N550 North Sea Multiphase Rift Evolution: Outcrop to Subsurface Perspectives on Stratigraphy, Sedimentology & Petroleum Systems (East Coast, UK)

Event Facts

20 - 24 Sep. 2021
Event Code:
5 days
David Macdonald, John Howell
East Coast, UK
Booking Status:
Good Availability
GBP £5,950 (Exclusive of tax)

Course Facts

Course Code:
5 days
Physical Demand:
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


Business Impact: This course offers a highly applied field-based experience for energy professionals involved in any part of the E&P life-cycle. Through exposure to all of the North Sea's key plays, participants will be able to add value immediately upon return to the office. Although this course focuses on the North Sea, many of the tectono-stratigraphic concepts discussed are relevant to other rift basins around the globe.

The North Sea still presents many opportunities for legacy major companies, smaller operators and new entrants alike.  In this field course we 'bring North Sea Plays to life’ through the integration of outcrop with seismic, well, and core data. Outcrops span the Devonian to the Late Cretaceous to provide a holistic overview of how the basin has evolved. 

The trip is organised and ordered through the lens of reservoir geology, with other petroleum systems elements also discussed and evaluated.

Duration and Training Method

This is a five-day field course, consisting primarily of field work with classroom discussions, in an approximate 80:20 ratio. The field localities are supplemented with a number of informative, short exercises designed to emphasise key learning outcomes.

Participants will learn to:
  1. Identify the key characteristics of North Sea plays. 
  2. Consider the play-based risking of exploration projects using a systematic petroleum systems approach.  
  3. Appreciate the rich variety of North Sea reservoir types, including carbonates and clastics, and discuss development and production issues in a broad context that includes structural and stratigraphic heterogeneities.
  4. Recognise North Sea plays on seismic data and use well logs to characterise reservoir, source, and seals.
  5. Construct strong narratives and deploy these analogues to illustrate technical presentations and build the case for investment.
  6. Work efficiently in teams on exercises that are designed as “learning by doing” industry scenarios.  

Day 0: Arrival

  • Travel to Edinburgh and stay overnight.

Day 1: Devonian to Carboniferous

  • Siccar Point: The birthplace of modern geological science. Examination of the Caledonian unconformity and the subcrop and supracrop. The Devonian conglomerates and sandstones are the first deposits of economic significance for the North Sea (fluvial wadi deposits).
  • Pease Bay: Devonian reservoir potential, correlation in barren redbed reservoirs (palaeosols), the Devonian-Carboniferous Boundary.
  • Review of relevant oil fields: Clair, Buchan, Embla, Flora, Fife.
  • Stay in Berwick overnight.

Day 2: Carboniferous to Permian

  • Scremerston: Coal sourced petroleum systems. Lower Carboniferous versus Upper Carboniferous coals. Carboniferous lacustrine oil shales. Fluvial, deltaic to shallow marine reservoirs.
  • Bowden Doors (back-up locality): High net to gross fluvial reservoir characterisation (Carboniferous Fell Sandstone).
  • Seaton Sluice: Carboniferous fluvial reservoirs and incised valley fills.
  • Tynemouth - Priory Point: Base Permian (Variscan/Saalian) Unconformity; Carboniferous and Permian reservoir comparison (fluvial vs. aeolian).
  • Tynemouth - Cullercoats: Rotliegendes aeolian reservoir observed in a trapping configuration.
  • Review of relevant oil fields: Flora, Fyfe, Murdoch, Caister, Auk, Leman, Viking, Cygnus.
  • Stay in Tynemouth overnight.

Day 3: Permian to Triassic

  • Old Quarrington and Crime Rigg Quarries: Rotliegendes aeolian reservoirs.
  • Hartlepool - Blackhall Rocks: Zechstein carbonates, primary versus secondary porosity. Dual permeability reservoir models.
  • Redcar Rocks: Triassic redbed sedimentology and reservoir potential.
  • Review of relevant oil fields: Auk, Argyll, Southern Permian Basin, Snorre, Alwyn North, Jade, Judy, Marnock, Skua, Hewitt, Morcambe Bay.
  • Stay in Ravenscar overnight.

Day 4: Jurassic

  • Scalby: Low net to gross meandering fluvial reservoirs.
  • Whitby: Syn-depositional faulting and the control on net to gross in fluvial reservoirs.
  • Staithes: Reservoir potential of upward coarsening shallow marine parasequences.
  • Review of relevant oil fields: Culzean, Harald East, Ness Fm of Brent Gp. Fulmar, Ula, Brent (Etive).
  • Stay in Ravenscar overnight.

Day 5: Jurassic to Cretaceous

  • Cloughton: Reservoir potential of upward coarsening shallow marine parasequences.
  • Cayton Bay: Deepwater Upper Jurassic seals and source rocks.
  • Flamborough Head: Low permeability chalk reservoirs and development challenges.
  • Review of relevant oil fields: Heather, Kimmeridgian source rocks, Kraka, Dan, Ekofisk
  • Stay in Ravenscar overnight

Day 6: Departure

  • Transfer to Newcastle for flights home

Who should attend

This trip includes important ‘must see’ localities for anyone working the North Sea from a subsurface standpoint. Although the course is aimed at geoscientists with at least 5 years of experience, petrophysicists, reservoir engineers, petroleum engineers, and drilling engineers will also find attending this course highly valuable. Additionally, team leaders or managers in need of a field experience to refresh their play-based knowledge of the North Sea would benefit. The course is relevant for exploration to production and decommissioning. Factors important for carbon sequestration, including top seal effectiveness, will also be discussed.

