7. Perform a simple well log correlation.
  8. Outline the basics of reservoir engineering including static and dynamic reservoir modelling.
  9. Understand the basics of operations geology.
  10. Review a variety of oilfield case studies.
  11. Discuss the economic basics of exploration including common risk segment maps.

Lectures will usually be kept to less than 30 minutes duration, and will be interspersed with simple exercises that are carefully designed to educate the participants in a relaxed manner. Typically the course is split into hour long modules that will encompass an introductory lecture, followed by a short exercise, then discussion of the exercise and further classroom learning before a slightly longer exercise.

Overview of Day 1: Introduction to the Earth and its processes

The day begins with a broad overview of how to find and develop an oilfield. The target is thus defined, and then the technical specialists who work on this goal are introduced. An overview of the work performed by each discipline is presented.

The next section covers the geology of the Earth, beginning at the global scale and gradually working down in scale to the main elements that make up a typical oil field. Plate tectonics is introduced as a concept, and the impact that it has upon creating structures across the Earth’s surface is highlighted. The four play elements are then introduced, along with an explanation of how they interface to create a working hydrocarbon system.

Each of the main play elements is then explored in detail. Sedimentary rocks are covered in a session that includes everything from glaciers to deserts, from alpine rivers to deep marine turbidites. Sandstones and shales make up the clastic portion of this module, after which carbonate rocks are described. The next module examines the properties of rocks and their ability to act as reservoirs, seals and source rocks. The students also learn how to calculate hydrocarbon volumes in place.

The next module examines many aspects of structural geology, including extensional and compressional regimes. Their impact on faulting and fractures is discussed, and how structural traps are created and operate in trapping hydrocarbons. Seismic data is introduced to show how faults can be mapped at depth, and the students get to try their hand at seismic interpretation.

Overview of Day 2: Technical tools to help subsurface understanding

The morning is spent looking at different "tool kits" that can help to understand the geology of the subsurface. The first is petrophysical analysis, which uses log data collected by sensors through the bottom hole assembly. The various log types are described and their interpretation explained. The next two modules are geological, the first looking at cyclicity, and introducing the important concept of sequence stratigraphy. This covers changes in relative sea level and their impact upon sedimentation. The third module looks at several aspects of palaeontology that are useful in interpreting the subsurface.

Overview of Day 3: Techniques to model a reservoir; Exploration strategy; Drilling and completions

Day 3 covers a variety of topics. The morning is spent examining ways of handling the data collected from the subsurface, and how to use this data to model your reservoir. After well data has been correlated, this framework can be used to build a three dimensional reservoir model which can be used to calculate a range of volumetrics. The same data can then be exported to the reservoir engineer for dynamic simulation of potential production.

In the afternoon the class becomes familiar with exploration strategies. The first module looks at how to explore, what to look for and explains risking and economic evaluation. The students then spend a short module working on evaluating a prospect and deciding where and whether to drill.

The day ends with an overview session on drilling and completions, which will probably take just over one module of time. The aim is to demonstrate the nuts and bolts of a drilling rig, including explanations of a lot of the terminology associated with drilling. The section on completions will cover horizontal wells and fraccing, showing the various techniques and options in terms of fluids used, packer spacing and proppants. The module will also cover ways to test whether the completions have worked, and why.

Overview of Day 4: Production day

Key themes of the day are oil and gas fields, and trends within in the oil industry. The day begins with descriptions of some of the world’s classic fields, as well as how they were discovered, concentrating on the geological perspective. The students will also hear of some expensive drilling failures, both in terms of misunderstood geology, and as regards accidents during drilling. These can usually be tied back to a lack of understanding of the subsurface geology and pressures.

The second module of the day is the beginner’s guide to unconventional reservoirs. The full range of such reservoirs will be discussed, along with various definitions for such plays. The final classroom module looks at global trends in oil and gas, and where the industry is likely to be headed in the future.


By the end of the course the students will:

  • Know the four key play elements that need to work in order to create a hydrocarbon field.
  • Understand and be able to differentiate clastic and carbonate rocks, as well as their sedimentary structures and fossils.
  • Have learned how to observe and interpret sedimentary rocks in the field.
  • Have seen seismic data and understand how it is collected and processed.
  • Have learned how 3D reservoir models are constructed, and wells are correlated and incorporated in models.
  • Understand petrophysical interpretation and reservoir engineering concepts.
  • Can plan an exploration campaign and assess risking for plays and prospects.
  • Know about drilling methodology and a variety of completion techniques.
  • Have seen a range of working oil fields and unconventional plays.
  • Have examined a working oil field in detail, providing an analogue to other fields that they will encounter.

Who should attend

The course is intended principally for technical staff who need to understand the fundamental geoscience concepts that underpin the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons. It is designed to give the participants an overview of all upstream aspects of the oil industry. The course is suitable for new hire graduates with a technical function (geologists/geoscientists, geophysicists, petrophysicists, reservoir engineers, production engineers) and geotechnical support staff. Other technical staff who require a better understanding of petroleum geology and related disciplines will also benefit from this course.

Prerequisites and linking courses

There are no prerequisites for the course beyond a general technical/scientific background.