Prerequisites and linking courses

There are no formal prerequisites for this course, but some experience of seismic interpretation, basic stratigraphic concepts, and the fundamentals of petroleum systems is expected.

This course provides an overview of multiple plays; For those interested in specific plays, we can offer a number of individual play-based field trips covering the stratigraphic range from Lewisian fractured basement to Quaternary reservoirs.

The physical demands for this class are LOW according to the Nautilus Training Alliance field course grading system. Access to the outcrops involves short walks of up to several km along clifftop paths and beach sections.

Learn how RPS manages safety

David Macdonald

David Macdonald has had a varied career as a geologist in some of the most remote parts of the world. He recently retired from the University of Aberdeen, where he had been Professor of Petroleum Geology for 20 years.  During that time, he worked on projects in Sakhalin, Angola, California, and Brazil. He now works part-time for Albatros Expeditions as a lecturer and expedition guide in the Arctic and Antarctic; he also holds an Honorary Chair at Perm National Polytechnic Research University in Russia, where he delivers an annual course for petroleum geologists and petroleum engineers.

David graduated in geology from the University of Glasgow and joined the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) as a geologist, studying Cretaceous turbidites on the island of South Georgia for two long field seasons; this formed the basis of his PhD research at Cambridge. After postdoctoral work at Keele University, he joined BP, working on projects in Sabah and the New Guinea highlands. David rejoined BAS as a team leader, doing five more Antarctic expeditions on the Mesozoic basins of the Antarctic Peninsula and the late Palaeozoic-early Mesozoic of the Transantarctic Mountains. In the 1990s he was Chief Geologist of CASP, an Arctic research organisation based in the University of Cambridge. He managed frontier geological projects across the globe, undertaking personal expeditions to Spitsbergen, East Siberia, Sakhalin, Patagonia, and the Falklands.

David grew up on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, which left him with a lifelong interest in wild places, mountains, and rocks. His career has been a (mostly) successful attempt to fuse these interests. In petroleum terms, this led him into the field of frontier exploration and the realization that knowledge of where not to explore was an essential first step in the exploration process. His main research lies in the fields of sedimentology and tectonics, with research aimed at the link between tectonic setting and sediment provenance. David reached the South Pole, courtesy of the US Navy (but not by ship). He was awarded a Polar Medal in 1987. In his spare time he restores furniture and goes Scottish Country Dancing; he is currently a Board member of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Cambridge
BSc University of Glasgow - Geology
Honorary Professor, Perm National Polytechnic Research University
Chartered Geologist (Geological Society of London)
Polar Medal

Courses Taught
N550:  North Sea Multiphase Rift Evolution: Outcrop to Subsurface Perspectives on Stratigraphy, Sedimentology & Petroleum Systems (East Coast, UK)

John Howell

John Howell is Chair in Virtual Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen, where he has been a professor since 2012. In the past 25 years, he has worked on outcrops from all over the World with special focus on the western USA. He currently runs the SAFARI project, a collaboration between University of Aberdeen and Uni Bergen, supported by 13 companies.

John read for a PhD in reservoir sedimentology at the University of Birmingham (1992). He proceeded to the University of Liverpool where he spent 10 years working as a researcher and lecturer. During that time he participated in numerous oil industry funded projects, collaborating with virtually all the major oil companies, primarily in the fields of sedimentology, sequence stratigraphy and latterly reservoir modelling. In 2002 he took a professorship at the University of Bergen to further his applied research interests in analogue reservoir modelling. In 2005 he was one of the founders of Rocksource, a Norwegian Independent E&P Company. He worked there in the senior management until end 2011 initially as the Production Manager and latterly the CTO.

John has worked in a diverse range of basins on six continents, supervised over 50 PhD students, published more than a 150 papers, and edited 7 books. He was an AAPG distinguished lecturer in 2009. His current research focuses on virtual geosciences, including the improved use of analogues for understanding reservoirs. Over the past 15 years he has pioneered the use of Virtual Outcrops, collected using lidar and more recently UAVs (drones), in the geosciences. He is passionate about outreach in the geosciences. He was a co-host on "The Big Monster Dig", a TV series on geology and palaeontology for C4 and Discovery. He also has numerous other TV and radio credits as a scientific expert.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Birmingham - Reservoir Sedimentology
BA University of Cardiff - Geology
Fellow of the Geological Society of London

Courses Taught
N106: Advanced Reservoir Modelling (Elgin, UK)
N155: Introduction to Clastic Depositional Systems: A Petroleum Perspective
N298: Reservoir Analogues for the Southwestern Barents Sea: Outcrop Examples from Svalbard (Norway)
N335: Modelling Clastic Reservoirs (Pyrenees, Spain)
N532: Aeolian and Dryland Fluvial Reservoirs: Field and Virtual Outcrop (Elgin, UK)
N550: North Sea Multiphase Rift Evolution: Outcrop to Subsurface Perspectives on Stratigraphy, Sedimentology & Petroleum Systems (East Coast, UK)

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